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Nigerian cops trace kingpins to South Africa after cocaine, pistols and ‘military items’ smuggled from Durban

Nigerian cops trace kingpins to South Africa after cocaine, pistols and ‘military items’ smuggled from Durban
L-R Uzairu Ahmed Iguda, Falowo Samuel Kayode and Anjorin Idowu were recently arrested in Nigeria for allegedly smuggling cocaine, cannabis, ammunition and pistols in containers from Durban to Nigeria. (Photos: Nigeria's National Drug Law Enforcement Agency)

Police in Nigeria have arrested three port workers who were allegedly involved in smuggling drugs, pistols, ammunition and military items via Durban. The cops also believe three kingpins linked to the syndicate are in South Africa (SA).

The discovery in Nigeria of cocaine and cannabis in shipping containers from Durban has led to police there starting to unravel a syndicate that also smuggled pistols, ammunition and military-style items.

On Sunday, 25 February 2024, Nigeria’s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) spokesperson Femi Babafemi announced that three suspects had been arrested.

“Operatives… have begun to unmask members of an organised criminal network behind the recent importation of two containers laden with illicit drugs as well as assorted arms and ammunition from Durban, South Africa, to the Tincan seaport in Lagos,” he said.

‘Kingpins in SA’

Babafemi named the three arrested suspects as Falowa Samuel Kayode, who was allegedly involved in clearing the two containers, Anjorin Idowu, a dock worker, and Uzairu Ahmed Iguda, who oversaw a terminal at the port. 

Another dock worker, Mohammed Muktar Sule, suspected of being a key organiser in the criminal network, was yet to be detained.

Babafemi added: “Investigations have also revealed three kingpins [are] believed to be based in South Africa and connected with the importation of the containers.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Date rape drug hidden in dried fish latest confiscation in SA-Nigeria crackdowns

The trio — Odeyemi Taiwo Emmanuel, Akinyemi Olayinka and Adebayo Adewole Emmanuel — are now on the NDLEA’s wanted list.

On Monday, 26 February, Daily Maverick asked the South African Police Service if it was aware of the matter and involved in investigations.

A response had not been received by the time of publication.

Shipping at port of Durban

Shipping containers onboard a cargo ship as it departs from the Port of Durban, operated by Transnet. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Pistols, ammunition, military items

According to Babafemi, law enforcement officers in Nigeria previously received information about containers from South Africa.

Other flagged containers were from Canada.

According to a January NDLEA press release, the containers from South Africa had been transporting household goods from Durban.

However, illegal items, including a strong strain of synthetic cannabis, known as Colorado, were also discovered when the containers were searched on 18 and 19 January.

“Some of the items recovered from the containers include[d]: 1,274 parcels of Cocaine and Colorado with a total weight of 884.09 kilograms; four pistols; 197 rounds of 9mm ammunition, 49 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, 275 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition, 14 rounds of 9mm ammunition and sundry military personnel effects as well as some chemicals in kegs,” the NDLEA statement from January said.

“With the exception of a 32.5kg shipment of Colorado that came in used vehicles from Canada, the rest of the items were found in two of three containers that arrived [at] the Tincan port from Durban… onboard a vessel.”

More cannabis

Babafemi, in his 25 February statement, referenced the two containers from Durban that were searched last month.

“Ongoing investigations have led to the discovery of more bags of Colorado weighing 192.7kg, a pistol, and rounds of ammunition,” he said.

It was suspected that the three arrested men, as well as Sule, the alleged organiser who was yet to be detained, worked together to see to it that the 192-kilogram stash of Colorado, along with the pistol and ammunition, had been moved from a container to another empty one.

Investigators, though, managed to find those drugs and items. 

Drugs destroyed

R70-million worth of cocaine was discovered on a vessel in Durban harbour on 18 October, 2023. The vessel travelled from Brazil. (Photo: SAPS)

Durban and sea smuggling

The Port of Durban has previously cropped up many times in terms of trafficking. Daily Maverick has reported extensively on how international crooks seem to favour it when smuggling items via South Africa.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Smuggling rings and other security breaches plague Durban harbour, with cross-country crime on the rise

It also reported that narco-traffickers prefered using maritime routes to pump cocaine into and through this country, meaning that criminals were targeting the country’s harbours.

Last year, several cocaine interceptions from Brazil were made at Durban harbour.

Read more in Daily Maverick: R151-million cocaine disguised in meat boxes seized in Durban in latest SA-Brazil bust

In December, cocaine worth R151-million was seized in one of the busts. 

About two months earlier, in October, tw0 linked cocaine consignments worth R150-million were intercepted. DM

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