A 40-foot container from India with twenty cartons of tapentadol, a novel variety of tramadol with an estimated street value of N1, 560,000,000, was seized by the Nigeria Customs Service Apapa Command.
This was announced on Thursday, December 1, 2022, during a press briefing held at Classic Terminal Festac town in Lagos by the Controller in charge of the Command Comptroller, Yusuf Malanta.
He claims the shipment first showed up at Apapa port on July 3, 2022, and customs officials have kept tabs on it since.
According to the Comptroller, upon closer inspection, officers found cartons of Ok POP sweets and drugs concealed in the back of the container, even though the container had been initially stated to contain chocolates.
Malanta praised officers at the Classic terminal and reaffirmed that cooperation between customs and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is paying off.
Mallanta detailed that the drugs came in 225mg and 120mg packs.
“The importer cleverly concealed the drugs at the back of the container to undermine our officers. We found out that he had 20 cartons of the drugs. Each of the 225mg had 838,500 tablets. For the 120mg, there are 90,10,000 tablets.
“These drugs are deadlier than the normal tramadol; you can imagine the havoc it would cause if it had escaped into the market. You can agree with me that most of the criminal actions in our society result from consuming these types of drugs.
“Therefore, whoever is importing these kinds of drugs, we are telling him today that our collaboration efforts are fully informed, and we cannot relent.
“The container has been in the port since July 3, 2022, moving from the mother port down here; the importer is trying to buy time. If he is not tired of importing, we would be okay with making him lose his investment once he is brought to book. Maybe he can escape our watch, but Behold, we are really on top of our game and will continue to be on top of our game.
“The joint corporation with the NDLEA and other agencies around here has yielded a fruitful result for the command. We would continue doing that to make sure that a serene environment is created for compliant traders and for goods that are in tandem with Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA)
“We thank God for giving us the wisdom to track and seize these drugs because it contravenes sections 64, 46, and 47 CEMA Act.
“I am advising the importer to desist from these importations. It is harmful to humans. We would trail this importer, and with the help of our officers here, we would bring him to book and ensure he is treated accordingly.”
He said that the customs agency’s resolve and cooperation with the NDLEA were critical factors in the campaign’s success; as a result, importing Tramadol pills into the country is now extremely tough, and supplies are low.
Compt Malanta emphasised that the investigation is ongoing and that customs already has significant evidence on the people involved in the importation, even though no arrests were made in connection with the seizure.
The head of customs said, “The CGC has launched the e-Customs modernisation, which is a complete automation of customs business processes.”
“This begins from the loading port to the destination where the manifest would show the content of the cargo. We believe that with the introduction of that system, every illicit cargo would be trapped, not only drugs.”
Also speaking, Ishiaku Yusuf Kwajaffa, the Commander of NDLEA’s Apapa Command, claimed that the milligrammes printed on the drugs were merely a “cover-up” and that the actual potency of the tapentadol was “three times that of the standard tramadol.”
He added that this is the first time the NDLEA has encountered this particular variety.
“The 120mg written on the drugs is just a cover. The potency of the drugs is there times higher than the normal tramadol. This particular brand is new to us. This is the first time we are coming across the drugs
The value of the twenty cartons is N1,560.000.000. “We have made it so rare for them that each carton of tramadol is worth N78 million,” he added.