The Apapa Area command of the Nigeria Customs Service has uncovered and seized 20 cartons of 120 mg and 225mg of Trapaking tablets, a new brand of the prohibited Tramadol worth N1.560billion concealed inside a 1/40-foot container carrying cartons of sweets and bubble gums.
Controller of the Command, Comptroller Yusuf Malanta, who displayed the seized drugs to journalists in Lagos on Thursday said they were discovered during physical examination by operatives of the command at Classic bonded terminal at Ago Palace Way in Lagos.
Comptroller Malanta said the drugs, which were declared as chocolates and imported from India arrived the Apapa port on July 3rd from where it was transferred to the bonded terminal and the command had been monitoring its movements since the importer abandoned it.
He said, “The importer was trying to buy time to see whether he can undermine our officers but we are really on top of our game and we will continue to be on top of our game. If the importer is not tired of losing his investments, we too will not be tired of making him lose his investments and ensure that he is tried and brought to book.
“The importer made two declarations. He made a declaration of spare parts on item one and chocolate on item 2 but he didn’t make the declaration on the drugs.
“He cleverly concealed these drugs at the back end of the container just to undermine our operatives. We searched the container and we found out there are 20 cartons of these drugs.
“These drugs are more deadly than the normal tramadol and you can imagine the kind of havoc it could cause if it enters the society.
“Most of the criminal actions taking place today in our society are with the aid of these kinds of drugs.”
Giving a breakdown of the drugs, Malanta said the 225mg Trapaking has 838,500 tablets while the 120mg has 90,010 capsules.
Malanta commended operatives of the command resident at the terminal for the seizure, adding that the collaborative efforts between the Customs and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency ( NAFDAC) is yielding positive results.
He said while the command has gotten substantial evidence on those behind the import, investigation is ongoing to ensure the perpetrators are brought to book.
“We have talked about our layers of control architectures and apart from the collaboration and intelligence received, This is purely the work of operatives here in this command.
“The joint operation with the NDLEA and other security agencies has also yielded good results in the command and we will continue to do that to make the port a safe and secure environment for compliant traders and for goods that are in tandem with Customs and Excise Management Act.
“We thank God who gave us wisdom to track and seize these drugs because it contravenes section 46 and 47 of the CEMA Act.
“I’m advising importers to desist from this kind of importation because it is harmful to our health. We will trail the importer with the support of our officers and other security agencies and bring the importer to book,” he said.
Comptroller Malanta noted that as a result of the collaborative efforts between Customs and NDLEA in the fight against importation of illicit drugs, it has become increasingly difficult for importers to bring in tramadol into the country when compared to previous years.
On efforts by Customs to track illicit importation from country of origin, Comptroller Malanta said, “The CGC has initiated the e- Customs modernisation – that is complete automation of Customs business processes which begins even from the port of loading to the port of origin where e-manifest will be x-trayed right in the port of loading before it comes to port of destination and that will show the content of cargo there.
“We believe that with the introduction of the application, illicit drugs and other contraband will be tracked.
“We will soon start pre scanning operations where even containers going to off dock terminals will be scanned and remote images will be analysed, stored and anytime the importer/ agent makes a declaration, the declaration will reveal the kind of item in the system.
“With this kind of automation and trade facilitation apparatus, we will make sure things fall in the right place.
Also speaking, the Commander, NDLEA, Apapa Area Special Command, Ishiaku Yusuf Kwajaffa, said this is the first time the agency is coming across the new variant which potency is three times higher than tramadol.
“This is a new variant of tramadol and this is the first time we are coming across this particular one called tapentadol.
“If you look at this capsule critically, you will see it is written 120mg but it is just a cover. The actual potency of the drug is three times higher than the normal tramadol,” he said.
The NDLEA boss said with the street value of the drugs put at N1.560billion, each carton cost N78 million.
Comptroller Yusuf Malanta (middle) displaying the seized cartons of Trapaking drugs with operatives of the NDLEA at Classic 1 bonded terminal in Lagos on Thursday.