FG Freezes 600 Bank Accounts, Seizes 249 High Automobiles

FG Freezes 600 Bank Accounts, Seizes 249 High Automobiles

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency seized no fewer than 286 assets and 600 bank accounts of drug barons between January 2021 and August 2022.

Between January 2021 and August 2022, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency impounded 600 bank accounts and no less than 286 assets belonging to drug lords.

According to NDLEA spokesman Femi Babafemi, who revealed this in a document made available to one of our correspondents on Tuesday, he said the assets included 249 exotic automobiles and 37 houses.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime classified Nigeria as a drug transit country at the time of the agency’s seizures, “heroin and cocaine intended for European, East Asian, and North American markets.”

The UN organization claims that, as of 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.”

In a document, the NDLEA claimed that it was confronted with the “overwhelming task of drug control in a country with an exceptionally high prevalence of drug use of 14.4 per cent.”

Describing the 20-month period’s seizures, Babafemi stated that 286 assets were seized and 600 bank accounts were frozen.

According to him, drug barons’ holdings included, “249 exotic vehicles seized and 37 properties forfeited, all scattered across the country.”

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 illegal 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.

In an effort to cut down on the medication supply, it declared, “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 changed at the official exchange rate of the Central Bank of Nigeria as of September 2, 2022. A dollar was worth N424.55, a pound was worth N490.78, and a CFA was for N0.64.

NDLEA’s arrests

The NDLEA said, “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 disclosed that it destroyed clandestine meth laboratories after the outbreak of abuse of crystal methamphetamine, popularly known as Mkpuru Mmiri in 2021.

It explained that with recent discoveries in Victoria Garden City, Ajah, Lagos, and Nise Community, Anambra State, its operational assets were able to find and shut down illegal meth labs across the nation.

20 months ago, the agency reported that 14.4% of the country used drugs. It reported that 12,326 drug-dependent individuals had received counseling, treatment, and rehabilitation at its institutions since that time.

The NDLEA revealed it commissioned a Drug Abuse Call Centre in July of 2021 to enable drug-dependent individuals or families and employers of people suffering from drug use disorder to seek help.

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 remanded to the Ikoyi correctional center in July.

The judge remanded the two defendants, following their plea of not guilty to the allegations of conspiracy, trafficking in 322 kilograms of tramadol, unlawful dealing, and possession of the abovementioned banned medication made against them by the NDLEA.

The five cartons of tramadol 225mg that were seized from Ukatu’s staff on May 4, 2021, when he allegedly sold them to undercover police officers allegedly led by a former Commander of the Intelligence Response Unit, Abba Kyari, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, put Ukatu, the Chairman of the Mallinson Group of Companies, under surveillance last year.

Kyari and Sunday Ubua, who were later detained for drug trafficking, are being imprisoned at the Kuje Custodial Center in 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.

The Federal Republic of Nigeria and Ukatu signed an order in charge with the following number: FHC/ABJ/CS/320/2022, ‘’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.

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“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.

Lagos properties

The properties temporary seized by the court include an office building at Ilupeju; building mart at Dopemu; a pharmaceutical factory inside Nigeria Air Force base, Ikeja; Nelo’s Place Event Centre, Ikeja; a personal house at Ikeja and a warehouse at Okota, Amuwo, Lagos.

Others seized were two big warehouses; an office shop; a Toyota car; Volvo SUV; a Range Rover SUV; Bulk Enclave SUV; NISPO factory; a proposed warehouse; a proposed office complex and warehouses in Igboko village, Ado-Ado Ota, Ogun State, Central Business District, Abuja; including a parcel of land at Maryland, Ikeja, Oshodi, Festac Town, Oregun, Ikeja and Nike in Enugu.

Others include a manufacturing plant in Igbesa, Agbara, Ogun State; a property at Yomi Oshikoya Drive, Ikeja and another property in Asaba, Delta State.

Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, praised the level of terror reported by the NDLEA and urged the Federal Government to take a comprehensive strategy in confiscating properties associated to drug lords, adding that same approach should also apply to corrupt politicians and civil workers.

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.”

Also he said that seized items should not be allowed to reduce but used to impact the economy positively.

“When you seize an item, you don’t allow it to disintegrate. So many houses and cars seized are no longer usable. The government should be proactive by seeking productive use of the seized items and not grind the economy further. We should be able to get positive effects from the seizures.”

Speaking on the effect of the seizures, a legal practitioner, Abdullahi Gayam stated that drug barons may end up looking for another means to continue their crime.

“Nobody wants his or her properties to be seized. Naturally, these seizures by the FG will make drug barons rethink or adopt an entirely different way to acquire more properties,’’ he stated.

The Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan said it as a welcome development, adding that there had never been a concerted effort in the fight against drugs, in the last decade, like there was now.

Although she told the NDLEA to ensure effective management of the seized assets, saying that it would help to cover for past shortfalls of the agency.

NDLEA commended

Ariyo-Dare Atoye, convener of the Coalition in Defense of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, praised the NDLEA for its fight against drugs, calling it the only government agency operating under Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s (retd.) administration to have genuinely and sincerely won Nigerians’ praise.

He stated that the seizure by the agency implied that traffickers had identified Nigeria as a profitable destination if it were not for the agency’s intervention.

The Coordinator, Advocate for Peoples Rights and Justice, Victor Giwa said the best way to fight against drug trafficking was to fully equip the NDLEA and strengthen its operations against traffickers.

He argued that other nations have discovered that the more they campaign against it, the higher the consumption rate, and he called for the legalization of Indian hemp.

Also, the agency warned politicians and their partners against the usage of drugs in the campaigns for the general 2023 elections, which would begin on September 28.

Babafemi said that the NDLEA will work with the Independent National Electoral Commission and other stakeholders to prevent the use of drugs at campaign rallies.

He said, “More officers and assets have been deployed on the roads and other strategic locations to make the movement of these illicit drugs difficult and our recent arrests and seizures attest to this.

“Anyone found in possession of illicit drugs violates the law and definitely risks arrest for investigation and possible prosecution.”

Advising candidates against buying drugs for youths, he said, “They need to have a rethink because such has adverse effects not only for the thugs and the youths but their families, communities, the process and the country. The politicians doing this may end up being victims themselves

“The agency works with an enabling Act and the provisions are clear on possession, production, distribution and peddling of illicit substances.”

 

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