The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has alleged that a billionaire drug baron, Chief Afam Ukatu, imported into Nigeria two containers containing 1,284 cartons of tramadol, with the market value of over N22 billion, in October 2019. NDLEA said in a statement yesterday that its on-going investigation of Ukatu had uncovered the importation of the banned drug.
The statement was issued against the backdrop of insinuations by people the agency called hirelings, that NDLEA had no evidence to pin a crime on the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Mallinson Group of Companies.
The spokesman of the agency, Femi Babafemi, explained in the statement that Ukatu was arrested on April 13 on-board a flight to Abuja, at the MM2 Terminal of the Lagos airport, Ikeja, after months’ surveillance.
Babafemi said investigation revealed that Ukatu had been a major importer of large consignments of different brands and high dosages of tramadol hydrochloride, ranging from 120mg to 200mg, 225mg and 250mg.
He further said Ukatu owned pharmaceutical and plastic manufacturing companies, which he used as a cover to import illicit drugs into Nigeria.
The NDLEA spokesman said in the course of investigating the N3 billion tramadol saga between Ukatu and the Abba Kyari’s IRT team, the agency’s operatives unearthed more evidence establishing how he had been importing large quantities of tramadol far above the approved threshold allowed into the country.
He further alleged that in one instance, Ukatu, through his Mallinson Group of Companies, imported into the country two-container loads of five different brands of tramadol in October 2019 through the Apapa ports in Lagos.
Babafemi said all the evidence so far gathered showed that the imported tramadol brands were far above the threshold permitted in Nigeria, adding, “No doubt, the suspect will soon have his day in court.”
NDLEA had earlier this week revealed that it intercepted travellers’ cheques in different foreign currencies with a total value of over N1.1 billion at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
A statement by Babafemi said, “Travellers’ cheques in different foreign currencies with a total value of N1, 157, 670,469.92 have been intercepted at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos, by operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).”
Babafemi also disclosed that a suspect, Oguma Uchenna, was arrested in connection with the attempt to export the cheques, which he said were neatly concealed inside four bound hardcover books disguised as academic project literatures, to the United Kingdom.
He said the financial instruments suspected to be counterfeits were discovered last Wednesday at the NAHCO export shed of the Lagos airport during cargo examination of some consignments meant for exportation to the UK on a cargo flight.
Babafemi also disclosed that a breakdown of the cheques showed they had monetary values of $287, 623.31; $1,456,300 and €1,297,800.
He had also said at the Lagos airport that NDLEA operatives foiled attempts by drug traffickers to smuggle into Nigeria 10.89 kilogrammes of cocaine through a Qatar Airways flight, adding that the illicit drug was hidden in seven children’s duvets packed in an unaccompanied bag from Brazil.
According to him, raid operations in Kaduna, Ondo and Akwa Ibom states led to the seizure of about 2,000 kilogrammes of tramadol, codeine, cannabis and heroin.
In Ondo State, 401 kilogrammes of cannabis was recovered and two suspects – Julius Dapo, 56, and Emeka Ikebuaku, 32 – were arrested at Ipele forest in Owo area on April 24.
Culled from THISDAY