As the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency tries to improve ways of curbing drug trafficking and prosecute its unending war against illicit drugs, those who trade in narcotics too have continually devised new methods of beating security agents.
The conventional system of ingesting drugs is fast becoming obsolete; thanks to the good use to which body scanners at the airports are being put. In the course of the year, different shipments of drugs disguised as merchandise have been intercepted at the various ports of entry into the country. That has however not stopped drug traffickers from inventing newer methods. They try all they can to outwit security agents.
Till date, drugs are still concealed in underwear, though the methods have been modified. For instance, the NDLEA Commander at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Hamza Umar, made it known after the arrest of a woman who had cocaine stuffed in her bra. He said when the woman was searched, “what we had assumed to be breasts were just the brassieres with about 300 grammes of cocaine concealed in each cup.”
NDLEA operatives have also disclosed that the days of looking out for drugs solely in powdered form have long gone. This is as a result of the changing trends of the drug trade and ingenuity of drug smugglers. Cocaine is now trafficked in liquid form. A package of red wine from Brazil was intercepted by the NDLEA in the first quarter of the year. Each carton of red wine contained nine bottles. Incidentally, three out of every nine bottles contained pure cocaine in liquid form. That was found out after careful observation. A trafficker was also caught with several packs of liquid cocaine which he ingested. The liquefied cocaine was packed inside condoms to facilitate easy ingestion. He was however given away by the scanner.
Drug traffickers have also devised ways of blending their illicit commodities with other products without spoiling them or altering their value. Cartons of tomato paste which the owner claimed had been requested for by Nigerian and African restaurants abroad was found to contain cocaine made into paste and carefully blended into the tomato paste such that it formed a different layer. The cocaine was in the middle encompassed by tomato paste. Incidentally, such goods are normally factory sealed and the appearance did not betray any evidence of being tampered with. The first seizure of its kind in Nigeria weighed about 6 kg and officers became suspicious because the tomato paste was unusually heavy.
Drugs are also smuggled into Nigeria in vehicle spare parts. NDLEA officials disclosed to Street Journal that sometimes, drug importers try to beat the vigilance of the agency by using the cargo section of the airport. One of their methods is to conceal drugs inside vehicle spare parts, especially shock absorbers. Some essential parts are carefully removed, replaced with drugs and resealed with factory precision.
Cocaine has also been discovered in the handles of the suitcases of some smugglers. They remove the long handles used to drag suitcases, wrap drugs into them and fix them back. The ideology of the average drug smuggler is that officers of the law would only check contents of the suitcase.
Perhaps the strangest discovery made so far this year by the NDLEA is the 2.472 kg of cocaine hidden inside jewellery, seized in October. NDLEA sources revealed that it took hours before the drugs could be extracted. They were industrially packed into earrings, buttons, necklaces, women’s belts and bangles. They all had to be forcibly opened before the drugs could be extracted. The smuggler was a 33-year-old man who flew in from Brazil.
A female youth corper too was arrested at the point of collecting a parcel purportedly sent by a friend she met on Facebook, a social network in March. The package which contained a wall clock eventually yielded three packs of cocaine, neatly packed inside the clock. The youth corper hinted that the friend had sent parcels to her a number of times before but she never knew if any of them contained drugs.
Another strange method of concealment of cocaine discovered by the NDLEA was the 2.65kg hidden inside roasted chicken. The owner of the “cocaine chicken” was arrested in Lagos during the clearance of passengers on a Turkish Airline flight that arrived from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The value was put at about N 24 million. The suspect confessed that it took him three days to pack the “stuff” inside the chicken.
Cocaine has also been found in creamy form by the NDLEA. 9.K kg of creamy cocaine was found concealed in 4 giant sized water coolers. When the coolers were cut open, each revealed 4 well packed parcels of drugs industrially strapped around the body of the coolers. The owner, Martin Ikechukwu was on his way from Sao Paulo when he was arrested.
The drug law enforcement officers hinted that as the traffickers devise new methods, the agency too has proactive officers who are up to the task. Umar also hinted that trafficking has dropped considerably at least in the Lagos Airport.