Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court Abuja has remanded four staff of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) in prison custody after they pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, aiding and abetting the unlawful exportation of 144kgs of ephedrine to Mozambique.
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) filed the charges against the officials after the failed attempt to export 144kgs of ephedrine to Maputo, Mozambique at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) Abuja.
The Chief Security Supervisor of NAHCO, Mr. Audu Garba, two security assistants, Nasiru Ibrahim and Haruna Abdullahi, and a load controller, Victor Ahenje who is at large were arraigned before Justice Abang but they all pleaded not guilty. The case was however adjourned to January 9, 2017 for hearing while the accused will remain in custody.
According to the charge, the said NAHCO staff who are in charge of cargo safety and security conspired with suspected drug trafficking syndicate in swapping already screened consignments by security agencies at the airport with similar packages that contained narcotics. The Agency stated that the illicit activities of the group was uncovered following an intelligence report received by the anti-narcotic agency. In the course of investigation, the Agency extended her search by inviting a number of airport officials suspected to be involved in the incident for interrogation.
While others were cleared, five staff of NAHCO including a load controller who is at large were found to be seriously indicted. These staff were deliberately working to undermine security measures at the airport by swapping already screened cargoes with similar consignment that had been stuffed with narcotics. The Chief Security Supervisor, Mr. Audu Garba was also identified as the suspected master mind of this high level conspiracy. Others are two security assistants, Nasiru Ibrahim and Haruna Abdullahi, a driver, Adamu Dasura as well as a load controller, Victor Ahenje who is at large.
It was disclosed that the defendants were taking undue advantage of their position and privilege by deploying the official vehicle of NAHCO in the said act of sabotage. Furthermore, the shipment of 144kgs of ephedrine concealed among hair relaxers and cereals was swapped with a similar package that was screened by all security operatives. Unfortunately for the suspects, what appeared to be a discreet plot to unlawfully export narcotics to Mozambique through an Ethiopian airline flight was promptly nipped in the bud by the NDLEA.
Abuja airport commander of the NDLEA, Mr. Hamisu Lawan said that the management of NAHCO at the Abuja airport is cooperating with investigation. “This is a case of outright swapping of already screened cargoes with similar bags. Our team of investigators have made significant progress in the case and so far the management of NAHCO is cooperating with the Agency. Those being interrogated include the Chief Security Supervisor, Mr. Audu Garba and 3 others in the security department,” Hamisu stated.
The Chairman/Chief Executive of the NDLEA, Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (retd.)expressed confidence in the judiciary and promised to provide necessary evidence for a successful prosecution.
The NDLEA boss called for synergy among security agencies stressing that the common goal is the security of our country. “We must work together in promoting peace and national security. No Agency can succeed in isolation. This seizure has provided a platform for us to reappraise our strategies with a view to fine-tuning existing modes of operation” Abdallah stated.