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NDLEA intercepts over 4 tonnes of tramadol at Lagos airport

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…Health Minister commends agency’s action
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), on Thursday, intercepted over four tones of drugs confirmed to be Tramadol concealed in several cartons from the Skypower Aviation Handling Company (SAHCOL) shed at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, (MMIA) Lagos.

This is coming less than two weeks the Tin Can Island Port command of the Nigeria Customs Service intercepted two container loads of the prohibited Tramadol tablets smuggled into the country from India at the Tin-Can Island port in Lagos.

Before these two latest interceptions, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) had also in February seized two trucks laden with tramadol.

Commander of NDLEA, MMIA Special Area Command, Garba Ahmadu, who disclosed the latest seizure at their Lagos airport office on Thursday, said the cartons which came in from India on 23rd April, 2018 and on 25th April 2018 contain capsules with 225 milligrams and tablets of 120 milligram which is above the approved milligrams by the government.

Ahmadu condemned the activities of drug peddlers, pointing out that the latest seizure goes to show that Tramadol is becoming a serious problem in Nigeria, not only in the northern part but also in the southern part of the country.

The Commander, who told journalists that the Tramadol which they removed from SAHCOL shed on Thursday were coming in via Etihad cargo, added that the total number of drugs came by five waybills, with four of the waybills weighing about 3, 615 kg excluding the last one.

On how they were able to track the drug peddlers, Ahmadu said: “We had an “intell” from our foreign collaborators; and when we got the report, we started working on it. We first wrote the company that brought the cargo on 2nd May.

We got the waybill and we started keeping the cargo on hold for some time while we monitored it from outside to know if somebody will come to claim it or whether an agent will come and clear the cargo”.

While pointing out that the seizure has nothing to do with the Nigeria Customs Services (NCS), the commander stated that “it has nothing to do with Customs; it is just that we are working with intelligence.

Customs does not know anything about this thing. You can clarify independently from SAHCOL when we have been working on this.

“Everything that comes into this country, you have to pay Customs duty on it. So as soon it comes in, somehow, it gets to their system in Abuja.

For the interest of working together with them, we had to notify them that we have this cargo and we need to pay duty because we have to seize it. We have to notify them and that is exactly what we did,” he added.

Recounting the achievements in last year, Ahmadu stated that the agency had arrested 72 male suspects and another 13 female suspects with a total of 85 persons arrested.

He said the annual drug seizures stood at 1, 266.4kg in 2017 while cocaine seized in the same year weighed 51.520kg, heroin 53.930kg, cannabis sativa 96.655kg, methamphetamine 13.205kg, ephedrine 108.250kg, tramadol 938.554kg amongst others.

He also stated that while 25 male suspects were arrested, 4 female suspects were apprehended with total persons arrested hitting 29 just as 24 cases were equally recorded from January to April, 2018.

With a total number of 59 convictions from 2017 to 2018, the commander informed that, in this year alone, about 187.22kg of drugs have also been seized between January and April, 2018 with cocaine, heroin, cannabis sativa, methamphetamine and tramadol weighing 1.88, 4.48, 15.56, 41.06 and 89.06 respectively.

On choice airlines for drug peddlers, Ahmadu said: “I don’t think they stick to one airline. It used to be Emirates. To some extent, Ethiopian but as at last week, South African Airline had the highest number of arrests followed by Ethiopian Airlines”.

The commander stated that the agency has challenges of inadequate personnel and that they require more funding than what they are having now.

Other areas, he wants addressed, are in the areas of equipment and the need to upgrade all the body scanners at the airport.

To him, he also believes that there is need to carry out a lot of awareness education to airlines who in turn will enlighten their staff on the issue of drugs.

“We need to carry out more awareness to stakeholders such as airlines so that they know how to educate their staff. It is not out of place to increase the salaries and allowances of our personnel. That will bring motivation and increase productivity”, Ahmadu said.

Reacting to the NDLEA’s seizure, Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, commended the agency for a job well done, assuring the agency that the Federal Government had risen to the challenge and would do everything possible to stop the dangerous trend.

“The war against illicit drug is on course and there is no going back,” Adewole said.

The Minister noted that the Federal Government had put various measures in place towards the eradication of illicit importation, production and trafficking of controlled substances.

Tramadol, an opioid analgesic, is usually prescribed to treat moderate to moderately severe pain and is considered a safer alternative to other narcotic analgesics like hydrocodone and methadone.

It is among the controlled drugs abused by some youths across the country, causing unhealthy addiction and adverse side effects. It is believed to be fast selling and being shipped into the country through channels suspected to be unlawful.

Expressing worry over the smuggling and abuse of tramadol in the country, the Director -General of NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, said: “Using drugs is centrally controlled or central nervous system – based which means it hits the brain immediately and it changes the user to somebody else.

“During the first use and second use, the brain of the user becomes very different because of dependence. They are no longer able to control themselves and that is where the crime, terrorism come in. Therefore, please let the word go out that drug use comes with consequences”.

The NAFDAC boss said many youths were dying of drug overdose because it was very easy for them to access addictive drugs.

Commenting on the issue, some experts said: “Those who are involved in this thing should stop because it is dangerous to our health. It is addictive and it can kill. We have to stand out against this. Just as the Federal Government has banned codeine, we expect this will happen to this drug quickly. ”

The Federal Government had recently announced a ban on importation of codeine syrup due to the gross abuse usage which the drug has been subjected to in the country especially among the youths.

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