SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Despite Heavy Presence Of Security Operatives, Drug Supply, Consumption Cartels Thrive At Lagos Ports

Investigations by Shipping Position Daily have uncovered a strong chain of suppliers and users of hard drugs in Lagos ports, involving port workers, dock workers, Customs officers and others.

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In the course of our investigation, it was confirmed that illicit drugs are still widely sold and consumed by a large number of youths, drivers, artisans and others who either live or work within the Lagos port environment.

In the findings that lasted a whole week, it was discovered that the drugs are consumed by majority of young truck drivers and motorcycle (okada) riders, even as it was confirmed to our correspondent that some young freight forwarders also consume some of these drugs. It was also uncovered that those who partonise the peddlers include customs officers and security agents.

Our correspondents also gathered that the syndicate of suppliers include: port workers, container thieves, and some bad eggs among the Customs officers. Our sources confirmed that these are the links through which the drugs cartels get their supply, despite heavy presence of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)at the ports.

Through these links. Drugs are taken from ships, handed to a line of peddlers, who in-turn ensure that users in and around the port environment get their supplies.

The discovery also coincided with a declaration by the NDLEA that Nigerian ports are destination for illegal cargoes.

According to Assistant Area Commander, NDLEA, Mercy Thompson, some ships and their crew bring in illegal consignments from the ports of origin into the country.

The NDLEA officer, who spoke in Lagos at the Joint Vessel Boarding Meeting, also added that such illicit shipments are perfected at the Nigerian end of the transaction by collaborators on arrival at the nation’s ports.

According to her, the recent drug seizure that was made at Tin Can Island Port by the agency was also brought in the same way.

She also affirmed that hard drugs are responsible for the increasing crime rate in the country, as most persons involved in crime usually spike their system with hard drugs.

Our correspondent who visited several kiosks at both the Tin Can Island and Apapa port areas confirmed that almost all the shanties and kiosks display drugs such as Panadol, Malaria but also sell these illicit drugs which include Tramadol, Rohypnol and sexual enhancement drugs among others.

At one of the popularly spots referred to as ‘Aboki shop’ around the Tin Can Island Port axis, a drug seller who sold Tramadol to our correspondent who disguised as a user, asked our correspondent specific questions about the type he wanted, an indication that there are various types of the illicit drugs in the market.

Our correspondent gathered that the least price for a tablet of tramadol is N100, while there are others that are being sold for N250, N300 and above depending on the milligramme.

Getting to the Lagos Port, our correspondent observed that illicit drugs were openly displayed by the hawkers, while others hide the drugs underneath other drugs for cover up.

At one of the kiosks opposite ‘Atlantic Building’, which is about three buildings away from the Apapa Customs command and NDLEA office, at the Lagos port, one of those selling the drugs sold a tablet of Tramadol to our correspondent at the rate of N300, even when our correspondent pleaded that he had only N200, he told our correspondent that, that of N200 would not really work for him, unlike the one for N300.

He even told our correspondent to put the tablet into a bottle of a carbonated soft drink for greater efficacy. He equally asked our correspondent if he needed “542”; a name for another illicit drug being sold around the port premises.

When our correspondent demanded that he should bring it, it was gathered that the drug was Rohypnol; a drug used for short term treatment of insomnia and as a premedication for surgery.

Further findings by our correspondent revealed that the Rohypnol is also known as the ‘date rape’ drug mostly used by youths to drug unsuspicious female friends.

Checks by Shipping Position Daily revealed that chronic use of Rohypnol can result in physical dependence and the appearance of a withdrawal syndrome when the drug is discontinued.

Rohypnol impairs cognitive and psychomotor functions affecting reaction time and driving skill. The use of this drug in combination with alcohol is a particular concern as both are central nervous system depressants and will increase each other’s toxicity.

When contacted as regards the drug sales cartels around the Tin Can Port, the Public Relation Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) of the command, Mr. Uche Ejieseme said the command was doing its best to free the port from such issues.

“On the issue of drugs control, in Tin Can here we developed what we called standard operating procedure for every pharmaceutical. In fact, it may interest you to know that because of this we had directed even before now that all containers of pharmaceutical and also in line with headquarters directive should not be allowed to go to the bonded terminal, every pharmaceutical must be treated at the mother port, for us to have the opportunity to do thorough examination.

“For us in Tin Can island port, this place has almost become a no-go area because they know we don’t take issue like that very lightly”.

On the prevalence of drug sales at the port area, he said, “if you may still observe that there are still maybe places where these pocket of things are coming from, but certainly they might not be coming through the port any longer”.

“I am not insinuating that they are coming from other places, but if you look at the propensity of how common it used to be in the past and now, you will see that Customs has been able to narrow the gaps, amidst what has happened in the past and now, especially when we began to receive directives from the headquarters and we are aggressive in our enforcement about it, we realize that the gap has been narrowed”.

“Someone informed me that, he went round and could not get it, even when he saw it, could not see and that even when he saw the price was very exorbitant for him to buy, meaning that the source of supply has been narrowed for it to have gone astronomically in terms of cost, it means that it has been narrowed” he said.

However, the National Public Relations officer of NDLEA was evasive when he was confronted with the issue of drug sale and usage in the port environment.

He referred our correspondent to one Mr. Joseph, who refused to pick calls or respond to text messages sent to him as at the time of filing this report.

Shipping Position Daily recalls that the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Buba Marwa, had recently said that there are about 4.5 million people in Lagos state that are into consumption of illicit drugs.

Marwa had said this during a visit to the Lagos NDLEA command last week while ordering operatives of the agency to wipe out drug cartels in the state.

“In the country, an estimate of 15 million people belongs to one or more aspects of illicit drug dealing. This means about 4.5 million people in Lagos state are into illicit drugs” he said.