The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency says it has uncovered a cartel that aids convicted drug traffickers to escape jail terms.
Ahmadu Giade, NDLEA Chairman, said the agency uncovered the plot when a drug convict who ought to be in prison was re-arrested while attempting to smuggle drugs at the Kano airport.
“That was how a cartel that aided 197 convicted drug traffickers to evade serving their sentences was detected by the NDLEA,” Mr. Giade said during the public destruction of about 18,791kilogrammes of illicit drugs at Bereko, Badagry, Lagos.
“The police investigated the case and confirmed my findings that 197 drug convicts were left off the hook with the connivance of some court clerks and prison warders.”
For instance, Ejike Martins, 53, was arrested with 1kg of cocaine in 2005 at the Lagos airport by NDLEA officials on his way to Spain, charged to court, and sentenced to two and half years in prison.
Three months later, Mr. Ejike was arrested at the Kano airport with 4kg of cocaine and given a five year jail term.
On completion of his five years jail term, Mr. Martins was re-arrested by NDLEA officials at the gate of the Kano Prison and taken to Lagos to complete his initial jail term.
According to Mr. Giade, the NDLEA statutorily has no business taking care of an accused once the person had been arraigned and remanded in prison custody.
“The agency discovered that the criminal act took place between the court and the prison after an accused had been sentenced,” he said. “This is a wake-up call for stakeholders to remain sensitive and prevent any act capable of undermining the criminal justice system.”
“We must continue to discharge our responsibilities without compromise from the time a case is reported to when a convict completes serving the prescribed punishment by the court.”
The destroyed drugs were seized by the NDLEA Lagos State Command, Murtala Mohammed International Airport Command, Seme Border Special Area Command, and the National Headquarters.
All cases relating to the destroyed drugs have been heard and disposed by the Federal High Court, according to the agency.
The drugs include about 18,420kg of cannabis, 269kg of cocaine/heroin and 102kg of methamphetamine/ephedrine.
Drug trafficking, according to the NDLEA boss, is a crime that must be fought by all.
“Drug trafficking is a transnational organised crime capable of undermining global security,” Mr. Giade said.
“This has degenerated in some regions of the world into political and social instability with negative impact on the rule of law, human rights and economic development. In some cases, illicit proceeds of opium and cocaine smuggling are used in funding acts of terrorism and insurgency. Drug control must therefore be given priority attention by all countries.”
The NDLEA said it is enforcing strict compliance with the rules of engagement, adding that internal anti-corruption policy had assisted in promoting discipline and good conduct among staff.
“This is a war that must be fought and won both internally and externally,” said Mr. Giade.
“Officers that contravened the regulations had been appropriately sanctioned. There are no exceptions to the rule. In serious cases of compromise, erring staff had been dismissed and in addition made to face court trial.”
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