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FG Freezes 600 Accounts, Seizes 249 Luxury Vehicles, 37 Mansions From Drug Peddlers In 1 Year, 7 Months

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The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency seized no fewer than 286 assets and 600 bank accounts of drug barons between January 2021 and August 2022.

NDLEA spokesman, Femi Babafemi, who disclosed this in a document made available to one of our correspondents on Tuesday, said the assets consisted of 249 exotic cars and 37 mansions.

The agency’s seizures came against the backdrop of the categorisation of Nigeria by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as the transit point for “heroin and cocaine intended for European, East Asian, and North American markets.”

According to the UN agency, since 2004 “drug traffickers have been increasingly using West African countries, including Nigeria for smuggling large amounts of cocaine from South America into Europe and North America. The country has a relatively high rate of drug abuse due to the continued availability of illicitly manufactured and diverted pharmaceutical products containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.”

The NDLEA, in the document, said it was faced with the “overwhelming task of drug control in a country with an exceptionally high prevalence of drug use of 14.4 percent.”

Explaining the seizures by the agency in the last 20 months, Babafemi said 286 assets were confiscated and 600 bank accounts were frozen.

He stated that the assets of drug barons consisted of “249 exotic vehicles seized and 37 properties forfeited, all scattered across the country.”

The NDLEA also indicated that it seized N871.53m worth of illegal drug funds between January 2021 and August 2022.

It explained that N619.12m was recorded as final illegal drug funds forfeiture and N252.41m as interim forfeiture. The agency grouped this under its drug supply reduction effort where it revealed that it arrested 18,940 suspected drug traffickers from January 2021 to July 2022.

Under its drug supply reduction efforts, it stated, “Assets and financial investigation: Illicit drug funds that were investigated and seized include Final Forfeiture―(i.) One million, three hundred and nineteen thousand, four hundred dollars ($1,319,400) (ii.) One hundred and two thousand pounds (£102,000) (iii.) Fourteen million CFA Francs (CFA 14, 000, 000) ― and Interim forfeiture―Two hundred and fifty-two million, forty hundred and seven thousand, seven hundred and twenty-six-naira, twenty Kobo, (N252,407,726.20).”

The currencies were converted at the Central Bank of Nigeria’s official rate on September 2, 2022. At the time, one dollar was N424.55; one pound was N490.78, and one CFA was N0.64.

NDLEA’s arrests

The NDLEA explained, “The Agency’s drug supply reduction efforts recorded the following: the arrest of 18,940 suspected drug traffickers (comprising 17,444 males and 1,496 females and including 12 barons) from January 2021 to July 2022; conviction of 2,904 offenders to various jail terms in court; seizure of 3. 6 million kilograms of narcotic and psychotropic substances; cannabis farm destruction: 691 hectares of cannabis farms were detected and destroyed across six states.”

It revealed that it dismantled clandestine meth laboratories following the outbreak of abuse of crystal methamphetamine, popularly called Mkpuru Mmiri in 2021.

It explained that its operational assets were able to locate and dismantle illicit meth laboratories across the country with recent discoveries in Victoria Garden City, Ajah, Lagos, and Nise Community, Anambra State.

According to the agency, drug use in the nation was 14.4 percent 20 months ago. It stated that since then, 12,326 drug-dependent people had been counseled, treated, and rehabilitated in its facilities.

The NDLEA revealed it commissioned a Drug Abuse Call Centre in July of 2021 to enable drug-dependent individuals or families and employers of people suffering from drug use disorder to seek help.

Meanwhile, the agency has secured an interim seizure of 25 properties belonging to billionaire businessman, Mallinson Ukatu, who is on trial for allegedly importing tramadol valued at N3bn into the country.

Ukatu and his accomplice, Sunday Ibekwute, were remanded at the Ikoyi custodial Centre on the orders of Justice Peter Lifu of the Federal High Court, Lagos, in July.

The judge remanded the two defendants, following their plea of not guilty to the charges of conspiracy, trafficking in 322 kilograms of tramadol, unlawful dealing, and possession of the said banned drug made against them by the NDLEA.

Ukatu, who is Chairman of Mallinson group of companies, came under watch last year after five cartons of tramadol 225mg were seized from his staff on May 4, 2021, when he sold them to undercover police officers allegedly led by a former Commander, Intelligence Response Unit, Abba Kyari, a Deputy Commissioner of Police.

Kyari and his deputy, Sunday Ubua, who were subsequently arrested for drug dealing are currently being held in Kuje Custodial Centre, Abuja.

Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in an order dated August 29, 2022, restrained Ukatu or any other person from dealing with the properties listed as exhibit NDLEA III.

A certified true copy of the order in charge number, FHC/ABJ/CS/320/2022, between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Ukatu read, ‘’Upon the motion ex-parte dated the 19th day of August 2022, but filed on 23rd day of August 2022, coming up today, the 29th day of August 2022, before this honorable court praying for the following orders:

“An order of this honourable court preserving and restraining the respondent or any person or persons from dealing in any manner whatsoever with the properties listed as exhibit NDLEA III belonging to Ukatu Mallinson reasonably believed to have been derived from unlawful activities pending the conclusion of the investigation and trial of the respondent.

“That an order is hereby made preserving and restraining the respondent or any person or persons from dealing in any manner whatsoever with the properties listed as exhibit NDLEA III below belonging to Ukatu Mallinson reasonably believed to have been derived from unlawful activities pending the conclusion of the investigation and trial of the respondent.

“That an order is hereby made preserving and restraining the applicant or privies, agents, and servants from dissipating, interfering, or tampering with the properties listed as NDLEA III below belonging to Ukatu Mallinson reasonably believed to have been  derived from unlawful activities pending the conclusion of the investigation and  trial of the respondent.’’

Lagos properties

The properties temporary confiscated by the court include an office building at Ilupeju; a building mart at Dopemu; a pharmaceutical factory inside Nigeria Air Force base, Ikeja; Nelo’s Place Event Centre, Ikeja; a personal house at Ikeja and a warehouse at Okota, Amuwo, Lagos.

Also seized were two big warehouses; an office shop; a Toyota car; Volvo SUV; a Range Rover SUV; Bulk Enclave SUV; NISPO factory; a proposed warehouse; a proposed office complex and warehouses in Igboko village, Ado-Ado Ota, Ogun State, Central Business District, Abuja; including a parcel of land at Maryland, Ikeja, Oshodi, Festac Town, Oregun, Ikeja and Nike in Enugu.

Others are a manufacturing plant in Igbesa, Agbara, Ogun State; a property at Yomi Oshikoya Drive, Ikeja and another property in Asaba, Delta State.

Commenting on the feat recorded by the NDLEA, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, charged the Federal Government to adopt a holistic approach in seizing properties linked to drug barons, stating that it should be extended to corrupt civil servants and politicians.

He said, “The aggregate of all the accounts frozen and all luxury cars and items taken cannot compare with what politicians pocket or what civil servants embezzle in the example of the accountant-general of the federation.

“So, if there is a war against corruption either by way of drugs, embezzlement, and misappropriation of funds, the government should be holistic in that regard.”

He also posited that seized items should not be allowed to deteriorate but used to impact the economy positively.

“When you seize an item, you don’t allow it to disintegrate. So many houses and cars seized are no longer usable. The government should be proactive by seeking productive use of the seized items and not grind the economy further. We should be able to get positive effects from the seizures.”

Speaking on the implication of the seizures, a legal practitioner, Abdullahi Gayam said that drug barons may end up looking for another means to continue their crime.

“Nobody wants his or her properties to be seized. Naturally, these seizures by the FG will make drug barons rethink or adopt an entirely different way to acquire more properties,’’ he surmised.

The Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan described it as a welcome development, adding that there had never been a concerted effort in the fight against drugs, in the last decade, like there was now.

She, however,  tasked the NDLEA to ensure effective management of the seized assets, stating that it would help to cover for past shortfalls of the agency.

NDLEA commended

The Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Ariyo-Dare Atoye commended the NDLEA for its fight against drugs, describing it as the only agency of government under the Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) regime that has genuinely and sincerely earned the commendation of Nigerians.

He added that the seizure by the agency implied that traffickers had identified Nigeria as a profitable destination if it were not for the agency’s intervention.

The Coordinator, Advocate for Peoples Rights and Justice, Victor Giwa noted that the best way to combat drug trafficking was to fully equip the NDLEA and strengthen its operations against traffickers.

He called for the legalisation of Indian hemp, arguing that other countries have found that the more they campaign against it, the higher the consumption rate.

Meanwhile, the agency has warned politicians and their supporters against the use of drugs in the campaigns for the 2023 elections, which would begin on September 28.

Babafemi said the NDLEA would work with the Independent National Electoral Commission and other stakeholders to prevent the use of drugs at campaign rallies.

He stated, “More officers and assets have been deployed on the roads and other strategic locations to make the movement of these illicit drugs difficult, and our recent arrests and seizures attest to this.

“Anyone found in possession of illicit drugs violates the law and definitely risks arrest for investigation and possible prosecution.”

Advising candidates against buying drugs for youths, he stated, “They need to have a rethink because such has adverse effects not only for the thugs and the youths but their families, communities, the process and the country. The politicians doing this may end up being victims themselves

“The agency works with an enabling Act and the provisions are clear on possession, production, distribution and peddling of illicit substances.”

BIG STORY

NDLEA Nabs 60-Yr-Old Grandma, Pregnant Woman, Others Over Illegal Drug [PHOTOS]

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Two women, a 60-year-old grandmother, and a pregnant woman were among those arrested during interdiction operations by operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) across five states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in the past week, during which 5,527.15 kilograms of methamphetamine and cannabis sativa, as well as 132,090 tablets of tramadol and 2,000 bottles of codeine were recovered.

A statement on Sunday by the spokesman of the anti-narcotics agency, Femi Babafemi said the grandma, Mrs. Ibinosun Esther was arrested in Ibadan, Oyo state in a follow-up operation following the seizure of 5.5 kilograms Loud variant of cannabis imported into the country from South Africa.

According to Babafemi, the grandma claimed the consignment, was sent to her by her daughter and concealed in two giant Speakers as part of a consolidated cargo that arrived at the NAHCO import shed of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja Lagos on board an Air Peace Airline flight.

In a related development, NDLEA operatives also on Saturday 26th November intercepted 1.4 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed inside custard tins packed among cosmetics and foodstuffs going to Brazil via Doha on a Qatar Airways flight.

Babafemi said a cargo agent, Salako Omolara who brought the bag containing the illicit drug to the airport, and an intending passenger to Brazil, Anyanwu Christian who was to travel with the consignment were promptly arrested.

He said another attempt by a freight agent, Adebisi Aina to export 3,000 tablets of tramadol concealed in motor spare parts to Banjul, Gambia through the NAHCO export shed was equally thwarted by operatives who seized the consignment and arrested her on Monday 28th November, while a follow-up operation to Ebute-Meta area of Lagos the following day, Tuesday 29th November led to the arrest of the alleged actual owner, Afam Chibuke, who is a spare parts seller.

He noted that this was followed by the seizure of 100,000 tablets of Royal brand of Tramadol 200mg with a gross weight of 68.9 kilograms imported from Karachi, Pakistan on Ethiopian Airlines at the SAHCO import shed.

He disclosed that in Abuja, operatives stormed the warehouse of a notorious drug lord and an ex-convict, Ibrahim Momoh, alias ‘Ibrahim Bendel’ who escaped from prison custody to return to his criminal trade and recovered 81 jumbo bags of cannabis weighing 1,278 kilograms

He said though Though the fleeing drug dealer is still at large and is wanted by the agency, his warehouse keeper, 55-year-old Ghanaian, Richard Forson was arrested.

He noted that Ibrahim Momoh was first arrested on 27th November 2014 with the same substance weighing 385.1 kilograms He subsequently prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on 22nd April 2020 but escaped from jail after three months.

He also disclosed that no fewer than 2,000 bottles of codeine-based syrup were seized in a commercial bus by operatives on Friday 2nd December along Lokoja – Abuja expressway.

In Rivers state, operatives on Saturday arrested a 29-year-old pregnant woman, Kate Ibinabo with 34.4 kilograms  cannabis sativa in Okrika area of the state.

He said the Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (Retd), has however directed that she be granted administrative bail pending when she’s delivered of her baby and thereafter return for her prosecution because at the time of her arrest, she’s in her ninth month of pregnancy.

In Ondo state, 241 bags of the psychoactive substance with a gross weight of 3,133 kilogrammes were recovered from a building at Ilale Cashew, Ehinogbe, Owo, last Tuesday; and at least, 507.9 kilogrammes of cannabis were also seized during a raid at the hideout of a fleeing drug dealer in Mushin area of Lagos last Thursday.

In Cross River, 53 jumbo bags of cannabis sativa weighing 567.05 kilogrammes were seized from three suspects: Bassey Boniface, 38; Effiong Akiba, 30 and Ngbong Raymond, 45 at Mpara junction, Odukpani local government area last Thursday while conveying the consignment in a bus marked CKK 74 AA.

Babafemi said operatives equally arrested another suspect, Ali Mohammed along Potiskum- Damaturu road after they found 29,090 tablets of tramadol in his personal Honda car marked ABC 914 RW coming from Gombe to Damaturu, Yobe state.

Meanwhile, while commending the officers and men of the MMIA, Rivers, Ondo, Lagos, Cross River and Yobe commands of the agency for the arrests and seizures, Marwa charged them and their counterparts across other formations to continue to step up their offensives against drug cartels.

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BIG STORY

13% Derivation: I Owe No One Apology For Commending Buhari — Wike

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The executive governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, says he does not owe anyone an apology for commending President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the payment of funds owed to states in the Niger Delta since 1999.

Wike spoke on Saturday during the 2022 Rivers state honours and awards ceremony, in Port Harcourt, the state capital.

On November 18, the Rivers governor had announced that the Buhari-led government paid his state and other Niger Delta states funds owed from the 13 percent derivation fund.

Wike said the funds paid by the federal government have significantly aided his infrastructural strides in the state.

Wike’s comments elicited varied reactions as Nigerians called on other state governors who had received the fund to account for it.

On Friday, the presidency also said nine oil-producing states received a total of N625.43 billion as 13 percent oil derivation, subsidy and SURE-P refunds from the federation account between 2021 and 2022.

The states that benefitted from the derivation refunds include Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers.

Wike said he is currently battling “problem” because he appreciated Buhari for approving the refund to the nine oil-producing states.

“Instead of human beings to say they appreciate you, they become envious that why were you appreciated. Because I said Buhari thank you, I’m having problem today,” he said.

“I’m not a fan of Buhari. I told the honourable attorney-general but when a man has done well say he has done well in that area. On the other area, he has not done well, you equally say so.

“I have no apology to anybody. Today, Wike did this and that projects. Look if Buhari did not release the money, from 1999, which my party did not even release, I won’t have done what I did.

“I don’t give a damn to anybody. I don’t care. I got the money. I’m not a fan of Buhari. He has not done well in so many areas but with this payment of money, he did well.

“My friends and party members may not be happy. Make una no vex oo. This one, Buhari did well. He gave me money and I used it to do something for people in Rivers state. The other ones will talk about their own later.”

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BIG STORY

2023: Peter Obi Finally Releases Manifesto, Promises To Move Nigeria From “Consuming To Producing”, Others

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Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), has unveiled his manifesto.

Obi unveiled the 72-page manifesto via his Twitter handle on Sunday.

The manifesto is titled “It’s POssible: Our Pact with Nigerians”.

In the manifesto, the former Anambra governor listed seven priorities his administration would concentrate on if elected president in 2023.

Over the past few days, Obi had come under criticism in some quarters, especially among members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), for not having a manifesto.

In October, the LP presidential distanced himself from a manifesto attributed to him.

Obi had said he would personally release the LP manifesto to the public when it is ready.

In the manifesto released on Sunday, the former Anambra governor promised to move Nigeria from a consumption economy to a production-centred economy.

The LP presidential candidate said he would end banditry and insurgency if elected president.

“Restructure the polity through effective legal and institutional reforms to entrench the rule of law, aggressively fight corruption, reduce cost of governance, and establish an honest and efficient civil service,” the manifesto reads.

“Leapfrog Nigeria into the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) through the application of scientific and technological innovations to create a digital economy.

“Build expansive and world-class infrastructure for efficient powers supply, rail, road and air transportation, and pipeline network, through integrated public-private partnerships, and entrepreneurial public sector governance.

“Enhance the human capital of Nigerian youths for productivity and global competitiveness through investment in world-class scholarship and research, quality healthcare, and entrepreneurship education.

“Conduct an afro-centric diplomacy that protects the rights of Nigerian citizens abroad and advances the economic interests of Nigerians and Nigerian businesses in a changing world.”

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