He also said that the special operation came on the heels of a warning by the NDLEA Chairman, retired, Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa, that drug barons and cartels would have it rough in 2023 if they failed to back out of the criminal business.
According to him, leaders of the cartel are spread across Dubai, UAE; Cotonou, Benin Republic; Togo; Oman, Thailand and Europe as well as Lagos, Imo and Onitsha in Nigeria.
“They have been on Christmas and New Year holidays in their villages and were still coordinating efforts to send their illicit consignments to Dubai and other parts of the world.
“Their lid was blown open on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, when their freight agent, Collins Onyeisue, was arrested by NDLEA officers.
“Onyeisue was arrested at the Skyway Aviation Handling Company Plc (SAHCO) export shed of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos.
“The arrest of the suspect was for attempting to export three big automobile air compressors to Dubai.
“A quick follow up operation led to the recovery of additional five compressors at his home at 24 Legacy road, Ayobo area of Lagos,” he said.
Babafemi said that a total of 27.50kgs of skunk were taken out of the air compressors after welding equipment were used to cut them open.
He added that further investigations revealed that the freight agent was working for a bigger organised criminal group.
According to him, as a result, extensive operational tools were deployed to track the first kingpin, Peter Obioma, who lives in Benin Republic and Togo but comes occasionally to do business in Lagos.
“The efforts paid off on Saturday, Jan. 7, when Obioma walked into the waiting arms of NDLEA operatives with a bag containing additional air compressors.
“This was used to conceal 15.7kgs skunk and a crystalline substance that later tested positive to methamphetamine after the agency’s sniffer dogs identified compressors with drug concealment.
“Obioma’s statement led to the unraveling of two other leaders of the cartel: Dubai-based Ugo Kelechi Alex (aka KC) and Iwueke Ugochukwu (aka Odugwu), an Onitsha-based businessman.
“They were at that point still enjoying their Christmas and New Year holidays in their village in Imo state,” he said.
Babafemi said that a well-coordinated operation was thereafter carried out on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at their ancestral homes in Umuobi village, Igbejere community, Ihitte-Uboma LGA, Imo State.
He said that the arrow head of the cartel identified as Obinna Ezenwekwe, an automobile parts dealer at Alaba International market, Lagos, was put under surveillance.
“A Lexus SUV and a Toyota jeep were immediately recovered from Kelechi and Iwueke.
“After so many dramatic bids to evade arrest, NDLEA operatives eventually pinned Obinna down at a bar in Mazamaza, Mile 2 area of Lagos on Saturday, 14th January.
“A search of his home led to the recovery of 607 grams of ephedrine, a handful of Cannabis weighing 20 grams as well as other paraphernalia.
“This also includes 271 grams of dimethyl sulfone used as a cutting agent for ephedrine, a chemical precursor and an active ingredient for the production of methamphetamine.
“A weighing scale and an International passport were equally recovered from his house,” he said.