•Drug traffickers’ new tricks, receive prayers from pastors
By HENRY UMAHI
Nigerians were recently stunned when some neatly packed and appetising roasted chickens, which had arrived the country from Brazil, aboard a Turkish Airline flight from Sao Paulo, were discovered to contain hard drugs. The drugs were concealed in the roasted chickens, with the intention to fool security officials. It was a new way drug traffickers devised to pull the wool on the eyes of security personnel at the airport and bring in hard drugs.
The kingpin of the drugs syndicate, Mr. Vincent Chegini Chinweuwa, had revealed that it took three days to package the roasted chickens for onward transmission to Nigeria, adding: “I was confident that the drug will not be detected. I’m surprised I’ve been caught.” A conservative estimate of the street value of the drugs, which was impounded, was put at about N24 million.
Airport Commandant of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, Mr. Hamza Umar, had said of this: “We discovered 2.655kg of cocaine inside roasted chickens. It is a remarkable seizure because no one would have imagined cocaine worth several millions inside roasted chickens.”
Investigation revealed that drug traffickers have, indeed, devised various new ways to bring in their merchant of death into the country. Sometimes, they are caught. Some other times, they succeed in beating the security dragnet at the airports and borders.
Speaking on this, Chairman/Chief Executive of the NDLEA, Ahmadu Giade, said: “Drug barons are becoming more and more sophisticated in drug concealment, as recent discoveries show. The essence of drug concealment is to avoid detection and seizure. In order to prevent huge financial losses, arrests and prosecution, drug barons go the extra mile in hiding their drugs.”
Checks revealed that gone are the days when male drug traffickers simply ingested the stuff while their female counterparts inserted it into their private parts. The barons are now devising new ways of packaging drugs to beat security.
Twenty six-year-old Nzeka Christian was nabbed by eagle-eyed anti-narcotic agents at MMIA, with drugs packed in two big tins of tomato paste. The street value of the drug was put at about N5 million. According to Umar, “the two big tins of tomato paste, with 1.8kg of methamphetamine, were found in Nzeka’s bag. The bag contained clothes and foodstuff, like yams, rice, beans, garri and spaghetti. The food items were meant to distract officers from the tomato paste.”
He added: “This is an interesting seizure, because it is not a common place concealment. The mode is a reflection of the sophistry of drug trafficking. I am glad that the arrest has prevented the execution of the suspect in Malaysia.”
Interestingly, before embarking on the trip, Nzeka slept in the church and received prayers from his pastor for a successful outing. “I was in the Church and my pastor prayed for me for a successful trip,” he volunteered.
Indeed, investigations revealed that many drug traffickers now seek spiritual help before embarking on the deadly assigment. They contract pastors, alfas and spiritualists for help.
A source disclosed: “In the desperation of drug traffickers to succeed in their business, many of them are now going to pastors, alfas and spiritual people so that they can pray for them not to be caught by anti-narcotic agents at the airports or elsewhere”. It was gathered that many clerics of different hue are actually smiling to the bank because they are usually well renumerated by their ‘clients’. A cleric at Okota, Lagos, is known for praying for drug traffickers and his place is always a beehive of activities. In the same vein, an Owerri-based pastor popularly known as Odeshi pastor (indestructible pastor) is notorious for this. He was operating around Bongo village before his church was pulled down recently. Another of his ilk operates at Oko-Afo in Badagry area of Lagos.
Traffickers in illicit drugs also conceal their goods in customised underwear and hair wigs. Recently, Miss Anene Blessing Iruoma, 26, and Miss Obiakor Maryam Okwudili were apprehended at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja for attempting to smuggle 3.6 kilogrammes of methamphetamines in their customised brassieres, pants and hair wig. The destination of the duo was Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where drug traffickers pay the supreme price if caught.
Susan Eneanya, 32, was caught at the MMIA with 900g of methamphetamine hidden in the soles of a pair of shoes. When arrested, Susan said: “I did not know that things will turn out this way. I was given the assurance that the drug will not be detected and that everything would be fine. I was told to ingest the drug, but I was afraid, so it was hidden instead inside the sole of one of my shoes and I felt it would not be detected.”
Twenty-five-year-old London-based fashion designer, Animasaun Sunbo, was arrested during the screening of passengers on a British Airways flight to London with 30 sachets of cocaine weighing three kilogrammes inside two chocolate containers inside her bag.
Also, one of the new methods of drug smuggling is turning cocaine into ice cream. Martin Ikechukwu was nabbed by NDLEA operatives at the MMIA with 9.500kg of creamy substance that tested positive to cocaine while returning from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The parcels containing the ‘ice cream’ cocaine were strapped round the body of four coolers. The street value of the drug was put at over N90 million.
Illicit drugs are also being smuggled in cooking pots. Nwokeocha Bartholomew Chimezie, 43, an indigene of Aro-Ndizuogu, in Imo State, was arrested at MMIA for concealing 4.1kg of heroine in cooking pots imported from India. The suspect said: “I went to India for an eye surgery. In the process, I met a friend who gave me the cooking pots. He told me that it was a gift for his sister in Nigeria that just put to bed.”
Condoms for cocaine
Drug traffickers are also putting condoms to other uses. They use it to facilitate the ingestion of cocaine turned from powdery substance to oily matter. Egbo Innocent Oluchukwu and Ejimbe Christian Chidi were caught at MMIA for allegedly ingesting liquid cocaine poured into male condoms. According to Umar: “They thought that the scanning machine will not detect liquid cocaine, but they were wrong”.
Oluchukwu, who arrived from Tanzania, said: “The Venezuelan who gave me the drug told me that it will be difficult for the machine to detect liquid cocaine when ingested. I ingested 70 wraps of the drug using water because I was desperate.”
Wine and juice
Drug cartels are equally packaging drugs like wine and juice drinks. In other words, illicit drugs are being liquefied. Patrick Chukwuemeka (32) was arrested at MMIA with 7.1kg of liquid cocaine valued at N63.9 million. The drug was emulsified and packaged as wine.
According to Giade: “The liquid cocaine that was first intercepted was packaged to look like juice sent through courier service from Trinidad and Tobago. In another case, it was difficult for the machine to pick out the liquid form of cocaine in the tummy of the trafficker, but our personnel were meticulous before our sophisticated machines finally discovered it.”
To evade arrest, drug traffickers engage in some kind of relay race. Rather than take direct flights to their destination, they make painstaking detour. For instance, heroin known to be trafficked from India, Pakistan and Iran, is now coming into Nigeria through other routes, such as Tanzania.