The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has intercepted a shipment of Tramadol disguised and packaged as condoms and other illicit drugs at the Tin Can Island Port, Lagos.
The two importers, who claimed to be pharmacists, are also being investigated in connection with the unlawful importation. Tramadol is a prescription drug belonging to the class of opioid. The total weight of the seized drug is 3,078.56kg.
A statement by the NDLEA Head of Public Affairs, Mr. Ofoyeju Mitchell, claimed that the drug was detected during a physical examination at the port by the officials of the agency and others.
The statement quoted the NDLEA Director of Operations and General Investigations, Mr. Olugbenga Mabo, as saying that prosecuting the suspects would address a lack of respect for due process by professionals.
Mabo said, “We have observed an infringement of laws with adverse consequences on the nation. The drugs were imported without permit by the relevant authorities. Prosecuting the suspects will serve as a warning to others. The case has been assigned to the Joint Task Force of the agency for investigation.”
NDLEA Commander at the Tin Can Port, Mr. Nse Inam, gave the names of the suspects as Onuchukwu Owulu (38) of Benow Pharmaceutical Impex Limited based in Lagos and Igboanugo Tochukwu (35) of Vingil Pharmaceuticals Limited, Asaba. According to Inam, the shipment of controlled drugs originated from India.
Owulu allegedly imported 107 cartons of Tramanow, a brand of Tramadol weighing 1,078.56kg while Tochukwu imported 250 cartons of Vingil Tramadol weighing 2,000kgs. Both suspects are being investigated.
Preliminary investigation by the NDLEA Joint Task Force headed by Mr. Olumuyiwa Adeniyi revealed that both pharmaceutical companies did not obtain import permit for the said drug which is contrary to section 11 subsection (a) of the NDLEA Act.
It was also gathered that the drugs were imported for illicit distribution as they were disguised in cartons of condoms and other illicit pharmaceutical products. The discovery of the drug was made during an examination of the container prior to delivery at their preferred destination outside the port. In addition, the companies could not produce either import or clearance permit for the said drugs.
Benjamin, in his statement, said he could not obtain an import permit because of the strike embarked upon by staff of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control.
He said in his statement, “I registered Benow Pharmaceuticals Impex Limited in 2009 and I started business in 2010 as a qualified pharmacist.
“I began the process of importing this consignment in September 2015 and the goods arrived on December 13, 2015 and my agent informed me of the challenge of obtaining a permit to import and clear the Tramanow.
“The strike by staff of NAFDAC made it difficult for me to secure the necessary permit. I witnessed the search of the container in the presence of NDLEA officers and other security agencies at the port.”
The second suspect, Vincent, also told narcotic investigators that he had not obtained permit to import the said drug.
“I am a qualified pharmacist practicing in Asaba. However, I have not obtained the import and clearance permit for this shipment,” he said.
Both suspects will soon be prosecuted, the statement added.