Twenty two Thai citizens have been arrested and detained at the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, Apapa, Lagos, over an alleged attempt to smuggle 32.9kg cocaine from Brazil to Nigeria.
The suspects, who are sailors, were arrested on Thursday aboard MV CHAYANEE NAREE, by a joint security team following an intelligence report from the UK Border Force.
It was gathered that the cargo ship left Santos, in Brazil, on September 19, 2021, and the UK Border Force discovered that the vessel was heading to Nigeria.
All 22 crew members are being detained on board the ship at the Lagos Port Complex.
Addressing a press briefing, on Friday, the Commander of NNS Beecroft, Commodore Bashir Mohammed, said the arrest of the sailors was due to the recent sting operation conducted through collaborative efforts between the Nigerian Navy and other law enforcement agencies including INTERPOL, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
Mohammed said the joint security team, acting on credible intelligence from INTERPOL and naval officers, commenced tracking of the vessel, MV CHAYANEE NAREE, which was suspected of attempting to smuggle narcotics into Nigeria.
He said the security team started monitoring the movement of the vessel with the aid of the Nigerian Navy Falcon Eye Maritime Domain Awareness system.
According to Mohammed, it was discovered during investigation the the vessel drifted for a week at a position about 250nm (approximately 500 kilometres) off the coast of Benin Republic from October 1 to October 8, before setting sail and arriving Nigeria on October 8, 2021.
“Upon entering Nigerian waters, the vessel was intercepted by Nigerian Navy Ship, Ekulu, and escorted to NPA port where she was directed to berth on October 9, 2021, and taken into custody by the navy. Thereafter, other agencies were invited to conduct an extensive and comprehensive search of the vessel for narcotics and other contraband items.
“The suspected vessel was thoroughly searched by a combined team of Nigerian Navy, INTERPOL Nigeria, Nigeria Customs Service and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency. The Search began on October 9, 2021, and at about 6pm on October 13, 2021, the efforts of the search team were rewarded when a bag was found in the Vessel’s Cargo Compartment One. Tests conducted on the contents of the bag by the NDLEA confirmed the substance to be cocaine wrapped in 30 slabs weighing 32.9kg. Accordingly, the substance was handed over to the NDLEA while further search and investigation continues on every nook and cranny of the vessel,” he added
Also speaking, the Customs Area Controller, Apapa Command, Ibrahim Malanta Yusuf, said it is gratifying to point out that the success of the operation was a result of the excellent synergy and collaborative efforts between the Nigerian Navy, INTERPOL Nigeria, NDLEA and Nigeria Customs Service.
He said as investigation and search of the vessel progress, additional information will be released to the press men.
“The desired end state by all parties involved is the prosecution of all those involved in this nefarious act according to the laws of the land,” he added.
Those at the press briefing include Mrs Mercy Thompson, who represented the NDLEA chairman, Gen. Buba Marwa (Rtd) and Deputy Commissioner of Police Nwogwu Martins,Head of INTERPOL in Lagos, who represented the Inspector General of Police (IGP).