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Cornered: How NDLEA Captured Wanted Drug Baron Inside His Village Mansion

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The serenity Umuomi village was shattered recently when operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) invaded a luxurious country home.

Their target: Joachin Chikaodi Mbonu, a notorious figure in the clandestine world of drug trafficking, particularly known for his involvement in the production and distribution of methamphetamine, locally dubbed as ‘mkpuru mmiri’.

Mbonu, aged 42 and identified as the leader of a sprawling drug syndicate with operations spanning Imo and Rivers States, had long evaded law enforcement’s grasp.

A statement issued by the NDLEA’s spokesperson, Femi Babafemi, gave insight into the arrest.

The statement says, “The cartel with operational bases in Imo and Rivers state became a target of the Agency following intelligence indicating it is responsible for the distribution of a substantial quantity of methamphetamine in South East, South-South and other parts of the country.”

Photograph: NDLEA.

However, meticulous intelligence gathering and weeks of surveillance by a specialized unit of the NDLEA finally bore fruit on Friday, 5th July 2024.

Acting swiftly on their findings, the operatives apprehended Mbonu at his opulent mansion, accompanied by his associate Kenneth Chibuike Ofoegbu, 34, who was also implicated in the illegal activities.

The raid yielded a significant cache of illicit substances and paraphernalia: 419.99 grams of methamphetamine, 750 grams of iodine (a precursor chemical), 500 grams of sodium bicarbonate (another precursor), along with electronic weighing scales and a pump-action gun with cartridges.

Undeterred by the initial seizure, the NDLEA extended their operation to Mbonu’s secondary hideout at 11 Redemption Avenue, Port Harcourt, where additional contraband was discovered, including processed sodium bicarbonate and more methamphetamine.

Further intensifying their crackdown, NDLEA officers conducted a raid at the residence of Odoemenam Pedro Chinedu, an associate of Mbonu who remains at large, in Njaba LGA, Imo State.

There, they uncovered yet another pump-action gun with ammunition, further underscoring the network’s criminal sophistication and readiness to defend their illicit trade by force.

Joachin Mbonu’s journey into the drug underworld traces back to his years in South Africa, where he honed his skills in methamphetamine production until legal scrutiny prompted his relocation back to Nigeria.

“Mbonu had escaped from South Africa where he lived for years and mastered the art of cooking methamphetamine after he came under investigation for drug dealings.

“Upon his return to Nigeria, he continued the criminal trade by setting up clandestine laboratories in remote villages to shield his nefarious activities,” Babafemi said.

In response to the successful operation, Brigadier General Mohamed Buba Marwa (Rtd), Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, praised the officers involved for their diligence and commitment.

He emphasised that the operation’s precision and scope should serve as a resounding message to other drug cartels across Nigeria: there will be no sanctuary for drug trafficking, no matter how remote or sophisticated their operations may seem.

As Mbonu awaits due legal process, NDLEA has already initiated proceedings to potentially seize two of his luxurious properties in Imo State, marking a significant blow against the illicit drug trade and a step towards dismantling organized crime networks within Nigeria.

A few days before the raid, the NDLEA, in a series of coordinated operations across several states in Nigeria, had delivered significant blows to drug traffickers.

From Lagos to Benue, and from Kano to Osun, the agency’s operatives have conducted raids, intercepted illicit shipments, and apprehended key suspects involved in the narcotics trade.

The focal point of these operations was a major bust in Lagos, where NDLEA agents dismantled a high-profile cocaine syndicate led by Agbakoba John Mmadu and his wife, Agbakoba Ijeoma Chinwe.

The couple, alongside their associate Okoye Ifeoma Maryjane, were apprehended at separate locations in the city. Mmadu was caught with 7 parcels of cocaine weighing 7.652 kilograms, while Ijeoma and Ifeoma were found with 122 compressed pellets totalling 2.42 kilograms.

The street value of the seized cocaine exceeded N2.1 billion.

In Benue state, NDLEA intercepted 350 grams of cocaine concealed in an MP3 speaker parcel, leading to the arrest of Odeh Anthony.

Similarly, in Adamawa state, a Chadian national, Yves Ahmat Gali, was caught with 20 blocks of cannabis disguised in a loudspeaker.

Further north in Kano, a youth corps member, Yusuf Abdulrahman, was arrested with 1.250 kilograms of cannabis.

The operations extended to Osun state, where Ba’ale Ige Babatunde, head of Akarabata community in Ile-Ife, was apprehended with 5 kilograms of fresh cannabis plants.

In Ondo state, NDLEA raided Ikota forest, destroying 42,500 kilograms of cannabis on a 17-hectare farmland and recovering 73.5 kilograms for the prosecution of suspects Monday Ali and Jimoh Alewi.

In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, NDLEA intercepted a vehicle carrying substantial quantities of codeine syrup, tramadol, diazepam, and rophynol.

Sanusi Mamman and Usaini Ibrahim, the suspects, claimed they were transporting the opioids from Onitsha, Anambra state.

Amidst these operations, NDLEA has also intensified its War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) sensitization campaigns nationwide.

These efforts include lectures and awareness programs conducted in schools, worship centres, workplaces, and communities across different states.

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