The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, on Sunday announced the arrest of five leaders of a drug syndicate operating in different parts of the world in a special operation that lasted weeks, during which different quantities of skunk, methamphetamine and ephedrine as well as air compressors used to conceal and distribute the illicit drugs globally, were seized.
A statement by the Director, Media and Advocacy, NDLEA, Femi Babafemi, revealed that the cartel leaders were spread across the United Arab Emirates, Benin Republic, Togo, Oman, Thailand, the European continent, and in Anambra, Imo, and Lagos states.
Babafemi said while on Christmas and New Year holidays in various parts of Nigeria, they were still coordinating efforts to send illicit consignments to Dubai and other parts of the world.
Their cover was blown on December 29 when their freight agent, Onyeisue Chukwudi was arrested by NDLEA officers at the SAHCO export shed of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
Chukwudi attempted to export three big automobile air compressors to Dubai and a follow-up operation led to the recovery of additional five compressors in his home at 24 Legacy Road, Ayobo, Lagos.
A total of 27.50kgs of skunk were taken out of the air compressors after welding tools were used to cut them open.
After discovering that the agent was working for a bigger organized criminal group, the NDLEA deployed operatives to track the first kingpin, Onuoha Obioma who lives in Benin Republic and Togo, but visited Lagos occasionally.
On January 7, Obioma walked into the waiting arms of operatives with a bag containing additional air compressors used to conceal 15.7kg of skunk and methamphetamine.
His statement led to the unravelling of two other cartel leaders – Dubai-based Ugo Kelechi and an Anambra-based businessman, Iwueke Ugochukwu aka Odugwu, who were still enjoying the Christmas and New Year holidays in Imo.
They were arrested during an operation on January 10 at their ancestral homes in Umuobi village in Igbejere community, Ihitti-Uboma LGA, Imo where a Lexus SUV and a Toyota jeep were recovered from them.
After days of surveillance, the NDLEA eventually nabbed the cartel boss, Ezenwekwe Obinna, an automobile parts dealer at Alaba International Market, at a bar in Mazamaza, Mile 2, on January 14.
“A search of his home led to the recovery of 607g of ephedrine, a handful of cannabis weighing 20g as well as other paraphernalia, including 271g of dimethyl sulfone used as a cutting agent for ephedrine,” Babafemi said.
Also recovered from him were a chemical precursor and an active ingredient for the production of methamphetamine, a weighing scale and an international passport.
Meanwhile, the NDLEA also noted that no fewer than 2,601.5 kilograms of cannabis and 102,500 pills of pharmaceutical opioids were seized during interdiction operations across Plateau, Edo, Delta, Taraba, Kogi, Kano, Lagos and Adamawa States in the past week.