By Daniel Eteghe
Lagos—Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) yesterday arrested Ijeoma Ojukwu, a niece to late politician, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu and three others just as the anti-graft agency quizzed one of its staff over the importation of 2.24 kilogrammes of cocaine from Brazil.
In a statement issued in Lagos, spokesman for NDLEA, Mr. Ofoyeju Mitchell said “The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is currently interrogating one of its operatives over alleged conspiracy to import cocaine from Brazil. The investigation which commenced after an abandoned luggage from Brazil was found to contain 2.24kg of cocaine at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos had already led to the arrest of five suspects.
Those being interrogated include Ali Bala Adamu, a staff of the NDLEA, Ijeoma Ojukwu, a niece to late politician, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and three others Victor Umeh, Uche Igwelo and Egbuche Fidelis Osiita.
NDLEA Commander at the Lagos airport, Mr. Ahmadu Garba said that the cocaine seizure was the first in the New Year.
According to him, “This is the first drug seizure for the year. On December 28, 2015, a bag with a tag bearing Agina Fidelis Ejike was abandoned at the arrival hall during inward screening of passengers on an Emirates flight. On January 1, 2016, one Egbuche Fidelis Osita came with authority letter mandating him to collect the bag. In the process, some white powdery substance weighing 2.24kg that tested positive for cocaine was discovered. The drug was neatly packed in four parcels concealed in false bottom of four female handbags. Further investigation led to more arrests.
Mr. Garba further noted that preliminary investigation by the NDLEA revealed that Ijeoma Ojukwu, 48, who owns a restaurant in Brazil, was a suspected member of an international drug trafficking organization.
“She allegedly conspired with other suspects to collect the abandoned bag from the airport with the intent to recover the 2.24kg of cocaine. She was said to have contacted a staff of the NDLEA, Ali Bala on how to facilitate the collection of the bag at the airport. The Agency also impounded the Acura MDX vehicle that the suspects drove to the airport” he added.
The suspect, Ijeoma Ojukwu said “I have a restaurant in Brazil where I sell African food. I am from Anambra State and I am married with three children. My brother came from Brazil and could not find his bag. It was in the process of trying to get the bag out that we were arrested.”
Also 36 years old Uche Igwelo, a graduate of Public Administration, said she was invited by Ijeoma to assist in collecting the bag.
“I sell kitchen utensil and I am married with a child. Ijeoma met me that I should help her to collect a bag at the airport. We were trying to get the bag when NDLEA officers arrested us” Mrs. Igwelo said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Egbuche Fidelis Osita, a 37-year-old student said he was asked to collect the bag at the Lagos airport.
“I am a 400 level student studying English Education at the Ekiti State University. My friend Victor Umeh was the person that asked me to help in claiming a luggage at the airport. We all drove to the airport where I was given a letter of authority and other documents of the passenger that came with the luggage. In the process of trying to collect the bag I was arrested. This is all I know about this incident,” he stated.
Speaking on the arrest, Chairman of the NDLEA, Mrs. Roli Bode-George said the agency would prosecute whoever was found guilty.
“The NDLEA is following every lead professionally and will exploit more opportunities towards getting every culprit arrested. We have also expanded the scope of our investigation and everyone involved in this illegal importation of narcotics shall be diligently prosecuted. The Agency will continue to uphold the rule of law and dislodge drug trafficking organisations in the country” Mrs. Roli stated.
The NDLEA boss added that the agency would maintain its culture of integrity stressing that if the officer being interrogated was found culpable, the law would run its full course.
According to Mrs. Bode-George; “NDLEA will not compromise its high standard of operation. We are working very hard with international and local collaborators in projecting the image of Nigeria in drug control programmes.”
Any attempt by any person or group of persons to sabotage this great achievement shall be resisted. Probity and strict law enforcement shall be sustained”.
The NDLEA boss said that the agency had commenced investigation into the case to determine their level of culpability before prosecution.