The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has confirmed the arrest of 12 dockworkers at the Apapa Seaport, Lagos linked to the importation of cocaine valued N9.5 billion.
This is contained in a statement issued by the Director, Media and Advocacy, Mr Femi Babafemi, on Saturday in Abuja.
A Federal High Court in Lagos had granted an application by NDLEA for the interim attachment of a vessel MV Chayanee Naree used to import the 32.9 kilograms of cocaine into Nigeria through the port.
Beside the attachment order, the court also granted NDLEA’s request to detain the Master of the ship, Mr Tanahan Krilerk.
It also granted NDLEA’s request to detain 21 foreign national crew members as well as the dockworkers arrested in connection with the case.
The anti-narcotic agency had on October 13 intercepted the ship at the Apapa Seaport following intelligence from international partners and support from the Nigerian Navy, Customs, DSS and the police.
A thorough search of the ship led to the recovery of 30 parcels containing cocaine, which weighed 32.9kg worth N9.5 billion in street value.
The application in suit no: FHC/L/CS/1518/2021, which was filed by the agency’s Director of Prosecution and Legal Services, Joseph Sunday, on October 28, was granted on October 29 by Justice A.O. Awogboro.
An application to renew the remand order was also filed on Friday, November 12 because of the volume of evidence coming out from the cooperation of the suspects in custody.
Bababfemi said that NDLEA’s clarification became necessary following claims by the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria that some of its members were being detained unlawfully by the agency.
Babafemi said that of the total number of 18 dockworkers initially interviewed by operatives, six of them with no sufficient evidence linking them to the alleged crime had been released.
He added that 12 others with significant links were cooperating in the on-going investigation.
“In line with intelligence available, there is a syndicate of dockworkers, crew members with apparent international conspirators who work in synergy to traffic in illicit substances,’’ he stated.
He added that while the substances were concealed in the shipment from the originating port, the dockworkers assisted to pick up the illicit consignment for onward delivery to the Nigerian drug barons.
“In the case of criminal investigation of this magnitude, it is lawful and expedient to investigate those within the purview of the agency’s reasonable suspicion.
“Already, two dockworkers are now on the run after absconding from their place of work, since the beginning of the investigation.
“All the agency’s actions are guided by international best practices and in line with Global Maritime Standard Operational Procedure on arrest, seizure and detention of vessels and crew members,’’ Babafemi stated.