• Thursday, April 25, 2024
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Why Ethiopia, Brazil are the gateway for Nigerian drug traffickers

Why Ethiopia, Brazil are the gateway for Nigerian drug trafficking

Ethiopia and Brazil have become the easiest routes for drug trafficking into Nigeria because Nigeria is not just an easy transit route for these drugs but also a consuming country, BusinessDay’s checks revealed.

Further investigations also showed that in the last few years, most drug seizures and arrests of drug traffickers in Nigeria have been traced to Ethiopia and Brazil.

On Monday, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA) declared the suspended commander of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) at the Force Intelligence Bureau of the Nigeria Police Force, DCP Abba Kyari wanted over his involvement in a 25 kilograms cocaine deal.

With the intelligence at the agency’s disposal, the agency believes that Kyari is a member of a drug cartel that operates the Brazil-Ethiopia-Nigeria illicit drug pipeline.

The Abba Kyari’s Brazil-Ethiopia-Nigeria drug route is not an isolated case. In October 2021, the Nigerian Navy arrested 22 Thai nationals for allegedly trafficking 32.9kg of cocaine from Brazil to the shores of Nigeria. The cargo ship is said to have left Brazil in September 2021.

In a recent chat provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on cocaine trafficking routes, hard drugs are mostly trafficked through Brazil to Lome, Togo and then to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In May 2021, the NDLEA arrested a Brazil-based Nigerian drug kingpin, Ejiofor Felix Enwereaku, for importing 36 blocks of cocaine, weighing 27.95 kilogrammes valued at over N8 billion into the country.

In January 2021, Barely one week after Mohammed Buba Marwa, the new chairman/chief executive of the NDLEA, vowed to dismantle drug trafficking cartels across Nigeria, the agency has made huge seizures of cocaine and heroin, with street values worth over N30 billion at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.

One of the seizures, 26.840kg of cocaine, is the biggest single seizure from an individual in the past 15 years.

“On January 27, 2021, at about 1320hours, during the inward clearance of Ethiopian Airline passengers at the E-arrival hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, a 33-year female passenger, Onyejegbu Ifesinachi Jennifer, who arrived Nigeria from Sao Paulo, Brazil via Addis Ababa, was intercepted by NDLEA operatives,” a top official in the agency said.

Travel experts say the sub-region of East Africa continues to be used as a transit area for cocaine consignments destined for illicit markets in Europe. Heroin continues to enter Africa mainly through the countries in East Africa.

Countries in that sub-region have been identified as both countries of destination of heroin consignments and transit countries; moreover, trafficking in and abuse of drugs have recently increased.

Read also:Marwa seeks drug test in universities, NDLEA outposts

According to UNODC, most of the hard drugs seized had been transported by passengers on commercial flights arriving at or departing from the international airports of Addis Ababa and Nairobi; as both airports provide flight connections between West Africa and heroin-manufacturing countries in South-West and South-East Asia.

Seyi Adewale, chief executive officer – Mainstream Cargo Limited explains that when shipments are brought in from Brazil, they are required to pre-inform NDLEA before the shipments are brought in and shipments cannot be cleared from the warehouse unless the NDLEA has specifically inspected it because Brazil-Nigeria is a transit route for illicit drugs.

“In Nigeria, we are beginning to see more usage as against being just a transit country. There was a time we were just a transit country but now, we have graduated to becoming a user country. We are now a consuming country for hard drugs.

“Most of those drugs are not produced in Brazil. They are masked in Brazil but are produced in Columbia, Mexico, and other neighbouring countries because there are red flags on these countries,” Adewale explained.

He said Ethiopian Airlines is very aggressive in cargo shipment as they bring in volumes of cargo at very affordable prices, so it is easy for Ethiopian Airlines to be tracked unlike other airlines that are not transit routes and do not have the volumes as Ethiopian Airlines.

John Ojikutu, aviation security consultant and secretary-general of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), also observed that most hard drugs are transported by air through Ethiopia.

“Drug traffickers come in from different places and enter from Ethiopia. While I was the commandant at MMIA, there was a time, 13 drug traffickers were picked from an aircraft coming from Addis Ababa,” Ojikutu said.