NDLEA uncovers airport cartel planting hard drugs in passengers’ luggage

National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has uncovered a cartel which specialised in planting illicit drugs in travellers’
luggage.

The NDLEA Chairman, Col. Muhammad Abdallah (rtd), disclosed this in a statement.
The cartel was uncovered after NDLEA detectives embarked on investigation of a Nigerian lady identified as Zainab Aliyu.
Zainab was accused of entering Saudi Arabia with tramadol. The implication in this discovery by NDLEA is the realisation that many Nigerians arrested and executed for drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia might be innocent.

Zainab was arrested by Saudi Arabia Police on December 26, shortly after arriving for Lesser Hajj. Zainab, a student of Maitama Sule University, Kano, had travelled from Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) in company with her mother, Mrs. Maryam Aliyu, and sister, Hajara Aliyu. She was later arrested over allegations that a luggage, bearing her name tag, contained the unlawful substance.

However, while in detention, the NDLEA had received a petition from Zainab’s father, seeking a probe of his daughter’s ordeal.
The petition was signed by Zainab’s father, Habibu Nuhu Kila, and the travel agent, Rabi Umar Kazaure. It reads: “I write to complain and call for an investigation on my daughter, Zainab Habibu Aliyu, a student of Maitama Sule University, Kano, who is currently in Saudi Arabia for Lesser Hajj but currently in detention on alleged drug-related issue.

“My wife, Maryam Habibu Aliyu, my daughters, Hajara Habibu Aliyu and Zainab Habibu Aliyu, travelled through Aminu Kano International
Airport, Kano, on Monday 24th, December, 2018 via Ethiopian Airlines with flight number ET 941, which departed at 2.25p.m.
Normal airport process was done in the presence of all staff concerned, including the agent, Haj Rabiu Umar Kazaure, of Tura
Travel Agency. My wife and two daughters with three bags of luggage were screened and checked in. “Unfortunately, early morning on Wednesday, a day after their arrival
in Medina after leaving Jeddah, my wife called me that security personnel came and arrested Zainab Habibu Aliyu on an alleged bag
that was left at the airport which does not belong to her was tagged to her passport. I made contact with Nigerian Embassy in Saudi
Arabia and was advised by the ambassador to report to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency. I therefore send for your investigation to save my innocent daughter.”

Consequently, the NDLEA Commander in charge of MAKIA had launched an investigation, which culminated in the arrest and arraignment before a Federal High Court in Kano of seven staff of the airport.
The accused are Idris Umar Shehu (alias Umar Sanda), Sanni Suleiman, Nuhu Adamu, Rhoda Adetunji, Udosen Itoro Henry and
Sanni Hamisu. Count one reads: “That you, Idris Umar Shehu (alias Umar Sanda), Sanni Suleiman, Nuhu Adamu, Rhoda Adetunji, Udosen Itoro Henry and Sani Hamisu, on or about the 24th day of December 2018 at
Mallam Amino Kano International Airport, Kano, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court conspired within yourself to export tramadol – a drug similar to cocaine, heroin and LSD to Saudi Arabia by putting one additional luggage containing tramadol among the luggage of one Zainab Habibu Aliyu, a passenger on Ethiopian Airline Flight No ET941 to Saudi Arabi with passport number A09911835 and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 14(b) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act CapN30L.F.N.2004.”

Count two reads: “That you, Idris Umar (alias Umar Sanda), Sanni Suleiman, Nuhu Adamu, Rhoda Adetunji, Udosen Itoro Henry and Sani Hamisu, on or about the 24th day December 2018 at Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano within jurisdiction of this honourable court without lawful authority exported tramadol, a drug similar to cocaine, heroin and LSD to Saudi Arabia by putting one additional luggage containing tramadol among the luggage of one Zainab Habibu Aliyu, a passenger on Ethiopian Airline Flight No ET941 to Saudi Arabi with passport number A09911835 and you
thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 11(b) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act
CapN30L.F.N.2004.”

Count three reads: “That you, Idris Umar (alias Umar Sanda), Sanni Suleiman, Nuhu Adamu, Rhoda Adetunji, Udosen Itoro Henry and Sani Hamisu, on or about the 24th day of December 2018 or
thereabout, at Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano within the jurisdiction of this honourable court without lawful authority did engage in Drug Trafficking Organisation (DTO) by constituting yourselves into a syndicate involved in the transportation of tramadol a drug similar to cocaine, heroin and LSD to Saudi Arabia by putting one additional luggage containing tramadol among the luggage of one Zainab Habibu Aliyu, a passenger on Ethiopian Airline Flight No ET941 to Saudi Arabi with passport number A09911835 and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 20(g) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30L.F.N.2004.”

According to a report of the investigation, a copy of which was obtained by New Telegraph, a suspected cartel in the airport had
planted the tramadol-bearing luggage on Zainab. In the report, which has since been forwarded to the Consul- General in Jeddah for action, it was further established that Zainab who, like her mother and sister, had only a luggage, was not aware that a second bag had been labelled in her name. It was further discovered in the course of investigation, that Rhoda Adetunji, an employee of the airport had “approached them asking for their remaining luggage as the luggage checked-in by the
passengers went lower than the total weight”.

Adetunji, according to the report, is one of the accused facing trial over the matter. It was further established in the report, that one of the accused, Sani Suleiman, had sent a WhatsApp picture of two parcels to Umar
Sanda.On December 24, 2018, Suleiman, again, allegedly, “sent a WhatsApp picture of two coloured luggage to phone number …
belonging to Alhaju Gabari, now at large”.

The NDLEA added: “Based on the investigation activities carried out, it has been revealed that the said Zainab Habibu Aliyu is not the
owner of the second luggage tagged in her name….“On 24th of December 2018, Maryam Habibu Aliyu and her two daughters, Hajara Habibu Aliyu and Zainab Habibu Aliyu, who are students of Maitamia Sule University, Kano, were to travel to Saudi Arabia for Lesser Hajj. The three passengers had one luggage each.

“At the Departure Hall, three bags belonging to the three passengers were given to one Bako A. Salisu, who weighed the bags, tagged and gave the labels to the passengers.

“Immediately the luggage of the passengers were checked in, Rhoda Adetunji, an official of the Airport Authority (one of the accused persons) approached them, asking for their remaining luggage as the luggage checked-in by the passengers were lower than the total weight they were entitled to travel with – two of their luggage weighed 36kgs while one weighed 17kgs.

“The passengers ignored the said Rhoda Adetunji and went to the arrival hall to purchase yellow card and by the time they came back from the arrival hall to the departure hall, screening for boarding
had already started and the three passengers all went for boarding. They never consented nor knew that any other luggage was tagged
to the name of any of the passengers.

“On 26th of December 2018 about 12.45 midnight, the Saudi Arabia police came to the hotel room of Maryam and her daughters in
Saudi Arabia to arrest one of her daughters, Zainab, on allegation that one of the luggage tagged to her name and passed has
prohibited drugs, tramadol. Zainab is presently in detention in Saudi Arabi awaiting investigations and prosecutions.

“Following receipt of the complaint, seven people working at MAKIA were arrested in connection with the offence. “In the course of the investigations, the telephones of all the
suspects were seized by the agency for investigations, while going through the phones of the suspects one after other, it was discovered that the following happened between Sani Suleiman and Idris Umar alias Umar Sanda. “On 24th December 2018, Sani Suleiman with phone number 08036066448 was in conversation with Umar Sanda with phone number 08065499791 at 8.26a.m., 12.47a.m., 03.56p.m., and 4p.m.

“On the same 24th December 2018, Sani Suleiman with number 08036066448 sent a WhatsApp picture of two parcels to Umar
Sanda on phone number 08065499791. “Also on the same 24th December, Suleiman sent a WhatsApp picture of two coloured luggage to phone number belonging to one
Alhaji Gabari now at large.”

According to the NDLEA, it was also discovered that on the same 24thDecember 2018, Udosen Itoro Henry issued two tag numbers below luggage of one Ibrahim Abubakar who was also arrested by
the Arabia Police for importation of tramadol into Saudi Arabia and also two tag numbers bearing the luggage of Ibrahim Abubakar.

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NDLEA uncovers airport cartel planting hard drugs in passengers’ luggage

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