BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Earlier today afternoon, a number of online social media broke the news of the interception of a container load of tramadol at the Apapa Port Lagos.
The breaking news came on the heel of a press statement by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) which claimed that its operatives seized a container load of 225mg tramadol worth N1 3 billion at the Apapa port, yesterday, Saturday 30th July, 2022 during container examinations.
The statement credited the spokesman of the narcotic agency, Femi Babafemi, stated that the illicit drug totaling about 2,750 tablets, weigh 1.650 kilograms; adding that they were packed in 55 cartons in a 20ft container with registration number SUDU 7538656 and labeled Tapentadol and Carisoprodol. The agency, the seizure reportedly followed the receipt of credible intelligence.
Unlike in prior seizures at the seaports, especially the Apapa Customs Port where almost every such seizure has been an outcome of collaboration and joint examination between the two agencies and other relevant departments of government, the NDLEA took credit for this laudable operation.
Said to have been undertaken at the customs port, the operation immediately raises question about the where about of the Nigeria Customs Service, when such an important drug was been smuggled out of its territory; especially on the backdrop of claim by the Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Yusuf Malanta that the command’s intelligence network under his watch is second to none, and that the NCS is always a step ahead of the drug smugglers.
Undoubtedly at double alert and uncompromising in the matters of national security, Malanta have proven his mettle as an unbeaten anti-drug war lord, hence it is a matter of concern how this particular case appeared to have escaped his attention.
Although the customs area controller did not respond to our reporter’s request through telephone text message for clarification on the development, usually dependable grapevine sources said the customs was fully on the trail of the offensive container and had its men strategically stationed and were on standby preparatory to picking up the said container under a joint effort on Monday, being tomorrow.
One of our sources informed that customs officers who were acting under cover witnessed the operation but were prevailed upon by a higher authority in the command not to meddle but to remain observant and to ensure that the container is not exited outside the port under whatever guise.
One of the success stories that have effectively checkmated drug passage through the seaport is the improved collaboration between NCS and the NDLEA, in addition to their well documented standard operating procedure (SOP).
One of our sources said that the action of the narcotic agency could be interpreted in many ways, either that the Customs Service was not on ground or that NDLEA betrayed the trust they share in the war against drug trafficking.
He said, “How can you even think that the customs command is not aware of such import, let me tell you, nothing escapes our enforcement and CIU attention, this area controller doesn’t take excuse. Our officers have been alerted and they were on standby monitoring the container.
“They contacted their immediate boss when NDLEA men arrived to examine the container, they were instructed to remain unobtrusive, and to note everything that happens and not to allow the container exit. The plan was to isolate it and carry out a joint examination on Monday or Tuesday, because NDLEA in particular needed to be informed.”
Barely a week ago, NDLEA Chairman, Brig Gen Buba Marwa (Rtd) commended Malanta and his officers and men for his unwavering collaborative effort in stemming the tide of drug trafficking through the Apapa port.
The commendation was conveyed by the Commander of Narcotics, Apapa Special Area Command, Ameh Inalegwu, during a press briefing by the customs command to unveil a 20ft container of Tramadol seized by his officers and men.
Malanta who put the value of the illicit drug at N6 billion, said it was packaged in 81 cartons of 250mg and 69 cartons of 225mg tablets (each carton contains 72 rolls, each roll contains 10 packs, each pack contains 10 sachets, and each sachet contains 10 tablets; totaling 150 cartons of tablets.
While handing over the seizure to the Commander of Narcotics, Apapa Special Area Command, Malanta said the command will not rest on its oars in tracking the illicit importation.