Newsbreak: NDLEA seizes largest heroin in history worth N10b

By Bunmi Alao

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has seized what the agency regarded as the largest drug haul in Nigerian history.

The seized heroin is worth more than N10b.

The NDLEA Chairman, Baba Marwa described the interception as the single largest heroin consignment ever seized at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos State.

In a stealth operation, the NDLEA has arrested the ring leader, Adinnu Felix Chinedu.

He is said to have confessed during interrogation as the main distributor for a drug syndicate whose membership is spread across Nigeria.

The NDLEA said the people behind the crime network specialise in dealing with drugs across Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Europe, and America.

Officials told Irohinoodua that the consignment weighed 51.90 kilograms

Buba Marwa (retd.), while briefing journalists in Lagos said the seizure remains the largest operation in the history of the anti-drug agency.

Marwa said the drugs were hidden in 15 cartons of 2300-watt metal cutting machines.

They were to be delivered at a warehouse located in the Ipaja area of Lagos

He related the recent operation to the September 18, 2022, seizure of 2,139.5 kg of cocaine in a warehouse in the Ikorodu area of the state, which he described as the biggest cocaine seizure in the history of NDLEA.

Speaking to journalists in Lagos Marwa said NDLEA operatives of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Command intercepted a suspicious package at the SAHCO Import Shed of the airport’s cargo terminal.

Speaking further he said “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.”

The NDLEA has also arrested some Clearing and Forwarding agents who were responsible for clearing the goods at the Airport.

Marwa said “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 Lmole Moses.”

He said the NDLEA set up an ambush for the expected receiver of the consignment, who was duly arrested when he showed up for collection.

Marwa said the NDLEA also arrested a freight agent, Olowolagba Wasiu Babatunde, hired for clearing services by one other clearing agent, Mr. Kola resident in South Africa.

NDLEA said Adinnu
admitted that he usually conveyed the consignment to a dedicated warehouse located in Ayobo which served as a workshop where he would dismantle the consignment and remove the drugs from the machines.

After the removal 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 were dealing with a syndicate that operates in other countries. By the time we were done exploring the various leads we had, we had unraveled an organized criminal network that operates in South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria, and parts of Europe and America.

He said the syndicate had a wide network in Nigeria because the consignments seized were marked with several codenames, showing that they belonged to different members of the organised criminal group.

He explained that the agency, during a follow-up operation, uncovered from the suspect a long list of receivers of illicit drugs and was able to identify the kingpin of the syndicate, Reginald Peter Chidiebere, who owned the Golden Platinum Hotel and Suite, located at 16 Reginald Peter Chidiebere Street, Hope Estate, Ago Palace.

Marwa said surveillance on the hotel led on Monday, February 19 to the arrest of another drug agent Igboanugo Thankgod, was in possession of two parcels of 2.2 kg of 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.

Marwa said coordinated efforts have led to the closure of 107 bank accounts associated with 14 members of the cartel as well as N119,582,928.31 hidden in some bank accounts.

He said the hotel and a mansion linked to the head of the syndicate in Nigeria, Reginald Chidiebere, and another mansion linked to the head of the syndicate in Mozambique, Festus Ibewuike, located in the Ago Palace area, had already been marked for forfeiture to the Federal Government.

He said on Thursday, February 22, a female member of the syndicate and wife of Festus Ibewuike, Mrs Confidence Ibewuike, who is one of those to collect part of the consignment from Adinnu Felix Chinedu, was arrested at the Ago Palace area on Thursday.

At their residence a Toyota Venza car was recovered, as well as several documents, including bank and property documents belonging to Festus lbewuike.

NDLEA said their mansion in the Ago Palace area had also been marked for forfeiture to the Federal Government.

Marwa noted that the NDLEA has reviewed intelligence with our South African counterparts for action regarding the other members of the group living in that country.

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