Ozubulu Massacre: Fear Of New Narco-State Arise In Nigeria

 

In the early hours of a humid November morning, a 16-car convoy rolled into Obinugwu village in southeast Nigeria and stopped outside the iron gates of a non-descript house.

More than 50 drug enforcement officials crept through the compound and surrounded the methamphetamine lab hidden by overgrown jungle behind the property.

The bust happened just before daybreak. Dozens were arrested, including the suspected kingpin at his mansion in the nearby city of Owerri.

“It took one year of surveillance,” a National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) officer, who was involved in the raid, told AFP. “They were all sleeping. We took them by surprise.”

Inside the lab there was 78 kilograms (171 pounds) of meth — a drug as notorious for its exhilarating highs as its life-destroying, addictive lows.

But the haul, worth tens of thousands of dollars, was not for domestic consumption.

Instead, it was probably destined for South Africa and Asia, investigators said.

Drug trafficking is nothing new to Nigeria, which has long been a transit point for cocaine and heroin going to Europe and North America.

The difference is that now Nigerians are producing the drugs.

With vast quantities of chemicals entering the country, porous borders and corrupt law enforcement, Nigeria is an ideal place to produce the drug.

Since the country’s first meth lab was discovered in 2011, authorities have found 14 more producing mass quantities of the stimulant, while seizures of the drug have jumped from 177 kilos in 2012 to 1,363 kilos in 2016.

“It (meth production) is on the increase, significantly on the increase. Meth today is a serious threat to Nigeria,” said Sunday Zirangey, NDLEA Special Enforcement Team commander.

“If this continues, Nigeria may turn into a narco-state.”

Glen Prichard, Nigeria project coordinator with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, agreed.

“Nigeria is potentially following the same footsteps as Mexico that led to instability, organised crime and an infiltrated government,” he added.

– Church massacre –


Reliable data on meth production in Nigeria is hard to come by and seizures are small compared with global giants Mexico and Myanmar.

But evidence on the ground points to a much larger industry.

Nigeria’s estimated need for the stimulant ephedrine, which is used as a medical decongestant, is 771 kilos, according to a US State Department report on international narcotics.

Yet Nigeria imports over eight tons a year, with the difference suspected of either being used to produce meth or trafficked elsewhere.

Despite the risks of arrest and even execution for traffickers in Asia, the profits are irresistible in a country where the minimum wage is just 18,000 naira ($50, 44 euros) a month.

A kilo of meth sells for $3,500 on the streets of Lagos but by the time it reaches South Africa it is worth $12,000 and $150,000 in Japan — and the stakes are rising.

Last year, the fight for control of the lucrative South African market more than 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles) away came to St Philip’s Parish in Ozubulu, a village in the southeast Nigerian state of Anambra.

Thirteen people were shot dead in an apparent reprisal attack between Nigerian drug barons operating in Johannesburg.

Piles of trash line the dirt road leading to Ozubulu, where an endless stream of people hawk everything from adulterated fuel to plastic flip-flops.

But among the grinding poverty are huge villas with grand columns and intricate wrought iron gates — glaring anomalies in a region with epileptic power and disintegrating roads.

In August last year, unknown gunmen interrupted the 6:00 am Sunday mass in Ozubulu, hoping to kill Aloysius Nnamdi Ikegwuonu, a Johannesburg drugs kingpin known as “The Bishop”.

He wasn’t there but his father and a one-year-old child were among the victims. Details of the shooting remain clouded in secrecy.

“What we had is gunshots, sporadic and reckless shootings. That’s what I can say,” said parish priest Father Jude Onwuaso standing by the victims’ marble graves wearing a sky-blue cassock.

Ozubulu has made headlines for drugs before. In 2015, the NDLEA busted a meth lab belonging to Ikejiaku Sylvester Chukwunwendu, also known as “Blessed Benita”.

He was charged with meth production and trafficking in the village.

“He’s one of the biggest kingpins we’ve got,” said state prosecutor Lambert Nor, who said some of Chukwunwendu’s couriers had been executed in China for drug trafficking.

– Ideal conditions –
As the popular US television series “Breaking Bad” showed, meth can be made by almost everyone in their own kitchen if they have the right ingredients and background knowledge in chemistry.

Cocaine and heroin, on the other hand, are bigger-ticket enterprises. They require land dedicated to plantations and a specific climate to grow the crop.

But Nigerians were paying thousands of dollars a week to Mexicans, Colombians and Bolivians to teach them a new form of production that pumps out bigger, purer batches of meth.

Two years ago, Nigerian authorities arrested four Mexicans from Sinaloa, the epicentre of one of the world’s biggest drug trafficking cartels and birthplace of the infamous drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

“When you found labs before you always had Mexicans and Bolivians behind it but now the Nigerians are on their own and they do even better,” said Kayode Raji, NDLEA assistant commander in Imo State.

Experts fear that as production increases, meth will find a domestic market like in South Africa, where “tik” — as it’s known on the street — has been described as an “epidemic” and is the most abused drug in the Western Cape province.

But there is no easy way to stop the rise of meth in Nigeria.

“It will become uncontrollable unless decisive measures are taken,” said Nor, warning: “Otherwise what we have in Mexico will be a small thing compared to Nigeria.”

AFP

Ozubulu Killing: Security Tension Forces Court To Relocate

Ozubulu Killing: Security Tension Forces Court To Relocate
File photo: Crowd gathered in front of the St. Philips Catholic Church in Ozubulu after several persons were killed on August 6, 2017, in Anambra State.

 

The Ozubulu murder case has taken a new dimension as the matter has been administratively transferred from Nnewi High Court to Awka High Court on Friday, following heightened tension over security and the increasing number of the crowd during court sittings.

Since the trial of the four suspects at Court 3, Nnewi, it is a usual sight of a large crowd from Ozubulu besieging the court premises in solidarity to any of the persons standing trial with attendant arguments and protests as part of their activities.

READ ALSOSeveral Killed As Gunmen Attack Church In Anambra

As the dust of the transfer has yet to settle, the fifth prosecuting witness and former President-General of Ozubulu Development Union in South Africa, Nkwado Onyeka, gave his testimony in the case.

He gave his evidence with a chilling tale of the genesis of the killing, starting with his wife who was murdered few hours after dropping him off at Tabo Mbeki Airport in South Africa, for a flight to New York.

Onyeka said the killing did not stop as two other young men, Nonso Ikedinobi and Izuamaka Dunu, were murdered in South Africa alongside six other prominent Ozubulu people resident in South Africa.

The witness revealed further that two Ozubulu sons currently serving prison terms in South Africa were responsible for the killings, in collaboration with one of the men standing trial by name Nonso Akpunonu.

He told the court that the suspects had sworn that the killings would not stop until the sum of $1million was released to them.

The prosecuting counsel, JayJay Ezeuko, and the defence counsel, Festus Keyamo, cross-examined the witness after which the presiding judge, Justice Festus Aniukwu, adjourns the matter till May 4, 11 and 25 for continued hearing.

Several persons were killed by gunmen on August 6, 2017, while worshipping at St. Philips Catholic Church in Ozubulu located in Ekusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State.

The state governor, Willie Obiano, as well as the Federal and other state governments had condemned the attack with some describing it as a sacrilege.

Governor Obiano had also vowed to ensure that the culprits were brought to justice and called for calm when he visited the scene of the attack to commiserate with the victims.

Ozubulu Attack: Osinbajo Sends Delegation To Anambra State

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The Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has sent a delegation to Anambra State to condole with the government and people of the state over last Sunday’s church attack.

The senior special assistant on media and publicity to the Acting President, Mr Laolu Akande, disclosed this in a statement on Saturday.

The delegation is made up of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole; and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama.

Others are Minister of State for Environment, Mr Ibrahim Jibril and Minister of State for Education, Professor Anthony Anwuka.

During the visit, the delegation will present a condolence letter from Acting President Osinbajo on behalf of the Federal Government to Governor Willie Obiano.

The delegation will also visit Bishop Hilary Okeke of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nnewi, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital also in Nnewi to meet with some of the victims of the attack still in the hospital.

In the letter, Professor Osinbajo extended deep commiserated with the families and friends of the victims, as well as the Ozubulu community for the loss and prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured.

He condemned in very strong terms the atrocious and dastardly act which he said has brought sorrow to many innocent families.

“Such barbaric act constitutes an affront to our common humanity and it challenges, but will not overwhelm our collective resolve to rid our communities of all forms of violent crimes and criminality,” he said.

Osinbajo said President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration remains committed to deploying all available resources towards ensuring adequate security of lives and property in Anambra State and across the entire country.

He also informed that he had instructed law enforcement agencies to bring perpetrators of the heinous crime to justice without any delay.