National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has revealed how staffers of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) allegedly conspired with suspected drug traffickers in a botched attempt to export 144kgs of ephedrine to Maputo, Mozambique.
Narcotics are illegal or banned addictive drugs that affect mood or behaviour.
NDLEA, in its preliminary investigation, alleged that the NAHCO officials, in charge of cargo safety and security at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) Abuja, swapped already screened consignments with similar packages that contained narcotics.
At least four of the staffers have been arrested and charged to court for prosecution.
Meanwhile, NAHCO has said it would fully cooperate with officials of NDLEA as part of measures to rid the airports and the nation of illicit drug trafficking.
NDLEA revealed that the illicit activities of the group were uncovered following an intelligence report by the anti-narcotic agency.
In the course of investigation, the agency extended her search by inviting a number of airport officials suspected to be involved in the incident for interrogation.
While others were cleared, five staff of NAHCO including a load controller who is at large was indicted.
“These staff were deliberately working to undermine security measures at the airport by swapping already screened cargoes with similar consignment that had been stuffed with narcotics,” NDLEA said in a report.
The Chief Security Supervisor, Audu Garba, was also identified as the suspected mastermind of this high-level conspiracy.
Others are two security assistants, Nasiru Ibrahim and Haruna Abdullahi, a driver, Adamu Dasura as well as a load controller, Victor Ahenje, who is at large.
It was disclosed that the defendants took undue advantage of their positions and privilege by deploying the official vehicle of NAHCO in the said act of sabotage.
Furthermore, the shipment of 144kgs of ephedrine, a medication used to prevent low blood pressure during spinal anaesthesia, concealed among hair relaxers and cereals was swapped with a similar package that was screened by all security operatives.
Abuja airport commander of the NDLEA, Hamisu Lawan, said it was a case of outright swap of already screened cargoes with similar bags.
“Our team of investigators have made significant progress in the case and so far the management of NAHCO is cooperating with the agency,” Hamisu said.
Chairman and Chief Executive of the NDLEA, Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (rtd.) said that weak-links current explored by drug traffickers must be identified and strengthened.
Mustapha said: “This is unacceptable and unethical. It is time to identify and beef-up areas of weaknesses. The action of the defendants is calculated to undermine the collective efforts of the entire airport security community.
“This deliberate act to damage the reputation of the country in the interest of some drug trafficking syndicates must be condemned and resisted by all. The charges have been filed in and they will appear in court soon,” he said.
Managing Director of NAHCO, Norbert Bielderman, told reporters in Lagos that the company was cooperating with the NDLEA to fish out all the culprits.
According to Bielderman, “The Company has zero tolerances for all vices and would not spare anyone found wanting in this regard. In this wise, our recruitment process and background checks on new employees are constantly being reviewed.”