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NDLEA intercepts largest consignment of heroin at Lagos airport, arrests 4 cartel members

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Declares 11 others wanted, blocks 107 bank accounts, N119million; seals hotel, mansions


We’ll not rest until all fleeing members of the syndicate are brought to book- Marwa

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, has successfully dismantled and arrested members of an organized criminal organization 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 February 10, 2024, when NDLEA operatives of 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 are 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, February 19 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, February 18, 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 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 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 September 18, 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.”

Femi Babafemi
Director, Media & Advocacy
NDLEA Headquarters Abuja
Tuesday 27th February 2024

Crime

Blogger who accused Pastor Ebuka Obi of fake miracles remanded in Keffi prison

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A chief magistrate court in Wuse Zone 6, Abuja, has fixed April 12 for ruling on a bail application filed by Chizorom Harrison Ofoegbu, the social media influencer popularly known as Ijele Speaks.

Ijele was arrested by the police after he accused Ebuka Obi, the lead founder of Zion Prayer Movement Outreach, of performing fake miracles.

Ijele claimed that Obi is a criminal and scammer who lives through dubious means.

In the post tagging the police, the influencer also accused the clergyman of being “a fraudster who performs fake miracles”.

The blogger has been in detention for over two weeks.

Arguing a bail application on Monday, Marvin Omorogbe, counsel to Ijele, prayed the court to set aside the remand order granted against his client.

He asked the court to “order his release from the Keffi correctional centre or, in the alternative, admit him to bail”.

Omorogbe alleged that the police suppressed facts before the court to secure a remand order.

He said the police also lied about filing a charge at the Abuja federal high court.

“For the fact that the Police came to court to lie on oath is enough reason to set aside the remand order. They misled the court into granting the remand order against the applicant,” the lawyer said.

Ijele’s counsel said the 14-day period for the applicant to be remanded has expired, adding that there is no application for the renewal of the remand order.

Opposing the bail application, Obiora Ejiofor, the police lawyer, said, there was no evidence placed before the court to warrant granting the applicant bail.

He also insisted that a four-count criminal charge against the applicant has been filed at the federal high court in Abuja.

“We are waiting for a date by the federal high court to arraign the applicant. The police is a very responsible institution of government,” Ejiofor said.

Responding on point of law, Omorogbe told the court that the exhibits attached to the counter affidavit by the police were forged.

“The purported wanted person notice was forged, that was why they made a photocopy of it to confuse the court,” he said.

“The court should not accord any value to the exhibits. The documents do not meet the minimum standard of the Evidence Act.”

He said the police did not exhibit any charge in all the processes filed before the court, saying that, there is no case against the applicant in the face of the law.

After listening to the submissions of all parties in the matter, Emmanuel Iyanna, the chief magistrate, adjourned till April 12 to rule on the application.

The applicant is to remain in Keffi correctional centre pending the ruling.

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NDLEA arrests India-bound passenger who vomited 80 wraps of cocaine

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The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) says its operatives have arrested Freeman Charles Ogbonna, an Indian-bound passenger, who vomited 80 wraps of cocaine.

In a statement on Sunday, Femi Babafemi, NDLEA spokesperson, said the suspect was arrested on March 31 as he was about to board a flight to Delhi, India, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.

Babafemi said the suspect had a Liberian international passport with the name Carr Bismark and was taken for a body scan which revealed he had ingested illicit drugs.

“Preliminary checks revealed his real identity as Freeman Charles Ogbonna and was subsequently placed under observation in NDLEA custody where he started to manifest signs of discomfort,” the statement reads.

“Obviously choked by the volume of illicit drugs in his stomach and another substance taken to hold back excretion, the suspect soon began to retch before starting to vomit and excrete wraps of cocaine he ingested almost simultaneously.

“The suspect who claimed he was recruited into drug trafficking by one of his relatives eventually passed out a total of 80 wraps of cocaine weighing 889 grams through his mouth and anus over a period of four days.

“The great risk that almost took his life notwithstanding, Ogbonna said he was given the drugs to swallow at a hotel in Ipodo area of Ikeja with a promise to reward him with N300,000 cash if he successfully delivers the consignment in India.”

Babafemi added that NDLEA officials also intercepted one Imran Taofeek Olalekan, a drug mule, at the Lagos airport travelling to Oman.

He said the officials “discovered a false bottom concealment of drugs in the check-in luggage and the walls of the backpack” that the suspect carried.

“The NDLEA officers swiftly moved in on a man who accompanied the suspect to the airport. He was later identified as Ishola Isiaka Olalekan who recruited the trafficker,” he said.

“Imran Taofeek Olalekan said he returned from Dubai some years ago but still has a valid residence permit on his old passport.

“He claimed he was promised N1,500,000 if he successfully delivered the consignment in Oman, while his recruiter, Ishola was to be paid N200,000.”

“Further search by the officials led to the discovery of charms in the bag and on the drug mule who confessed that he travelled to Ibadan, Oyo state to meet with an ‘Alfa’ that prepared the charm for him to ensure he was not caught during the trip.

“Another charm was also found on the intermediary, Ishola Isiaka Olalekan who accompanied Taofeek to the departure area of the airport. Ishola claimed he procured the charms for the sum of N70,000.”

The NDLEA spokesperson also said operatives on April 3 intercepted 2,144 parcels of Colorado, a synthetic strain of cannabis weighing 1,072kg, at the Tincan seaport in Lagos.

“The seizure was made during a joint examination with Customs Service and other stakeholders of a container marked GAOU 6699215 coming from Montreal, but originated from Toronto, Canada,” he said.

“The drugs packed in 46 jumbo bags were found concealed in used 2009 Lexus RX 350, 2011 Toyota Sienna, and 2009 Lexus ES 350 as well as used engines, automobile doors, tyres, and used household goods as well as big drums loaded into the container.”

Buba Marwa, NDLEA chairman, commended the operatives and urged them to remain vigilant and intensify their offensive action against drug cartels, as well as take their war against drug abuse (WADA) advocacy campaign to every community nationwide.

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Crime

NDLEA arrests Qatar-bound woman with 10.7kg of cannabis concealed in vegetables

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The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) says it has detained one Chidinma Agbazue for attempting to export 10.70kg of cannabis sativa to Doha, Qatar.

The 35-year-old suspect was apprehended at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, on Thursday.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Femi Babafemi, NDLEA director of media and advocacy, said 20 parcels of the illicit drugs were concealed in dried vegetables and Abacha (African salad).

Babafemi said Agbazue was intercepted during clearance of passengers at the screening point by NDLEA officers working in partnership with operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS).

He said preliminary investigations revealed that Agbazue was based in Qatar but returned to Nigeria in December for Christmas celebration.

“She said preparatory to her return to Doha, she was lodged at Club Dice Hotel in Ikotun area of Lagos where the consignment was handed over to her for trafficking to the Arab country,” the statement reads.

The agency said other arrests were made in Bayelsa, Ogun, Taraba, Abia and Ondo states during the month as its commands across the country intensified the war against drug abuse.

The agency said it also seized consignment hidden in noodles packs going to Bayelsa creeks, razed over 3 tonnes of cannabis in Edo forests.

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