Two drug traffickers have been arrested at Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos as they attempted to export drugs out of the country.
One of the suspects, Joseph Oparaji Okechukwu, 59, said he was a contractor and blamed the present economic recession in Nigeria for nudging him into drug smuggling. The other suspect, Austine Ikenna Nnaji, 41, was identified as a safety officer in Qatar. Mr. Nnaji reportedly feigned ignorance of the content of his luggage, which he claimed to have received from a friend at the airport.
A spokesman for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Mitchel Ofoyeju, said Mr. Okechukwu was bound for New York City on Turkish Airlines while Mr. Nnaji was on his way to Doha, Qatar on Ethiopian Airlines. He added that officials of the anti-narcotics agency arrested the two suspects during a screening of passengers on the two airlines.
Ahmadu Garba, the NDLEA commander at Lagos airport, said Mr. Okechukwu excreted 1.105 kg of brownish substances that tested positive for heroin. The other suspect, Mr. Nnaji, was found to have concealed 11.540 kg of marijuana and 490 grams of tramadol in his luggage.
Mr. Garba explained that the suspects were still under investigation by a team of the NDLEA’s anti-narcotics officers.
The agency stated that Mr. Okechukwu offered a confessional statement in which he attributed his crime to Nigeria’s economic downturn and to the “devil.” The suspect, who hails from Imo State, resides in the Surulere area of Lagos. The agency quoted him as saying, “I am sick and in debt. I did not smuggle drugs deliberately. Since 2015, I have been living in abject poverty to the extent that l cannot take care of my family. This is the handiwork of the devil and I regret everything now.”
On his part, Mr. Nnaji, who hails from Enugu State, reportedly claimed a friend handed him the luggage containing the drugs at the Lagos Airport. According to NDLEA agents, the suspect stated that a friend of his who is based in Qatar had sent someone to him at the airport to deliver the luggage, adding that the messenger claimed the contents were foodstuff.
Mr. Nnaji reportedly wrote, “I work as a safety officer in Qatar and I came to Nigeria to visit my parents and make arrangements for my marriage. My friend in Qatar called me and asked me to assist him in bringing some foodstuffs. When the bag was given to me at the airport, I almost rejected it because it was too heavy. Unfortunately, the drugs were detected by NDLEA officers.”
Colonel Mustapha Abdallah (ret.), the NDLEA’s Chief Executive Officer, disclosed that the anti-narcotics agency had perfected strategies to detect hidden drugs by couriers.
He warned drug traffickers attempting to smuggle drugs through the airports, seaports and land borders to realize that they were walking in troubled waters. He said the two suspects would soon be charged to court.