By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Originally, the establishment of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) by the promulgation of Decree number 48 of 1989 now Act of the National Assembly was basically aimed at eradicating/ exterminating illicit drug trafficking and consumption in the Nigerian society. To ask the question of how has the fight gone on against these illicit substances will bring us to the conclusion that up until a year and half ago when the current hierarchy led by Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa assumed the mantle of leadership, the Agency has wobbled and fumbled and the consequences of this lethargic leadership is that drug cartels and barons gained a lot of ground all across the Country just as addiction to hard drugs became a common place phenomenon. It was the commonality of the widespread of hard drugs addictions that led to the widespread organised criminal activities and the heightened state of insecurity all across Nigeria. It was never known that deep within the rare billionaires circles were some of the most dreaded hard drugs barons.
Before president Muhammadu Buhari found the retired Army General Mohammed Buba Marwa worthy of appointment and since slightly over a year since he assumed duty, Nigerians have now known that Nigeria do also have the burden of housing many narco- billionaires who are the life wire of the drug business in the Country.
It was also in this epoch that we now see the NDLEA working like the president gave them a deadline to eradicate the menace of drugs in the Country including the rapidly spreading addiction to drugs by Nigerian youths. The NDLEA’s war against billionaires who made their wealth from hard drugs is indeed a new phase of very dangerous and deadly enterprise that demands the highest levels of focus, commitment and competence. The texture of the war against illicit drugs has dramatically changed and many Nigerians have just become aware of the deep rooted danger that drugs money poses to the national security of Nigeria. It is therefore no longer a conjecture to state that any attempt to allow wielders of power amongst the drugs cartels to get hold of political power in Nigeria would spell doom for our dear fatherland. This is why the new phase of anti-narcotic battles targeting the very affluent but silent members of the Nigerian society should become a collective national revolution demanding consistent and pure support by all and sundry.
Genetal Mohammed Buba Marwa’s war with Nigeria’s narco- billionaires is indeed a new kind of revolution because Nigerians are now realizing that there are some so-called very wealthy young people whose sources of immense wealth were hitherto unknown because they previously enjoyed immunity from arrests since the then successive hierarchies of NDLEA focused fundamentally on going after the foot Soldiers and not the barons. What is unfolding before us which is a new kind of war need to be totally apprehended by majority of Nigerians so we can extend the most maximum cooperation and support to the very vibrant team leading the ongoing war against Nigeria’s narco billionaires.
As stated, the war with narco- billionaires in Nigeria reminds us that the narcotic or rather hard drugs business is not just a small business but is an industry with global reach.
We will look at some estimated net worth of some notable drug lords so we understand that the current war to dismantle the narco- billionaires in Nigeria is a massive war that demands public solidarity and support. Besides public solidarity and support, the NDLEA needs the most upgraded legislative frameworks that would spell out operational and financial autonomy so the battle become impossible to be rolled back if the current tempo is sustained over a long period of time. Recent reports have looked at some of the wealthiest drug lords in the World and we will look at some of them so we get a clearer picture of the nature of the war that Marwa and his team in NDLEA are waging.
Bruce Bagley, a 74-year old University of Miami professor, estimated El Chapo’s net worth between $2-4 billion and we think he was being generous. By the way, Bruce Bagley, the expert on Mexican drug cartels, was charged with money laundering in 2019. He pleaded guilty to helping to launder $2.5 million in exchange for a $250,000 payment. We would have asked him about his latest estimates for El Chapo’s wealth but he probably has other things on his mind as he is scheduled to be sentenced on October 1st.
The author of the report stated that We are going to assume El Chapo’s wealth at $3 billion. Now, let’s take a look at the 10 richest drug lords of all time.
The first is Al Capone: $1.47 Billion:- Al Capone’s net worth was estimated at $1.3 billion in 2012. That’s worth $1.47 billion in today’s money. However, you should keep in mind that we are just inflation adjusting this number. If we had invested Al Capone’s money into an S&P Index fund, he probably would have been the richest gangster today.
The next is Griselda Blanco: $2.26 Billion:- La Madrina, The Godmother of Cocaine was killed in 2012. It is actually a big accomplishment on her part to manage to survive until the age of 69 in this business. You may be worth $2.26 billion but you can’t really live like a billionaire.
Then there is El Chapo: $3 Billion:- We already discussed El Chapo’s wealth estimates. This is probably an overestimation, but even if El Chapo’s net worth is $2.3 billion, he still would be the 10th richest drug lord of all time.
Another is Carlos Lehder: $3.05 Billion:- Carlos Enrique Lehder Rivas is the co-founder of the Medellin Cartel and still alive. He spent 33 years in prison and was recently released. There is also the Orejuela Bros: $3.39 Billion:- Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela was the leader of the Colombian Cali Cartel and is currently serving a 30-year sentence in the United States. He is seeking early release from prison because he suffers from prostate and colon cancer. His brother Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela is also serving a prison sentence at a federal prison in Pennsylvania. We count them among the most successful drug lords because even though they can’t enjoy their immense wealth, they agreed to a plea deal with the U.S. prosecutors that gave immunity to more than a two dozen of family members.
Next is Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha: $5.65 Billion:- Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha was one of the leaders of the Medellin Cartel and was actually included in Forbes’ billionaires list in 1988. He was killed in 1989 and.
The next is Khun Sa: $5.65 Billion:- The “Opium King” is the most successful drug lord as he retired in 1996 and enjoyed his wealth for a good 11 years until his death. His children are wealthy business people in Myanmar today. These few cases demonstrate that these are indeed not little men but very wealthy persons and their sources of wealth are hard drugs.
In Nigeria, it is great news that President Muhammadu Buhari has got it right in the choice of who should wage the battles against narco- billionaires same way a lot of those who have headed similar wars in the USA have turned out to be exemplary and exceptionally heroic. In writing about the war against narco- billionaires in Nigeria, one person who comes to mind is Harry J. Anslinger, a founding father of American drug policy.
Harry J. Anslinger’s pioneering work as head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics has largely been unsung, though experts see him as the founding father of America’s war on drugs.
In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration raised his profile with a symposium that focused on the decades he spent creating national drug policy, starting in the 1930s. Following that, in 2015, the agency’s museum opened an exhibition: “A Life of Service: Harry Jacob Anslinger, 1892-1975.”
When that closed in 2017, the D.E.A. Museum & Visitors Center created a virtual version, which is displayed on its website.
We had to reflect briefly on the history of this hero to show too that the pioneering efforts at battling narco- billionaires initiated for the first time by the current Chairman, Chief Executive officer of the NDLEA Mohammed Buba Marwa will inevitably go down in history as a monumental achievement in the political anals of Nigeria.
A reflection of the ongoing war against Nigeria’s narco- billionaires will gain momentum if we point out certain leadership qualities that we have noticed with the chairman of NDLEA in the person of Brigadier – General Mohammed Buba Marwa. We will dwell on just four after which we will touch on few of the many battles that the NDLEA under marwa has successfully waged.
What’s the best way to become better at your job asks Susan Adams. We’ve run a number of stories with advice about improving job performance, she said. After looking over those pieces and brainstorming with Forbes Leadership Editor Fred Allen, I’ve put together ten tips that should help you get ahead in your current role. She wrote these in her work “10 ways to become better at your job today” published on November 2013.
First, get organized. With the onslaught of email, texting, tweeting and everything else, it can be challenging to stay on top of your workload. We ran this story about conquering your email inbox, which recommends a system of prioritizing urgent items, dealing with short requests quickly, deleting junk and putting less pressing matters on a to-do list. One more tip: Consider imposing some discipline on email interruptions. Check your inbox once a half hour or once an hour, to give yourself time to complete tasks that require concentration.
Second, stop trying to multi-task. In 2009, a group of Stanford researchers released a study that showed how people who do heavy multitasking, keeping up several email conversations at once while texting, jumping from one website to the next and trying to work at the same time, do not pay attention as well as those who maintain a more streamlined work flow.
Third, put yourself in the mindset of your boss. We’ve run several stories about dealing with difficult supervisors. The most effective strategy: Empathize, and discover your boss’s style, so that you can imagine what he or she is looking for in an employee. We ran this piece about dealing with a younger supervisor, this story about a series of questions you can ask your boss, which will help you get to know her (what was her previous job? what are her career aspirations?), this story about dealing with a lousy manager (set an agenda, don’t yell back), and this piece about managing up a difficult boss (treat him like a difficult client). The overarching lesson: figure out your boss’s style and orientation and try to stay one step ahead.
No doubt at all in our mind that the head of NDLEA in Nigeria has done so much to attract global attention just as the efforts of his team are beginning to bear fruits.
Yesterday, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA and the International Criminal Police Organization, popularly known as Interpol, signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU that will enable the anti-narcotics agency contribute to the pool of global criminal data and also access such records of 195 countries around the world for its use.
Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) signed for the Agency while the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of the National Central Bureau and Vice President, Interpol Africa, Garba Baba Umar, endorsed the document on behalf of the global body.
Speaking at a brief ceremony at the NCB secretariat, Force Headquarters Abuja on Wednesday,5th October 2022, Gen. Marwa reminded the audience that drug business is international in scope while the scourge of drug abuse has continued to destroy lives, youths, families and communities, stressing that it also fuels criminalities because perpetrators either consume illicit substances or use proceeds to fund their nefarious criminal activities.
As we are after the drug cartels and barons, we are not under the illusion that they wont be after us but we are always steps ahead of them. This is why all security agencies must collaborate to fight the cartels, whether in Nigeria or anywhere in the world. We are therefore happy that the signing of this MoU allows us access to contribute and benefit from criminal data records of 195 countries globally, the NDLEA boss stated.
He commended the Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba Usman for providing good leadership for the Nigeria Police and his commitment to partner with NDLEA in the fight against illicit drugs in Nigeria, citing the IGPs memo to all police formations across the country to always transfer drug cases to NDLEA across the states for investigation and prosecution, as a mark of such collaboration.
Speaking earlier, AIG Garba Umar commended Marwa for transforming NDLEA to a ground breaking agency within a short time of his assumption of office. He called for more support for the anti-narcotics agency from all relevant stakeholders especially security agencies.
He highlighted the significance of the MoU to the success of NDLEA operations and assured of the full support of Interpol at all times.
Just a few of the alleged narco-billionaires rounded up include the last major outing of the NDLEA in which it was reported that not less than Thirteen Million, Four Hundred and Fifty One Thousand, Four Hundred and Sixty Six (13,451,466) pills of Tramadol 225mg worth Eight Billion Eight Hundred and Sixty Million Naira (N8,860,000,000) in street value have been recovered by operatives of the National Drug Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, from one of the mansions of a billionaire drug baron, Ugochukwu Nsofor Chukwukadibia, in the highbrow residential estate, Victoria Garden City, Lekki area of Lagos.
The arrest of Ugochukwu who is the Chairman of Autonation Motors Ltd is coming barely two months after NDLEA uncovered a methamphetamine clandestine laboratory in the residence of another drug kingpin in the estate, Chris Emeka Nzewi, who was arrested on Saturday 30th July along with a chemist, Sunday Ukah, who cooked the illicit drug for him. At least, 258.74 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and various precursor chemicals used for the production of the toxic drug were recovered from Nzewis home during his arrest.
Following credible intelligence, NDLEA operatives on Friday 30th September stormed the Plot A45 Road 2 home of the 52-year-old billionaire alleged drug kingpin. A search of the expansive mansion led to the discovery of 443 cartons of Tramadol Hydrochloride 225mg, which contains 13, 451, 466 pills of the drug while some cartons were already burnt in a fire incident in the house same day.
Before his arrest, Ugochukwu who hails from Ihiala local government area of Anambra state has been on the Agencys watch list as one of those behind the tramadol drug cartel in Nigeria. Preliminary investigation shows that he has about six mansions within the VGC, one of which he uses to warehouse the tramadol consignment, while he lives in the one at Plot Z-130 Road 67 and another as his office. Five exotic vehicles have also been located in two of his mansions, out of which two SUVs including a bullet jeep have been successfully removed to the Agencys facility.
Reacting to the latest drug haul, Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) commended the officers and men involved in the operation for their diligence while also appreciating Nigerians for supporting the Agency in its arduous task of ridding the country of the menace of drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking.
According to him, Ill like to reassure Nigerians and other stakeholders wherever they are located across the country and beyond of our preparedness to work with them on this onerous task of saving our people from the drug scourge. This partnership is a further warning to the drug barons and cartels that there is no hiding place for them anymore, because we remain on their trail and well always get them.
Tougher time awaits drug barons and cartels operating in Nigeria if they fail to back out of their criminal trade and embrace legitimate ventures. Chairman/Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) gave the assurance on Tuesday 27th September 2022 while leading stakeholders to witness the crushing and setting ablaze 1.8 tons of cocaine recovered by the Agency from a warehouse in Ikorodu area of Lagos last week.
The NDLEA had in a well-coordinated and intelligence led operation that lasted two days last week stormed a hidden warehouse at 6 Olukunola street, Solebo estate Ikorodu where 1.8 tons of cocaine were recovered and five suspects including a Jamaican were arrested.
Following the historical seizure, which is the largest in the Agencys history, an order of the Federal High Court in Lagos was obtained for the public destruction of the consignment.
Speaking at the venue of the public destruction in Badagry area of Lagos Tuesday, Gen. Marwa who was represented by the Agencys Director, Prosecution and Legal Services, Deputy Commander General of Narcotics, DCGN Sunday Joseph, said the sheer volume of the drug haul, with street value put at two hundred and seventy-eight million, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($278, 250,000), equivalent to one hundred and ninety-four billion, seven hundred and seventy-five million (N194, 775,000,000) naira, speaks volume about the extent of the nefarious activities of the drug underworld. He said this has made it imperative for Nigerians to continue to support NDLEA in the renewed war against illicit drugs.
He said out of the 1.8-ton seizure, 1, 828 blocks of the cocaine will be crushed and set ablaze while the remnant will be secured for purpose of prosecution of the suspects who were brought to witness the procedure and sign the certificate of destruction.
According to the NDLEA boss, the Agency is proceeding with the prosecution of those arrested in connection with this consignment. On this, the public can rest assured that NDLEA shall pursue the trial to a logical conclusion. Since January 25, 2021, when we commenced our offensive action against drug traffickers, the Agency has secured record convictions.
Presently, 2, 904 drug offenders are serving various jail terms, while other cases are ongoing in court, which we are confident will end in positive results too.
To the drug underworld, he said the bust of the syndicate responsible for the cocaine warehoused in Ikorodu is a message to drug cartels that their investments in the illicit drug trade will go up in flames as you are about to witness while they also risk losing their freedom because the present NDLEA is committed to arresting, prosecuting and ensuring the conviction of those involved in illicit drugs. That is not all, we now also go after their assets acquired with the proceeds of the criminal trade.
Marwa said the fact that the Ikorodu operation was conducted clinically without any skirmish or bloodshed is further testimony to the evolution of the NDLEA and its new capabilities, and a pointer to the fact that the game has changed in the war against illicit drugs.
He expressed appreciation to the Agencys international partners, especially the American Drug Enforcement Administration (US-DEA) that supported the cocaine syndicate bust and the Nigerian military that provided additional firepower during the operation, as well as other law enforcement agencies that have been supporting efforts to rid Nigeria of illicit drugs.
While soliciting for more support for the Agencys work, Marwa said the safety of our society is the responsibility of every one of us and every citizen shall be fulfilling his or her civic duty by assisting the Agency to clean up our communities and cities by joining our War Against Drug Abuse (WADA), adding that together, we can make this country secure.”
- EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and one time National commissioner of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.