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NDLEA busts trans-border drug cartel, arrests five kingpins

Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have dismantled a trans-border drug cartel and arrested five leaders of the syndicates operating in parts of the world.

This is contained in a statement by the NDLEA spokesperson, Femi Babafemi, on Sunday in Abuja.

Mr Babafemi said operatives, during a special operation that lasted weeks, recovered different quantities of skunk, methamphetamine and ephedrine.

He said air compressors used to conceal and distribute them globally were recovered during the operations.

He also said the special operation came on the heels of a warning by the NDLEA chairman, Buba Marwa, that drug barons and cartels would have it rough in 2023 if they failed to back out of the criminal business.

According to him, cartel leaders are spread across Dubai, UAE; Cotonou, Benin Republic; Togo; Oman, Thailand and Europe; and Lagos, Imo and Onitsha in Nigeria.

“Their lid was blown open on Thursday, December 29, 2022, when their freight agent, Collins Onyeisue, was arrested by NDLEA officers.

“Onyeisue was arrested at the Skyway Aviation Handling Company Plc (SAHCO) export shed of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos.

“The arrest of the suspect was for attempting to export three big automobile air compressors to Dubai.

“A quick follow-up operation led to the recovery of additional five compressors at his home at 24 Legacy road, Ayobo area of Lagos,” he said.

Mr Babafemi said 27.50kgs of skunk were taken out of the air compressors after welding equipment were used to cut them open.

He added that further investigations revealed that the freight agent was working for a bigger organised criminal group.

According to him, as a result, extensive operational tools were deployed to track the first kingpin, Peter Obioma, who lives in the Benin Republic and Togo but occasionally comes to do business in Lagos.

“The efforts paid off on Saturday, January 7, when Obioma walked into the waiting arms of NDLEA operatives with a bag containing additional air compressors.

“This was used to conceal 15.7kgs skunk and a crystalline substance that later tested positive for methamphetamine after the agency’s sniffer dogs identified compressors with drug concealment.

“Obioma’s statement led to the unravelling of two other leaders of the cartel: Dubai-based Ugo Kelechi Alex (aka KC) and Iwueke Ugochukwu (aka Odogwu), an Onitsha-based businessman,” he said.

Mr Babafemi said a well-coordinated operation was thereafter carried out on Tuesday, January 10, at their ancestral homes in Umuobi village, Igbejere community, Ihitte-Uboma LGA, Imo State.

He said the arrowhead of the cartel, identified as Obinna Ezenwekwe, an automobile parts dealer at Alaba International market, Lagos, was put under surveillance.

“A Lexus SUV and a Toyota jeep were immediately recovered from Kelechi and Iwueke.

“After so many dramatic bids to evade arrest, NDLEA operatives eventually pinned Obinna down at a bar in Mazamaza, Mile 2 area of Lagos on Saturday, January 14.

“A search of his home led to the recovery of 607 grams of ephedrine, a handful of Cannabis weighing 20 grams, as well as other paraphernalia.

“This also includes 271 grams of dimethyl sulfone used as a cutting agent for ephedrine, a chemical precursor and an active ingredient for the production of methamphetamine.

“A weighing scale and an International passport were equally recovered from his house,” he said.


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