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NDLEA Freezes 600 Accounts, Confiscates 249 Luxury Vehicles
NDLEA spokesman, Femi Babafemi, who released this in a document made available to one of our correspondents on Tuesday, said the assets consisted of 249 exotic cars and 37 mansions.
The agency’s seizures came against the backdrop of the categorisation of Nigeria by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as the transit point for “heroin and cocaine intended for European, East Asian, and North American markets.”
According to the UN agency, since 2004 “drug traffickers have been increasingly using West African countries, including Nigeria for smuggling large amounts of cocaine from South America into Europe and North America. The country has a relatively high rate of drug abuse due to the continued availability of illicitly manufactured and diverted pharmaceutical products containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.”
The NDLEA, in the document made to The PUNCH, said it was faced with the “overwhelming task of drug control in a country with an exceptionally high prevalence of drug use of 14.4 per cent.”
In describing the 20-month period’s seizures, Babafemi stated that 286 assets were seized and 600 bank accounts were suspended. He said that “249 exotic automobiles confiscated and 37 properties forfeited, all distributed across the country” made up the riches of drug lords. The NDLEA also reported that between January 2021 and August 2022, it seized illegal drug cash totaling N871.53 million. It stated that N252.41 million was recorded as interim forfeiture and N619.12 million as total illicit drug funds forfeiture. The government included this in its endeavor to reduce the drug supply and disclosed that from January 2021 to July 2022, it had detained 18,940 suspected drug traffickers.
Under its drug supply reduction efforts, it stated, “Assets and financial investigation: Illicit drug funds that were investigated and seized include Final Forfeiture―(i.) One million, three hundred and nineteen thousand, four hundred dollars ($1,319,400) (ii.) One hundred and two thousand pounds (£102,000) (iii.) Fourteen million CFA Francs (CFA 14, 000, 000) ― and Interim forfeiture―Two hundred and fifty-two million, forty hundred and seven thousand, seven hundred and twenty-six-naira, twenty Kobo, (N252,407,726.20).”
The currencies were converted at the Central Bank of Nigeria’s official rate of September 2, 2022. At the time, one dollar was N424.55; one pound was N490.78, and one CFA was N0.64.
The NDLEA explained, “The Agency’s drug supply reduction efforts recorded the following: the arrest of 18,940 suspected drug traffickers (comprising 17,444 males and 1,496 females and including 12 barons) from January 2021 to July 2022; conviction of 2,904 offenders to various jail terms in court; seizure of 3. 6 million kilograms of narcotic and psychotropic substances; cannabis farm destruction: 691 hectares of cannabis farms were detected and destroyed across six states.”
It revealed that it dismantled clandestine meth laboratories following the outbreak of abuse of crystal methamphetamine, popularly called meth in 2021.
It explained that its operational assets were able to locate and dismantle illicit meth laboratories across the country with recent discoveries in Victoria Garden City, Ajah, Lagos and Nise Community, Anambra State.
20 months ago, the FDA reported that 14.4% of the country used drugs. It said that 12,326 drug-dependent individuals have received counseling, treatment, and rehabilitation at its institutions since that time. The NDLEA disclosed that it hired a Drug Abuse Call Center in July 2021 to make it easier for those who rely on drugs, as well as their families and employers, to get treatment. In the meantime, the agency has obtained a temporary seizure order against 25 properties owned by millionaire businessman Mallinson Ukatu, who is accused of bringing N3 billion worth of tramadol into the nation. On the orders of Justice Peter Lifu of the Federal High Court, Lagos, Ukatu and his accomplice Sunday Ibekwute were detained to the Ikoyi correctional center in July.
The judge remanded the two defendants, following their plea of not guilty to the charges of conspiracy, trafficking in 322 kilograms of tramadol, unlawful dealing, and possession of the said banned drug made against them by the NDLEA.
Ukatu, who is Chairman of Mallinson group of companies, came under watch last year after five cartons of tramadol 225mg were seized from his staff on May 4, 2021, when he sold them to undercover police officers allegedly led by a former Commander, Intelligence Response Unit, Abba Kyari, a Deputy Commissioner of Police.
Kyari and his deputy, Sunday Ubua, who were subsequently arrested for drug dealing are currently being held in Kuje Custodial Centre, Abuja.
Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in an order dated August 29, 2022, restrained Ukatu or any other person from dealing with the properties listed as exhibit NDLEA III.
A certified true copy of the order in charge number, FHC/ABJ/CS/320/2022, between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Ukatu, obtained by The PUNCH on Tuesday read, ‘’Upon the motion ex-parte dated the 19th day of August, 2022, but filed on 23rd day of August, 2022, coming up today, the 29th day of August, 2022, before this honourable court praying for the following orders:
“An order of this honourable court preserving and restraining the respondent or any person or persons from dealing in any manner whatsoever with the properties listed as exhibit NDLEA III belonging to Ukatu Mallinson reasonably believed to have been derived from unlawful activities pending the conclusion of the investigation and trial of the respondent.
“That an order is hereby made preserving and restraining the respondent or any person or persons from dealing in any manner whatsoever with the properties listed as exhibit NDLEA III below belonging to Ukatu Mallinson reasonably believed to have been derived from unlawful activities pending the conclusion of the investigation and trial of the respondent.
“That an order is hereby made preserving and restraining the applicant or privies, agents and servants from dissipating, interfering or tampering with the properties listed as NDLEA III below belonging to Ukatu Mallinson reasonably believed to have been derived from unlawful activities pending the conclusion of the investigation and trial of the respondent.’’
A pharmaceutical facility inside the Nigeria Air Force station in Ikeja, a building market in Dopemu, the Nelo’s Place Event Center in Ikeja, a private residence in Ikeja, and a warehouse in Okota, Amuwo, Lagos are among the properties that the court temporarily seized.
Two large warehouses, an office building, a Toyota car, a Volvo SUV, a Range Rover SUV, a Bulk Enclave SUV, a NISPO factory, a proposed warehouse, a proposed office complex, warehouses in Igboko village, Ado-Ado Ota, Ogun State, the Central Business District of Abuja, as well as a plot of land in Maryland, Ikeja, Oshodi, Festac Town, Oregun, I
Others are a manufacturing plant in Igbesa, Agbara, Ogun State; a property at Yomi Oshikoya Drive, Ikeja and another property in Asaba, Delta State.
Commenting on the feat recorded by the NDLEA, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, charged the Federal Government to adopt a holistic approach in seizing properties linked to drug barons, stating that it should be extended to corrupt civil servants and politicians.
He said, “The aggregate of all the accounts frozen and all luxury cars and items taken cannot compare with what politicians pocket or what civil servants embezzle in the example of the accountant-general of the federation.
“So, if there is a war against corruption either by way of drugs, embezzlement and misappropriation of funds, the government should be holistic in that regard.”
He also posited that seized items should not be allowed to deteriorate but used to impact the economy positively.
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