The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has intercepted a shipment of Tramadol disguised with condoms and other licit drugs at the Tin Can Island Port, Lagos.
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 and the total weight of the seized drug is 3,078.56kgs.
According to NDLEA, the drug was detected during physical examination at the port by the NDLEA and officials of other agencies, adding that abuse of Tramadol among youths has been reported across various geopolitical zones in the country.
Director of Operations and General Investigations of the agency, Mr. Olugbenga Mabo stated that prosecuting the suspects would address lack of respect for due process by professionals.
According to him, “We have observed an infringement of the law 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 Jack Inam gave the names of the suspects as Onuchukwu Benjamin Owulu, 38, of Benow Pharmaceutical Impex Limited based in Lagos and Igboanugo Vincent Tochukwu, 35, of Vingil Pharmaceuticals Limited Asaba.
According to Nse, “the shipment of controlled drugs originated from India. Onuchukwu Benjamin Owulu imported 107 cartons of Tramanow, a brand of Tramadol weighing 1,078.56kgs while Igboanugo Vincent Tochukwu imported 250 cartons of Vingil Tramadol weighing 2,000kgs. Both suspects are being investigated.”
NDLEA explained that preliminary investigation carried out by the agency’s Joint Task Force (JTF) 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 sub-section (a) of the NDLEA Act.
The anti-drug body stated that it also gathered that the drugs were imported for illicit distribution as they were disguised with cartons of condoms and other licit pharmaceutical products.
NDLEA added that the discovery of the drug was made during examination of the container prior to delivery at their preferred destination outside the port and that the companies could not produce either import or clearance permit for the said drugs.
Onuchukwu Benjamin in his statement said that he could not obtain import permit because of strike action embarked upon by staff of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
“I registered Benow Pharmaceuticals Impex Limited in 2009 and started business in 2010 as a qualified pharmacist. I began the process of importing this consignment in September 2015 and the goods arrived on 13th December, 2015 and my agent informed me of the challenge to obtain permit to import and clear the Tramanow. The strike action 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” he stated.
The second suspect, Igboanugo Vincent also told narcotic investigators that he had not obtained permit to import the said drug.
According to him, “I am a qualified pharmacist practicing in Asaba. However, I have not obtained the import and clearance permit for this shipment.”
The suspects, the NDLEA stated would soon be prosecuted and that if found guilty, they could be banned from further practice if it is confirmed that they are certified pharmacists.