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 Ahmadu Giade, CEO, NDLEA

Chinedu Eze and  Damilola Oyedele

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has said that it is probing the arrest of two crew members of the nation’s major carrier, Arik Air, at the Heathrow Airport, London, on suspicion of drugs trafficking.

The agency, in a statement  Tuesday said: “The Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Ahmadu Giade has ordered the investigation of two crew members of Arik Air arrested at Heathrow Airport, London, in connection with drug trafficking.

“It was gathered that the crew members, Temitayo Olubunmi Daramola was found in possession of 6kg of cocaine while Delita Abibimgbi was found with 60 packets of cigarettes.” The drugs are valued at £600,000.

The statement, which was signed by the spokesman of the organisation and head of public affairs, Ofoyeju Mitchell, said the Arik Air flight reportedly took off from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, on Monday, May 20, 2013, disclosing that eight out of 10 crew members that travelled with the flight have been cleared while two were still being held in London.

Giade said: “We have received the report of the arrest and I have ordered a full scale investigation of the incident. Anyone found wanting shall be brought to book as no effort shall be spared in protecting the image of our country.”

Reacting to the incident, the management of Arik Air said: “The attention of the management of Arik Air has been drawn to the detention in UK of two of its cabin crew members in connection with alleged possession of items suspected to be banned substances.

“Arik Air is cooperating fully with the UK authorities and all other concerned agencies in their investigations.

“Arik Air remains committed to the fight against drug and illicit substances trafficking and will not tolerate the use of any of its aircraft or crew for the courier of banned items and substances.

“Arik Air carries out very stringent checks on all members of staff and its travelling guests ahead of all flights. It will continue to focus its attention on measures to prevent the possibility of any future similar incidents.

“Arik Air is a responsible Nigerian company always seeking to maintain and uphold the integrity and proud reputation of the nation.”

According to a statement issued by the British High Commission in Abuja, yesterday, the air hostesses, aged 33 and 37, were arrested on a bus used to transport the flight crew after the drugs were discovered on the bus.

However, this was the second time a member of the crew of Arik Air had been apprehended trying to smuggle drugs by taking advantage of the lenient checks airline crew members undergo at airports.

In February last year, an Arik Air hostess, Ms. Chinwendu Uwakaonyenma Ogbonnaya, was sentenced to five and a half years in jail term by a UK court after her December 18, 2011 arrest for smuggling cocaine.

On August 8, 2007, officials of the NDLEA arrested a Virgin Atlantic crew member, Mohammed Ibrahim Wudil, with drugs on a London-bound flight.

That incident opened the Pandora’s Box as other cabin officials of airlines operating from Nigeria were also caught with drugs either in Nigeria or at their outbound destinations.

The crew member, Wudil, was caught at the Lagos airport with 1.743kg of cocaine and the drug which was concealed in a black polythene bag inside a hand luggage was found in the flight compartment. Wudil was also said to have confessed to the NDLEA that it was the third time he was trafficking in hard drugs.

Shortly after Wudil, a cabin flight official of the defunct Air Nigeria was also caught with drugs, but officials of the airline at the time said that the suspect was off duty.
NDLEA has vowed to beef up inspection at all the airports and all entry and exit points in the country.

The Director of the Border Force in Heathrow, Mr. Marc Owen, reiterated that drug trafficking is a serious offence in Britain and those convicted would face long prison sentences.

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