NATIONAL Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has said it has filed charges against the officials of Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) at the Federal High Court, Abuja as more facts have emerged on the failed attempt to export 144kgs of ephedrine to Maputo, Mozambique at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) Abuja.This is coming mere hours after the handling company roped in law enforcement at the nation’s airports stating that the illegalities transpire because agencies meant to stem the tide connived with those involved to carry out the act although pledging its cooperation to the anti-narcotics agency.
A statement from the NDLEA said that preliminary investigation reveal how the said NAHCO staff who are in charge of cargo safety and security conspired with suspected drug trafficking syndicates in swapping already screened consignments by security agencies at the airport with similar packages that contained narcotics.
The illicit activities of the group were uncovered following an intelligence report by the anti-narcotic agency. In the course of investigation, the Agency extended her search by inviting a number of airport officials suspected to be involved in the incident for interrogation.
While others were cleared, five staff of NAHCO including a load controller who is at large was found to be seriously indicted. These staff were deliberately working to undermine security measures at the airport by swapping already screened cargoes with similar consignment that had been stuffed with narcotics. The Chief Security Supervisor, Mr. Audu Garba was also identified as the suspected master mind of this high-level conspiracy. Others are two security assistants, Nasiru Ibrahim and Haruna Abdullahi, a driver, Adamu Dasura as well as a load controller, Victor Ahenje who is at large.
It was disclosed that the defendants were taking undue advantage of their position and privilege by deploying the official vehicle of NAHCO in the said act of sabotage. Furthermore, the shipment of 144kgs of ephedrine concealed among hair relaxers and cereals was swapped with a similar package that was screened by all security operatives.
Unfortunately for the suspects, what appeared to be a discrete plot to unlawfully export narcotics to Mozambique through an Ethiopian airline flight was promptly nipped in the bud by the NDLEA.
Abuja airport commander of the NDLEA, Mr. Hamisu Lawan said that the management of NAHCO at the Abuja airport is cooperating with investigation. “This is a case of outright swapping of already screened cargoes with similar bags. Our team of investigators have made significant progress in the case and so far the management of NAHCO is cooperating with the Agency. Those being interrogated include the Chief Security Supervisor, Mr. Audu Garba and 3 others in the security department” Hamisu stated.
The Chairman/Chief Executive of the NDLEA, Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (retd.) said that weak-links must be identified and strengthened. In his words, “this is unacceptable and unethical. It is time to identify and beef-up areas of weaknesses. The action of the defendants is calculated to undermine the collective efforts of the entire airport security community. This deliberate act to damage the reputation of the country in the interest of some drug trafficking syndicates must be condemned and resisted by all. The charges have been filed in and they will appear in court soon”.
The NDLEA boss called for synergy among security agencies stressing that the common goal is the security of our country. “We must work together in promoting peace and national security. No Agency can succeed in isolation. This seizure has provided a platform for us to reappraise our strategies with a view to fine-tuning existing modes of operation” Abdallah stated.
NAHcO had said in its statement that, “it is important for us to recognize that there is no way drugs will enter the airport without the connivance of Government agencies at the airport. The screening process is such that for any shipment to be exported, the Customs, the NDLEA, the FAAN Security, etc. must have screened it. Even the Airline’s Security Staff would also have conducted necessary checks.”
“So, for there to be a breach of security that would have resulted in loading drugs into a plane, then one or two of the agencies must have been involved. To single out NAHCO staff for worldwide mention therefore, is tantamount to looking for a soft target.”