January 30, 2023

NDLEA busts trans-border cartel, arrests 5 kingpins, seizes skunk, meth in compressors

By Kinglsye Omonobi

Abuja—Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, have dismantled a trans-border drug cartel and arrested five leaders of the syndicates operating in parts of the world in a special operation that lasted weeks.

During the raids at which different quantities of skunk, methamphetamine and ephedrine as well as air compressors used to conceal and distribute them globally were recovered.

The special operation came on the heels of a warning by the Chairman/Chief Executive of the Agency, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa, retd, that drug barons and cartels would have it rough in 2023, if they failed to back out of the criminal business.

Leaders of the cartel spreads across Dubai, UAE; Cotonou, Benin Republic; Togo; Oman, Thailand and Europe as well as Lagos, Imo and Onitsha had, while on Christmas and New Year holidays in their villages, were still coordinating efforts to send their illicit consignments to Dubai and other parts of the world.

The lid was blown open on them on Thursday, December 29, 2022, when their freight agent, Onyeisue Collins Chukwudi, was arrested by NDLEA officers at SAHCO export shed of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos, 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.

A total of 27.50kgs of skunk were taken out of the air compressors after welding equipment were used to cut them open.

Further investigations revealed that the freight agent was working for a bigger, organized criminal group. 

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

The efforts paid off on Saturday, January 7, 2023, when Obioma walked into the waiting arms of NDLEA operatives with a bag containing additional air compressors used to conceal 15.7kgs skunk and a crystalline substance that later tested positive to methamphetamine after the agency’s sniffer dogs identified the 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, Anambra based businessman, who were at that point still enjoying the Christmas and New Year holidays in their village in Imo state. A well-coordinated operation was thereafter carried out on Tuesday 10th January at their ancestral homes in Umuobi village, Igbejere community, Ihitti-Uboma LGA, Imo State, while the arrow head of the cartel identified as Ezenwekwe Obinna Nicodemus, an automobile parts dealer at Alaba International market, Lagos was put under surveillance. A Lexus SUV and a Toyota jeep were immediately recovered from Kelechi and Iwueke.

After so many dramatic bids to evade arrest, NDLEA operatives eventually pinned Obinna down at a bar in Maza maza, Mile 2 area of Lagos on Saturday 14th January. 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, including 271 grams of dimethyl sulfone used as a cutting agent for ephedrine, a chemical precursor and an active ingredient for the production of methamphetamine. A weighing scale and an International passport were equally recovered from his house.