Apapa Port: Home Of Drug Barons

By Stephen Ubanna

In spite of the  fact that there  are two major seports in the south west  state of Lagos, Drug  barons appear  to be using mostly the Lagos port of Apapa, fueling  speculations making the rounds that there were  moles within the Nigerian Customs service, NCS, and other security agencies  working  closely with the barons to give them  protection on arrival with their drug at the port in the past.

Between 2021 and now, the drug barons were said to have become more courageous  to ship tramadol, Condeine syrup and tablets  Concealed  in Containers through the Lagos  port of Apapa believing that their sponsors  are their there to use their contacts at the  port to facilitate the release and exit of the cargo to their warehouse. 

Many had expected that with the arrest and prosecution of Afam Mallinson Ukatu, a multi-billion drug baron, allegedly involved  in trafficking 322 kg, tramadol, through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA,  and  N3 billion deal to exit the drugs from the airport, after jumping in 2021, should have made others  still involved in the illegitimate trade to quit.

 Recall that based on the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, uder the close watch of Buba marwa, a retired Army Brigadier-General and  former Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa, investigations on the activities of Ukatu, the multi-billionare  drug baron,  he was said to have made a single  importof two Containers   containing  1,284 cartons of tramadol through the Apapa port with market value of N22 billion , in October, 2019.

Informed sources told Value News that he and his agents have been a major importer of large Consignments of different brands and dosages s of tramadol Hydrocholoride, ranging from 120mg, 200mg,  225mg and 250all of which are illicit drugs.These alleged agents who may  still have had their  contacts at the seaports  may have formed a new drug syndicate at the  Lagos port of Apapa.

 Signs  that the premier  port  which has APM, terminal, popular, APMT,  as the major Container terminal  inside the port and other bonded terminals outside the port including SIFAX  would experience much trafficking on Drugs became manifest in 2021,  when  a  ‘’40’’  Container  with registration number  TEMU 614202  which was transtered from APMT  to the SIFX 2, bonded terminal  , in Lagos, was intercepted based on intelligence by the Command Enforcement officers. 124 cartons of tramadol were said to have been found in the Container during examination.

Compt. Malanta: Giing Drug Barons A Big Fight

 Comptroller Ibrahim  Yusuf Malanta , the Apapa Command , Area Controller  who was  said to be upbeat  with the  illicit drugs found at the SIFAX terminal  may have known  that the drug syndicate may want to devise  new strategies of smuggling the illicit drugs  into the country through the Apapa port.  This may have encouraged him to tighten up security at terminals and exit gate, which may have informed why they are working closely with the NDLEA, personnel at the port to frustrate the drug barons.

 Last July, the Command had impounded a Container load of tramadol  that was said to have been imported from the Asian country of Pakistan. The Apapa Command Area Controller had said that the illicit  drugs  were concealed   carefully with towels  but the deployment  of what he  had described  as ‘’Forensic  Manifest  Management System’’, the drugs were uncovered.

Details of the imported tramadol  drugs  that was said to have been concealed in a  ‘20’’ Container  with registration number  PCIU 0183241  with towels  shows that  it was laden  with 81 cartons  of  250 mg each of tramadol and  an additional  69 cartons of tramadol   tablets of 225 mg each. 

The seizure of the illicit drugs by the Apapa  Customs Command Agile Enforcement officers may have forced, Marwa, the NDLEA boss,  who could not hide his feelings to have given kudos  to Comptroller Malanta, the Apapa , Area Controller, as he described as ‘’a great feat’’.  

   Note that the street market value of the drugs was put at about N6 billion by the Valuation officers, meaning that if the drug baron had succeeded in pushing the various milligrams of the tramadol import into the Nigerian market, he would have become a billionaire overnight, to be in the class of Ukatu, who is currently being detained in Ikoyi prison.

 Again, less than a week after the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, at the instance of Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel led Management Team, had  ordered the destruction of 48  Containers  of tramadol,  codeine  and other  PSschotropic drugs, precisely  on Thursday, , August 4, 2022,  the Apapa Customs Command  intercepted  a ‘’20’’ Container  with registration number  SUDU -7538656 manifested  as 272  cartons of stainless steel hot pots. It  was  said to have  been captured and declared as  cooking appliances, measuring/checking  instrument  and furnace burners to escape arrest by the Command Enforcement officers by the alleged importer.

The suspected Container  was said to have  been  positioned  , opened  and jointly examined  by all the relevant agencies  including the NDLEA , personnel,  and found to contain  55 cartons  of tramadol concealed  in food flasks worth about N1.4 billion.  

The Apapa Command Area Controller who was said to have given a matching order to the officers at the APMT and bonded terminals under the control of the Command to ensure that no illicit drug or other Contraband Pharmaceutical drugs leaves their terminal to enter the Nigerian market may have blocked all loopholes that had been  exploited by the  drug barons to smuggle drug into the country through the port. This may have informed why, the Command Enforcement officers, are much concerned at what is being released and exited at the Apapa port and bonded terminal serviced by it in the recent time.  

 The 2022  Fiscal Policy Measures, approved by  President by President Muhammadu Buhari,  for implementation by the NCS,  which was said to have been based  on the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Common External Tariff,  CET,  2022-2026, which had had been retained from the country’s Import Prohibition list  of the ECOWAS, CET,  such as Pharmaceutical products as  tramadol, Codeine and other dangerous drugs  may have encouraged the Command Enforcement  officers to thorouly search  all Containers released for delivery to the importers with their agents at the port.

A senior Customs officer who spoke to the Magazine on condition of anonymity disclosed no officer wants  to play into the  hands of Comptroller Malanta, if he hears that one   tramadol, a bottle Codeine Syrup or tablet imported through the port found their way into the Nigerian market.

The drug barons who may have tried in the recent time to do what Ukatu, the multi-billionaire, drug baron did in 2019, to exit two Containers of drugs from the Apapa port would never forget their experience in a hurry as they have forfeited   both the money and illicit drugs to the government.

Maritime analysts had said that it is not enough for Comptroller Malanta to always announce of seizure of Containers Concealed with tramadol at the Appapa port, without going a step further to arrest one of the drug barons giving the port and the Command a bad name as the NDLEA, did by arresting Ukatu, a drug baron  at the MMIA, in May 2022, after jumping  bail in 2021.  This is the only Nigerians would take him serious in the war against illicit drugs at the Apapa port.

 The question on the lips of most people was why Apapa port had remained the only port being used by    drug barons since 2019, to bring tramadol into the country within the axis, when there are  other  ports and terminals.  They were said to have cited the Tin-can Island port, Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, and KiriKiri Lighter Terminal, Phases 1 and II.

Compt. Oloyede: Tightened Up Security At Tin-can Island Port That Drug Barons May Not Fit In

 Many believe that the drug barons who may have been succeeding in the past to exit tramadol and codeine syrup and tablets out of the Tin can Island port,  it may not have it  possible  now that Comptroller Adekunle Oloyede, described as a digital guru, in Customs circles and the  Tin can Island Command   Area comptroller without being tracked.

 Even the syndicate who were used to Machine Outside, MO, to take delivery of their Consignments at the port   in the past  andwho have resorted to forging his signature  to take delivery of their cargoes  may have discovered that they are threading  on dangerous path as they have  failed  in their attempt.  

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