As more drug cartels are being dismantled
The monumental cocaine seizure recorded by the anti-narcotic agency headed by Brig General Mohamed Buba Marwa (retd.), OFR, was the perfect icing on President Muhammadu Buhari’s last meeting as a sitting president at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) as his second tenure in office gradually draws to an end come 2023. The president’s palpable celebration mood also gave world leaders who are gathered in New York City some cheering news away from the Russian-Ukraine war, massive humanitarian crises, economic volatility, and a myriad of other global challenges.
It is against this backdrop that the discovery of a cocaine warehouse by the officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), where a whopping 1.8 tons (1,855 kilograms) of the illicit drug was seized, is better appreciated. The drug discovered in a secluded estate in the Ikorodu area of Lagos and estimated to cost two hundred and seventy-eight million, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($278, 250,000), equivalent to about one hundred and ninety-four billion, seven hundred and seventy-five million (N194, 775,000,000) naira were seized. The cocaine was carefully stored in ten (10) travel bags and thirteen (13) drums.
But for the highly coordinated raid on Sunday 18th and Monday 19th, September 2022, residents living around the location of the cocaine warehouse at number 6 Olukuola Crescent, Solebo Estate, Ikorodu, Lagos State had no inkling that dangerous drugs capable of truncating the aspirations of young adolescents were right in their vicinity. It took the superior intelligence of officers not only to detect and confiscate the drug but to also apprehend four suspected drug barons who are members of an international drug syndicate that has been under the Agency’s radar since 2018.
The warehouse manager and masterminds of the drug cell, including a Jamaican, are currently being quizzed by an NDLEA team of investigators. They are Messrs. Soji Jibril, 69, an indigene of Ibadan, Oyo state; Emmanuel Chukwu, 65, who hails from Ekwulobia, Anambra state; Wasiu Akinade, 53, from Ibadan, Oyo state; Sunday Oguntelure, 53, from Okitipupa, Ondo state; and Kelvin Smith, 42, a native of Kingston, Jamaica.
Obviously elated, President Buhari, on hearing the news of how anti-narcotic officers discovered the first cocaine warehouse in Nigeria, took a moment off his busy diplomatic engagements at the United Nations General Assembly to call the NDLEA boss. In that telephone conversation, the president specifically commended General Marwa, the officers and men of the Agency for a great job well done, describing the news of the cocaine haul as most gladdening to him, and asking him to “Please keep up the good work.”
Meanwhile, a preliminary investigation revealed that the drug was the purest form of cocaine ever seized in the country. The cartel members deliberately chose a residential estate to hide the drug from where it would be exported to buyers in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. Unfortunately, their move was not good enough to evade the Agency’s meticulous tracking system for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
With General Marwa’s penchant for excellence, he has institutionalized a platform for setting new records. After the War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) was launched, the NDLEA barracks project was introduced. This was followed by the National Drug Control Master Plan (NDCMP) for the years 2021–2025. Thereafter, the Agency inaugurated the toll-free call centre to provide quality counseling services to the general public. It is a unique service that currently meets the needs of interested parties in different languages (English, Pidgin, Hausa, Yoruba, and Ibo). He established new directorates, instituted zonal command structures, and promoted 3,506 officers and men who had been stuck in the same rank for many years.
Indeed, no fewer than sixteen suspected drug barons have been caught between January 2021 and September 2022. One of the first spectacular seizures that heralded General Marwa’s nonpareil leadership style was the four cannabis warehouses traced to Ukpuje forest in Owan West Local Government Area of Edo State, where two hundred and thirty-three thousand, seven hundred and seventy-eight kilograms (233,778 kg) of the dried cannabis weed worth 1.4 billion naira was discovered.
There was the interception of 451,807 tablets of captagon weighing 79,119kg at Apapa Seaport Command, Lagos. It is the first ever recorded seizure of Captagon in the West and Central African Sub-Region. Similarly, about two million capsules of Tramadol, precisely 1,994,400 capsules weighing 614.396 kilograms, were found in 554 cartons falsely declared as ceramic tiles at the Apapa seaport. An attempt to smuggle 30 parcels of cocaine weighing 32.9 kilograms into the country at the Apapa seaport was again foiled by the Agency. As a result, the Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the interim forfeiture of the vessel, MV Chayaneenre, used to smuggle the drug to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
According to Ralph Marston, “excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.” This has become synonymous with General Marwa, with the unbroken chain of spectacular results. The latest cocaine haul is the unprecedented mother of all arrests, as the national headquarters of the Agency in Abuja was engulfed in unbridled celebration. It was a well-deserved victory over the merchants of death. Fortunately, while Marwa’s camp is jubilating, the drug cartels have been thrown into an irrecoverable state of despondency and bankruptcy.
Stakeholders are optimistic that this presidential commendation will further open the gates of fortune for the NDLEA, particularly increased funding and the deployment of high-tech tools in drug control. While commending the officers and men of the Agency for the historic breakthroughs, the NDLEA boss also acknowledges the contribution of the American Drug Enforcement Administration (US-DEA) and other stakeholders for their continuous support and collaboration. This victory is not limited to the Agency but to individuals, families, communities, and all humanity. Let us unanimously sustain the celebration in our camp and the melancholy on the side of drug traffickers.
Mitchell is principal staff officer, chairman/chief executive officer’s office, NDLEA, Abuja.