In its regular style of issuing weekly press releases, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) said in a statement on June 11 that it uncovered a centre where illicit drug was being produced in the Maryland area of Lagos State.
Femi Babafemi, Director, Media and Advocacy, NDLEA, alleged in the release that operatives of the agency in Lagos recovered “one kilogram of already produced and packaged methamphetamine, quantities of precursor chemicals and other items used for the production of the deadly drug” from a building in the state.
“The clandestine laboratory located at 4 Bode Oluwo Street, Mende, Maryland, Ikeja, was stormed by anti-narcotics officers of the Agency on Tuesday, 6th June, after credible intelligence and surveillance confirmed the illicit substance was being produced in the duplex building,” Babafemi said.
“At the end of the search, one kilogram of already produced and packaged methamphetamine, quantities of precursor chemicals and other items used for the production of the deadly drug were recovered from the house, while efforts are on to apprehend the fleeing owner of the house.”
The property was subsequently sealed and marked “under investigation by NDLEA, Lagos Command” on June 6, 2023.
NDLEA is an agency of the federal government established to control and combat the use and production of controlled substances in the country. It was created in 1989.
Interestingly, the allegation made by the agency was a smokescreen for an unethical and blatantly illegal attempt to take possession of the building for their clandestine operations. There are strong indications that the officials of the agency deliberately chased away the owners of the house to pave way for them to have a place for illicit activities, FIJ has found.
‘OCCUPANTS DIDN’T FLEE’
The agency stated that the house owner fled on the day they sealed the residence. For this reason, FIJ kept a tab on the building to know when the fleeing occupants would return to the house and understand how the case would be handled. Each time this reporter visited, he observed a hunger-stricken black dog with its faeces littering the compound.
On September 13, FIJ reported that there were signs of human occupation in the building about three months after the NDLEA locked it up with a cream-colour manual padlock. A Micra car was in the compound. FIJ had also observed in the early hours of June 10 that one window upstairs was open and the entire premises had been cleaned. On a return visit the following day, this reporter met a part of the compound’s gate slightly opened, and the padlock was hanging on the padlock loop from the inside.
The agency failed to respond to FIJ’s inquiry before publication. However, Babafemi read the story and reached out to FIJ. He laid credence to our findings, saying the people in the building were operatives of the agency.
Why were they there? Babafemi stated that the officials were essentially in the building for “fumigation”. Jane, another reader, also contacted this reporter via email. She contradicted the narration of the agency that the house was being used for methamphetamine production.
“The owner is not a meth producer, and this false story needs to stop. NDLEA will go down for the criminal offence they have committed against my friend,” said Jane.
“NDLEA invaded this property, stole personal belongings and drugged the four guard dogs before breaking into the house. They even went to the extent of stealing my friend’s car (owner of the house), which had my tracker. The car was being used for delivering the meat products he sells as a butcher.
“I don’t understand how the NDLEA came up with this nonsense story of this house being a laboratory. How will a family house that I frequently resided in for about 3 weeks every time I traveled to Nigeria from the United States be tagged a laboratory?”
The claim by the NDLEA took Jane by shock. She explained that the house owner did not have any idea that the operatives were coming and the officials did not meet anyone at home, contrary to the agency’s claim that the house owner fled.
“And by the way, the owner never fled the scene as they claimed. We did not know that this was going to happen, but my God that I serve used me to help my friend from this disaster. To my surprise, my flight to return to Nigeria was scheduled for 4 am at Lagos International Airport, and my friend drove me to the airport around 2:45-3 am. Little did we know that the NDLEA was coming to his house to steal and commit all types of criminal offences,” she said.
“I cannot wait for you to hear the true story, because as we speak now, NDLEA officers are residing in a property that is not their own, a property they have not gone to court for. They claimed it was a meth laboratory.
“This is nonsense, and it will come to an end because justice has to be served, and Nigeria needs to cut this out. Nigeria needs to change. We need better leaders, better humans, better training. We need justice, because I am sick of the lies!”
Kayode Alli, the house owner, has filed a fundamental rights enforcement lawsuit before the Federal High Court in Lagos State, supported by a 16-paragraph affidavit. Meanwhile, operatives of the agency are demanding N5,500,000 from the house owner to release all the property documents they carted away from his building.
In the affidavit, Alli stated that the officials of the agency asked him to engage one Barrister Ndakara to handle negotiations on how to recover his house. He said he had been receiving phone calls from this lawyer, urging him to pay N30 million if he wanted to have his house back and documents of his property in Lekki, which they allegedly took away.
HOME FOR NDLEA SECRET OPERATIONS
FIJ can report that NDLEA officials now live and operate from the building, extorting money in thousands and millions of naira from people.
FIJ randomly spoke with some people who were there to bail their relatives. A family said they were looking for N1 million demanded by the agency.
The situation we met at the building on Oluwo Street, near Mende Town Hall, is significantly unusual. Relatives of people arrested by the NDLEA all converged at the building to negotiate the freedom of their loved ones.
First, there were three men upstairs in the morning having a conversation. Among them, two were examining a document, while the third sat some distance away from them, leaning on a railing by his side.
Internet searches about Ndakara revealed a past allegation against him by one Williams Olanrewaju. TheCable reported that Olanrewaju alleged that the NDLEA wrongly dismissed him because he prevented some corrupt practices being perpetrated by Ndakara.
Olanrewaju said Ndakara, who was not an official of the NDLEA, was being used to extort money from people suspected to be drug merchants.
Babafemi told FIJ on Thursday that the officers were on a legitimate posting to the building. He stated that their presence was to protect the property from being damaged or taken over by the suspect.
“Ideally, when you seal a property like that, you have to post people there just to prevent it from being hijacked from whom it was seized. In this case, meth was being produced there. The place had to be locked for a long time. After a while, our forensic and chemical monitoring team had to move in to ensure the place is free for them to be posted there,” he said.
We asked him whether such action has to be backed by a court order, and he said, “If you check the NDLEA act, any property, vehicle or anything being used to trade or trade in illicit substances can be forfeited to the government. If the property is left unprotected, they can be sold before you are done with forfeiture processes in the court.”
When we checked the forfeiture provisions in the NDLEA act, we found that such action requires a court order to be valid. In section 34, the act says, “Where a person is arrested for an offence under this act, the agency shall immediately trace and attach all the assets and properties of the person and shall thereafter cause to be obtained an interim attachment order by the Federal High Court.”
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