NDLEA to Sanction 14 Airlines Over Drug Trafficking
By Wisdom Patrick, Lagos
The sledge hammer of Nigeria’s anti-hard drug agency, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) would fall on 14 foreign airlines over their incessant patronage by drug traffickers, despite repeated warnings.
Chairman of NDLEA, Ahmadu Giade in a telephone chat on Tuesday with Political Economist stated that 14 foreign airlines said to be favourites of drug traffickers through the country’s main gateway Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, between October last year and January 2014, would be visited with appropriate sanctions.
Checks revealed that such sanctions range from fines of not less than $10,000.00 (Ten Thousand Dollars), 100 percent frisking of both passengers and crew members of the affected airlines, to outright suspension from flight to Nigeria over a period of time, that may or may not exceed six months.
A secret letter to the Attorney General and Justice Ministry of Nigeria made available to Political Economist listed the affected airlines to includes; Qatar, Emirates and South African Airways, said to be on top of the list.
Others are Etihad, British Airways, Arik, Asky, Turkish, Kenyan, KLM, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, Ethiopian and Alitalia airlines.
The NDLEA Chairman Ahmadu Giade said, “Any airline found to be involved in drug trafficking will be sanctioned.”
According to the NDLEA, the last quarter of 2013 report of the agency showed that a total of 43 cases of drug seizures were made at the Lagos airport on the 14 airlines.
“Qatar Airways had nine cases; Emirates (eight); South African (six); and Etihad (three), while seven others, British Airways, Arik, Asky, Turkish, Kenyan, KLM and Air France, had two cases each. Virgin Atlantic, Ethiopian and Alitalia airlines recorded one case each,” the statement said.
The agency also identified South Africa, China, Malaysia and the United Kingdom as the top destinations of drug traffickers within the period, while incoming drug seizures came from Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Panama and Bolivia.
Meanwhile, official agency figures indicated that the organisation’s annual budget has been in steady decline in recent years.
In 2011, when it had 3,200 employees, the budget was N633 million ($3.9m) but in 2014, it declined to N441 million, despite staffing going up by 2 000.
In its 2013 World Drug Report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes, said Africa was becoming increasingly important in the global drugs trade.
Cannabis use in Nigeria was above the average for West and Central Africa of 12.4%, while the country had the highest number of seizures of the drug in the region.
Growing cannabis has expanded from Nigeria’s Southwest to the southern oil states of Edo and Delta, central states of Kwara, Kogi and Benue, and Kebbi in the northwest.Cultivation of the drug is seen as increasingly attractive, leading to a decline in the cultivation of local cash crops such as cocoa, rubber, kola nuts, cassava, cowpea and yams, said Mr. Femi Ajayi, the Director General of the agency.
The NDLEA said it destroyed 2,322 hectares of cannabis plantations between 2011 and 2012 and seized drugs worth more than N33 billion in 2012 alone.