By Stephen Ubanna
Until Monday, August 12, 2019, nobody knew that one of the warehouses along the Oshodi – Apapa Express Way allegedly belonging to Innoson’s Motors, founded by one Innoncent Chukwuma, an Nnewi based Vehicle manufacturer, in Anambra state, was used for stockpiling of Tramadol, Codeine and other unregistered National Agency For Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, drugs that were said sold in the Nigerian markets, particular in the north.
The bubble appear to have burst when the information about the use of the alleged Innonson’s warehouse to stockpile the prohibited tramadol, Codeine and the other fake Pharmaceutical products filtered out to the ears of Usman Yahaya, a former Deputy Comptroller of Customs in-charge of Enforcement , Federal Operations Unit, FOU, and who had Headed various anti- smuggling Patrol teams in the Command in the past but now the Coordinator of the Comptroller General CCG, Strike Force, Team, Zone A, Lagos .
Insiders told The Value News that instead of acting on the information immediately to to seal up the premises, Yahaya had detailed Jack Okpabi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, and the Strike Force, Head of Operations and Lagos Roving to ensure that the drugs did not get out of Lagos. Yahaya , who wants to restore himself back to reckoning as a thorough bred enforcement officer did not want to miss the opportunity.
For two weeks, Jack and his Team members were said to kept the information a closely guarded secret to avoid filtering out into the ear of officials of Innonson’s Motors that the game is up which might force the importers to evacuate the hard drugs worth billions of naira to another location.
Acting on the information that the smugglers would take advantage of the Eid Kabir Festival period, which falls between Monday, August 12 and Tuesday, August 13, 2019, to push the drugs into the northern markets where it was needed mostly by Bandits in the north west and the Insurgents in the North eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, it strengthened the resolve of the Jack led Team to Strike by keeping vigil on the Lagos-Ibadan road.
Investigation by the Magazine shows that the banned Tramadol and Codein drugs are in high demand in the north. It was learnt that Bandits in the north west demand for a carton of Tramadol or Codein as ransome to free a kidnapped victim in their Custody, an indication that the noth was their major market for the Indian Manufactured pharmaceutical drugs dealers who have their agents everywhere in the region.
When it became clear that the smugglers had perfected plan to move from the their Lagos base, Jack , who had served under Comptrollers MUhammed Ubah Garba, in FOU, Zone C, Owerri, Imo state and Mohammed Aliyu, in FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, and knows how such closely guarded information were handled , was said to have put his experience to bear on the Operation without any mistake.
Unknown to the smugglers, the CCG’S Strike Force Team members have been positioned at Strategic locations along the Lagos – Ibadam –Expressway in readiness to intercept the trucks . The fallout was that one of the trucks load of the tramadol, Codein and other drugs fell into the waiting hands of the team on the road on Tuesday , August 13, 2019.
It was said to have been seized and was quickly transferred to the Customs Training School, the Strike Force , Operational base in Lagos. The Truck driver was said to have been promptly arrested and detained in FOU , Zone facility. The information allegedly volunteered by the driver during interrogation, may have given the CCG Strike Force Team a clue that the drugs were loaded from one of the Innonson’s Motors Warehouses along the Oshodi –Apapa Express way.
Armed with the information , Jack was said to have alerted the Yahaya, the Coordinator of the Strike Force about the information. With his support and approval, the Team was said to have invaded the warehouse stocked with cartons of tramadol , Codein and other unregistered NAFDAC drugs in order to evacuate the items. As at the last count, the team had evacuated 21 trucks load of the items valued over N5 billion to the Customs Training School and the Government warehouse in Ikeja. The Valuation may have been done in a hurry as Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel has ordered the Valuation experts to come out with a proper Value for the items.
The discovery of the Warehouse , which was used to stockpile Tramadol, Codein and other NAFDAC unregistered pains illicit drugs may have forced the Customs Coordinator to mobilise his senior Team members to begin a preliminary investigation ton the warehouse along the Oshodi –Mile two road. Given what was found in the warehouse which confirms the information given by the informant and the arrested driver, the warehouse was sealed by a detachment of heavily armed soldiers engaged by the Customs Authorities to guard the place from infiltration of Area boys who may be engaged by the smugglers to move the items to another location.
Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and the Customs Spokesperson, who was elated by the seizure made by the CCG , Strike Force, Team, Zone A, Lagos, disclosed that Ali, the customs Comptroller General, who could not hide his feelings over the multi-million naira drug seizure by the Strike Force Team, has ordered a thorough investigation into it with a view to bringing all those connected with the drug found in the warehouse to Justice.
A Customs source had informed the Magazine that officials of Innonson’s Motors, had claimed ignorance that the Company’s warehouse along the Oshodi-Mile 2 road was used to stockpile banned Tramadol, Codein and other NAFDAC , unregistered drugs.
The question on the lips of most people is: how did the drugs found their way to the warehouse? This is where the Customs Comptroller General had to invite the immediate past the present Comptrollers of Apapa and Tin-Can Island Commands for questioning.
Business watchers believe that the drugs could not have fly into the warehouse without passing through the seaports, an indications that there must have been a high level Customs Collaboration in the deal which may not have not started today. Recall that Aliyu , the FOU, Zone A, Comptroller , at a recent Workshop , organisied by the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders , NAGAFF, at the NAGAFF village, Apapa, had indicted the Area Comptrollers at the seaports of taking a closer look at what the officers are doing at the Bonded terminals. The Customs Comptroller may have been emboldened to speak out based on the spectacular seizures that had been made the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team in different parts of Lagos.
There is no gainsaying the fact that in recent months, several Containers load of Tramadol had been seized at Apapa port under the close watch of Abba- Kura, the Area Comptroller. There are fears in both official and unofficial circles that nothing would come out of the Ali, initiated Investigation into the 21 trucks load of drug seizures by The Strike Force in a Ware House in Lagos..
Nigerians have every reason to worry. This is because there had been cases of such investigations in the past that had to do with arms and tramadol importation through Apapa and Tin Can Island ports but Nigerians are still kept in the dark over the outcome of the report.
Maritime watchers believe that Heads would roll in Customs if the Customs Comptroller, could implement the report that may be submitted to him by the Committee looking into the drug saga. President Muhammadu Buhari, according to insider sources, was said to have Congratulated and his officers for a job well done and urged them to continue in that spirit of working to rid the society of illicit drugs.
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