Royal Dutch Airline KLM and Alitalia Airlines have been identified as the most preferred airlines by illicit drug traffickers in the country in Nigeria.
The Chairman/Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Ahmadu Giade made the disclosure while presenting the Agency’s performance scorecard in 2008.
According to the NDLEA’s spokesman, Ofoyeju Mitchell, the report revealed that the country is making tremendous progress in drug control efforts. Giade warned airline and other transport operators to take reasonable precaution to prevent their aircraft, vessels and vehicles from being used in illicit drug trafficking or face severe sanctions.
The NDLEA boss assured that existing control measures have made the country a dreaded place for drug barons.
"Nigeria cannot be used as a dumping ground for illicit drugs for very obvious reasons. We have the political will and our drug control capacity is equally very high. Besides the numerous arrests and seizures, the case of Virgin Atlantic airline where a senior crew member was caught with drugs clearly demonstrates our position to resist the obnoxious trade at all levels. Any airline, shipping and transport company found to be involved in illicit drug trafficking will be grounded," Giade warned.
The NDLEA, according to Giade, arrested 92 suspected drug traffickers at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) Abuja with 106.165 kilogrammes of narcotics in 2008.
He said apart from one Lufthansa passenger that was nabbed over drug trafficking, the remaining 91 suspects were passengers of KLM.
"At the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos where 181 suspected drug traffickers were nabbed in 2008 with 113. 220 kilogrammes of narcotic drugs, 62 of the suspects were passengers of KLM while 29 were passengers of Alitalia," he said.
The record further showed that Virgin Nigeria had
nine, Ethiopian, Emirates and Belview had seven each. Turkish airline, British Airways, Air France and Iberia had six each while Virgin Atlantic had five in 2008.
China Southern airline recorded three of its passengers getting involved in drug trafficking, Qatar and Medview airlines had two each while Kenyan airline, Lufthansa, South Africa and Arik airlines had one each.
Giade also disclosed that a total of 1,178 Nigerians were deported from 16 countries over drug related offences in 2008.
He noted that "it is sad that despite ample opportunities for self actualisation, some few individuals still leave our shores to perpetrate drug crimes."
He therefore urged Nigerians to be good ambassadors of the country and endeavour to promote the image of the country at all times.
In his words "The battle line is drawn. We will not fold our arms and watch the image of our beloved country being dragged in the mud by the activities of drug barons. Our growing economy will not be compromised on the altar of illicit drug trafficking. The war has just begun. Drug barons and their cohorts will be smoked out from their hide-outs. There will be no hiding place for them. Our target is to achieve a drug free country through aggressive and absolute dedication to drug control programmes."
He promised that the Agency will fight relentlessly in dislodging illicit drug syndicates and called on the general public to give useful information to the Agency.
"On our part we shall remain committed to the drug control mandate and we urge the general public to be alive to their civic responsibilities. They should report suspected cases of illicit drug transaction to the nearest NDLEA office. NDLEA is ready to offer reward for any useful and fruitful information leading to the arrest and or dismantling of drug syndicate anywhere in the country," Giade stressed.
He regretted that Africa, particularly the West African sub-region has become the hub of Latin American drug syndicates for smuggling cocaine into Europe and America.
Cannabis production, trafficking and abuse he observed remain a major drug challenge in Africa. Recent estimate shows that about 42 million people abuse cannabis in the continent.
"Africa also accounts for 26 percent of global cannabis production. The situation therefore calls for urgent attention from all stakeholders. The NDLEA boss stated that "the degree of our determination today will determine how safe the continent will be tomorrow with regards to curbing the growing illicit drug trend and threat," he said.