NDLEA Intercepts Largest Consignment Of Heroin At Lagos Airport, Arrests Four Cartel Members

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.. Declares 11 Others Wanted, Blocks 107 Bank Accounts, N119m; Seals Hotel, Mansions 

.. We’ll Not Rest Until All Fleeing Members Of The Syndicate Are Brought To Book- Marwa

Mobolaji Michael 

THE National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has successfully dismantled and arrested members of an organised criminal oon which specializes in trafficking heroin across Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Europe and America in a 12-day well-coordinated operation leading to the seizure of the single largest consignment of heroin at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja Lagos.

This was disclosed at a press conference by the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Brig Gen Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) in Lagos on Tuesday 27th February 2024. While explaining that the briefing is in line with the Agency’s policy of transparency in its renewed fight against drug traffickers, he gave a chronological brief of how the operation leading to what is now the single largest seizure of heroin at the Lagos airport was successfully carried out.

According to Marwa, “It started on 10 February 2024, when NDLEA operatives at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Command intercepted a suspicious package at the SAHCO Import Shed of the airport’s Cargo Terminal. The consignment was concealed in 15 cartons of 2300-watt metal cutting machines. Each carton was stocked with three blocks of high-grade heroin. In total, we recovered 45 blocks of the illicit substance with a total weight of 49.70kg.  

“After the discovery, we were methodical and meticulous in our investigations. We started with the arrest of the freight agent whose name is Olowolagba Wasiu Babatunde. It turned out that he was hired for clearing services by Mattpee Logistics, a company operated by one Mr. Kola resident in South Africa. 

“Next, we conducted a follow-up operation at the company’s warehouse in the Shogunle area of Oshodi, Lagos, and arrested the warehouse manager, whose name is Ajayi Imole Moses. Thereafter, we set up an ambush for the expected receiver of the consignment who was duly arrested when he showed up for collection. This receiver, whose name is Adinnu Felix Chinedu, confessed during interrogation that he is the main distributor for a drug syndicate whose membership is spread across Nigeria.

“He admitted that he usually conveyed the consignment to a dedicated warehouse located in Ayobo. That place served as a workshop where he would dismantle the consignment and remove the drugs from the machines. Thereafter, he would wait for a list of various recipients to be forwarded to him from South Africa by the head of the criminal group.

“Our operatives did due diligence by conducting a thorough search of the warehouse which led to the recovery of 56 similar cartons of the cutting machines that were used previously as modes of concealment to ferry heroin into Nigeria. At this point, it was clear that we were dealing with a syndicate that operates in other countries. By the time, we were done exploring various leads we had, we unravelled an organised criminal network that operates in South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria and parts of Europe and America. 

“This syndicate has a wide network in Nigeria because the consignments we seized were marked with several codenames, showing that they belonged to different members of this organised criminal group. Furthermore, in our follow-up operation, we uncovered from the suspect a long list of receivers of illicit drugs. In the end, we were able to identify the kingpin of the syndicate here in Nigeria and his name is Reginald Peter Chidiebere.  Our investigations showed that he owns the Golden Platinum Hotel and Suite, located at 16, Reginald Peter Chidiebere Street, Hope Estate, Ago Palace.” 

The NDLEA boss said several days of surveillance on the hotel culminated in a raid operation on Monday, 19 February in which another drug mule, Igboanugo Chukwuebuka Thankgod, was found in possession of two parcels of 2.2kg heroin with codes similar to the ones found on the seized drug shipment, bringing the total seizure to 51.90 kilograms. “He readily confessed that he was invited by Mr Reginald Peter Chidiebere to the hotel on Sunday, 18 February 2024. He was lodged in one of the rooms and was later summoned by the receptionist to meet a guest, from whom Reginald Peter Chidiebere had informed him over the phone to receive a package. This sequence of action was confirmed by a review of the CCTV at the hotel”, he stated.

He further explained that pre-emptive actions so far taken against members of the syndicate include freezing a total of 107 bank accounts associated with 14 members of the cartel as well as N119,582,928.31 found in some of the already traced bank accounts. He added that the hotel and a mansion linked to the head of the syndicate in Nigeria, Reginald Peter Chidiebere and another mansion linked to the head of the syndicate in Mozambique, Festus Ibewuike located in the Ago Palace area had already been marked for forfeiture to the Federal Government.

He said the measure yielded further fruit on Thursday 22nd February when a female member of the syndicate and wife of Festus Ibewuike, Mrs Confidence Ndidiamaka, Ibewuike who is one of those to collect part of the consignment from Adinnu Felix Chinedu, was arrested at Ago Palace area on last Thursday.

When they were brought face to face, he (Adinnu Felix Chinedu) immediately identified her as one of the members of the criminal syndicate who had received similar packages of heroin with the syndicate’s logo from him on two different occasions. Though she denied knowing Adinnu or receiving anything from him before, investigation later revealed how her husband identified as Festus Ibewuike, who is a top kingpin and currently residing in Mozambique, used to send drug consignments to her through Adinnu Felix Chinedu.

“With pictorial evidence of different parcels with different codes and using other methodologies, we were able to confirm several instructions from her husband to her regarding illicit drug shipments already collected before. A search was promptly conducted in their residence located at the Ago Palace area, Festac Town where a Toyota Venza car was recovered as well as several documents including, bank and property documents belonging to Festus Ibewuike.” Their mansion in the Ago Palace area has also been marked for forfeiture to the Federal Government.

As part of efforts to ensure all those involved are brought to book, Marwa assured that “NDLEA has shared comprehensive intelligence with our South African counterparts for necessary action regarding the other members of the group living in that country.”

He said “There is a parallel between this seizure and the 18 September  2022 seizure of 2,139.5kg cocaine in an Ikorodu warehouse. That was the biggest singular cocaine seizure in the history of NDLEA. This present bust is the largest single heroin seizure at the MMIA so far.” 

While commending the synergy and support the NDLEA enjoys from other stakeholders like Customs, the military, Immigration, Police, DSS, NSCDC, FRSC, NAFDAC, Aviation Security (AVSEC) and the media as well as international partners, Marwa said the Agency won’t relent in its offensive action targeting drug barons and their networks. 

“In our renewed fight against drug trafficking, our offensive action is specifically targeting drug barons to disrupt distribution networks and uproot the drug pipelines in the country. To this end, we have arrested 48 barons in three years, 15 of whom are already serving jail terms while the rest are facing trials in court. This should serve as a warning to others that there is no hiding place in Nigeria for anyone involved in the illicit drug trade.

“NDLEA is resolved to end the reign of drug barons and disconnect Nigeria from the global drug trafficking network. We have maintained a consistently strong performance, every week. With this heroin bust, we are sending a warning again to drug traffickers within and outside the county that if they fail to desist from the illicit drug trade, the long arm of the law will catch up with them.”

 

Eighteen-Eleven Media 

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