By Sunday Oyinloye
Contrary to the claim of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria that some of its members are being detained unlawfully by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Agency on Saturday says 12 dockworkers out of the 18 initially interviewed have significant links to the importation of 32.9 kilograms of cocaine worth over N9.5 billion in street value through vessel, MV Chayanee Naree Singapore.
According to NDLEA, there is a syndicate of dockworkers, crew members with apparent international conspirators who work in synergy to traffic in the illicit substances.
The Agency in a Press Release made available to Green Savannah Diplomatic Cable and signed by its Director Media & Advocacy, Femi Babafemi says “while the substances are concealed in the shipment from the originating Port, the dockworkers assist to pick up the illicit consignment for onward delivery to the Nigerian drug barons.”
A Federal High Court in Lagos had granted an application by the Agency for the interim attachment of a vessel MV Chayanee Naree used to import the 32.9 kilograms of cocaine into Nigeria through the Apapa seaport.
Beside the attachment order, the court also granted NDLEA’s request to detain the Master of the ship, Mr. Tanahan Krilerk and 21 foreign crew members as well as the dockworkers arrested in connection to the case.
The application in suit no: FHC/L/CS/1518/2021, which was filed by the agency’s Director of Prosecution and Legal Services, Joseph Nbone Sunday on Thursday 28th October was granted the following day Friday 29th October by Hon. Justice A.O. Awogboro. An application to renew the remand order was also filed on Friday 12th November because of the volume of evidence coming out from the cooperation of the suspects in custody.
“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 and those who do not have any serious involvement are let go. Already, two dockworkers are now on the run, after absconding from their place of work, since the beginning of the investigation.
“For the avoidance of doubt, all the Agency’s actions are guided by international best practices and in line with the Global Maritime Standard Operational Procedure on arrest, seizure and detention of Vessels and crew members.” Said Babafemi.
The anti-narcotic Agency had on October 13 intercepted the ship at the Apapa seaport following intelligence from international partners and support from other security forces such as 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.