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NDLEA arrests ‘five drug kingpins’, seizes ‘N3m offered as bribe’

BY Ebunoluwa Olafusi

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The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) says it has dismantled a trans-border drug cartel and arrested five leaders of the drug syndicates.

In a statement on Sunday, Femi Babafemi, NDLEA spokesperson, said different quantities of skunk, methamphetamine, and ephedrine were seized in an operation that lasted weeks.

He said air compressors were used to conceal and distribute the drugs globally, adding that a total of 27.50kg of skunk were seized.

Babafemi also said illicit drugs were found in air compressors after welding equipment was used to cut them open.

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He said the cartel leaders are spread across the UAE, Cotonou in Benin Republic, Togo, Oman, Thailand, Europe, as well as Lagos, Imo, and Onitsha in Nigeria.

“They have been on Christmas and New Year holidays in their villages and were still coordinating efforts to send their illicit consignments to Dubai and other parts of the world,” he said.

“Their lid was blown open on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, when their freight agent, Collins Onyeisue, was arrested by NDLEA officers.

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“Onyeisue was arrested at the Skyway Aviation Handling Company Plc (SAHCO) export shed of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos. The arrest of the suspect was for attempting to export three big automobile air compressors to Dubai.

“A quick follow-up operation led to the recovery of additional five compressors at his home at 24 Legacy road, Ayobo area of Lagos.”

He said extensive operational tools were deployed to track Peter Obioma, the first kingpin, who lives in Benin Republic and Togo but occasionally comes to do business in Lagos.

“The efforts paid off on Saturday, Jan. 7, when Obioma walked into the waiting arms of NDLEA operatives with a bag containing additional air compressors,” the statement reads.

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“This was used to conceal 15.7kgs skunk and a crystalline substance that later tested positive to methamphetamine after the agency’s sniffer dogs identified compressors with drug concealment.

“Obioma’s statement led to the unraveling of two other leaders of the cartel: Dubai-based Ugo Kelechi Alex (aka KC) and Iwueke Ugochukwu (aka Odugwu), an Onitsha-based businessman. They were at that point still enjoying their Christmas and New Year holidays in their village in Imo state.”

He said the head of the cartel, identified as Obinna Ezenwekwe, an automobile parts dealer at Alaba International market, Lagos, was put under surveillance.

“After so many dramatic bids to evade arrest, NDLEA operatives eventually pinned Obinna down at a bar in Mazamaza, Mile 2 area of Lagos on Saturday, 14th January,” he said.

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“A search of his home led to the recovery of 607 grams of ephedrine, a handful of Cannabis weighing 20 grams as well as other paraphernalia.

“This also includes 271 grams of dimethyl sulfone used as a cutting agent for ephedrine, a chemical precursor and an active ingredient for the production of methamphetamine.”

‘N3 MILLION OFFERED AS BRIBE’

In another operation, Babafemi said four suspects — “Okechukwu Umen, Lanre Adebayo Ismaila, Adeshina Adigun Fatai, and Emmanuel Omijeh” — were arrested in connection with seizure of illicit drugs along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.

According to the NDLEA statement, the suspects offered N3 million as bribe, but the money has been “kept as part of the exhibits for their prosecution”.



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