By ALBERT AKPOR
THE continued presence of operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, at the nation’s seaports, especially the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports in Lagos State has yielded positive dividends in the nation’s war against drug trafficking. This has put paid to the lingering struggle over patent right to inspect containers at the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports before final clearance.
Recently, the drug agency sounded the alarm that drug barons have resorted to using the sea port in their illicit trafficking of hard drugs after it traced a container load of hard drugs earlier cleared by the Customs at the Tin Can Island Port to a warehouse in Okota, Lagos.
The drug which weighed 113.44kgs with street value put at N2.2 billion tested for heroin. The recent alarm followed sequence of cleared containers of drugs at the Tin Can Island port which were later traced and intercepted by anti-narcotic agents.
In 2006, a container which was cleared at the same port carrying 14.2 tons of hard drugs said to be cocaine was traced to a warehouse at Orile Iganmu along Lagos/Badagry road and seized. Two foreigners and three Nigerians were arrested.
Seizures by NDLEA operatives
In July 2007, another container cleared at the Tin Can Island port carrying had drugs said to be cocaine worth N4 billion was also seized by operatives of NDLEA after the container was cleared from the port.
On January 28, 2011, the NDLEA traced another container load of hard drugs after it was cleared from the port to a warehouse where it was intercepted and a large quantity of hard drugs weighing 165kgs was seized. And last May, 28, 2012 the anti-drug agency also traced and seized a 200-foot container load of hard drugs which later tested for heroin to a warehouse after it was cleared from the Tin Can Island port.
The street value of the drugs was put at N2.2billion. The seizure was made in collaboration with the British authorities. The container, reports say, was imported from Islamabad, Pakistan in a 20 feet container. The search was conducted at the Ikoyi, Lagos headquarters of the Agency.
A total of 109 wraps weighing 113.49kgs of heroin was imported into the country through the Tin Can Island Port, Lagos. The illicit consignment was cleared from the Tin Can Port but anti-narcotic operatives working on intelligence trailed the container to Okota, Lagos where it was intercepted. This is the first seizure made at the seaport this year by the NDLEA and the estimated street value of the drug is N2.2 billion. So far, the NDLEA said that five arrests have been made and the suspects will soon be charged to court.
Chairman of the agency, Ahmadu Giade, who applauded the United Kingdom authorities for sharing intelligence with the Agency said drug barons have resorted to using the seaport because his men have successfully made the airports and other entry points impassable.
He said: “We are thankful to the United Kingdom authorities over the cooperation that led to the seizure. This operation underscores the importance of collaboration and mutual trust among countries in drug control. High level surveillance was carried out on the container which arrived the Tin Can Island port some months ago.
We shall continue to take away the profit from the criminal trade through prompt seizure of drugs, arrests and prosecution. It is clear that drug barons now fear the use of the airport and other entry points because we have comfortably cordoned off these points. Now that they have changed to using the sea ports, we shall not relent also.”
Explaining further, the drug czar said that drug seizures at the airports are insignificant compared to those seized at the seaports adding that it is a pointer that the presence and activities of his men needed enhancement. He explained the smart manner with which the hard stuff was concealed, adding: “From experience, one drug seizure at the seaport equals what is seized in a year at the airport.
“The implication is that the capacity of the NDLEA needs to be enhanced through funding, training and provision of logistics. The process of extracting the drugs from the machines took several hours at the Agency’s headquarters, Ikoyi, Lagos. The machines are big and heavy weighing 1,100kg each. It took industrial welders with their cutting machines long time to cut them open for the drug to be recovered.”