By Wisdom Patrick:
A FORMAL complaint by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has been lodged with Aviation Minister, Babatunde Omotoba, over the alleged involvement of three foreign airlines in drug trafficking.
NDLEA Director General, Lanre Ipiminsho, confirmed this in a telephone interview from Abuja on Monday but declined to give details.
“Reporting them is the only open way left for us to explore because we have personally reviewed their security system to dissuade drug pushers from patronising them,” another source said.
“The airlines seem not to be perturbed, so we had to take the case to (Omotoba). The report was via a letter dated February 13, 2010.”
The NDLEA had in November last year put three airlines on its surveillance list over alleged frequent patronage by drug traffickers.
It said it would watch passengers using the airlines for six months before deciding on whether to sanction them.
However, an NDLEA official explained that the decision was taken to act before the expiration of the six months because “illicit drug activities in the three airlines is beyond belief.
“Of recent these airlines have allegedly proven to be very friendly with drug traffickers. We have recorded an unprecedented number of cases of arrest of drug traffickers using the three airlines to transport hard drugs out of the country.”
Ipinmisho said in November last year that placing the three airlines on the watch list was to call them to order.
“It is routine anywhere in the world; when narcotics operators discover an airline to be frequently patronised by drug peddlers, such an airline is placed on the watch list that would enable operatives to carry out special checks on passengers using that airline.
“We have done that to three airlines on the Nigerian route for now,” he stressed.
He noted that the majority of drug traffickers, including a popular cement dealer in Lagos arrested at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, were potential passengers of the three airlines.
“And this has been rampant because the arrest of the man would make it the fourth involving that same airline in one week.”
Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Spokesman, Akin Olukunle, confirmed that the FAAN has given the NDLEA all the necessary support to do its job.
“This would not be the first time the security agencies at the airport would place airlines on their monitoring list,” he added.
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