The Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, has said it would punish Nigeria’s largest independent airline, Arik Air, over the arrest of an Arik staff for cocaine trafficking in the U.K.
Two female aircrew members of Arik who flew in its plane were arrested on Tuesday in the U.K. for allegedly being in possession of hard drugs.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that one of the two has been released after the substance found on her was found to be cigarettes. The other is still being detained in the U.K. for allegedly being in possession 6kg of cocaine.
Arik spokesperson, Banji Ola, confirmed the release of one of the two staff. The company had earlier pledged to cooperate with U.K authorities in their investigations.
However, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), on Friday, said it would apply its laws to punish airlines that allow their planes to be used for drug trafficking.
The spokesman for the Agency, Mitchell Ofoyeju, who confirmed the release of one of the Arik Staff, stated the agency’s position in a statement in Lagos.
He said the released crew member is currently helping NDLEA officers in the ongoing investigation.
However, “the crew member, who was reportedly found with 6kg of substance suspected to be cocaine, is still being quizzed in London,” the statement quoted the NDLEA Chairman, Ahmadu Giade, as saying.
The NDLEA warned that any airline found wanting would be penalised, pointing out that section 25 of the NDLEA Act outlined the responsibilities of airlines.
“It shall be the duty of every commercial carrier to take reasonable precaution to ensure that its means of transport are not used in the commission of offences under this Act.
“They are to comply with appropriate security measures at points of entry and exit in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other customs control areas, to prevent unauthorised cargo in its means of transportation,” Mr. Giade said.
The Drug Agency did not specify the punishment to be meted on Arik if found guilty, while Mr. Ola said he is not aware of any intending punishment by the NDLEA on the airline.
Section 25 of the NDLEA Act stipulates training of personnel to identify suspicious consignment or persons, promotion of integrity of their personnel and submission of cargo manifests in advance.
It also provides for the use of tamper-resistant, individually verifiable seals on containers and reporting to the agency at the earliest opportunity all suspicious circumstances relating to drug trafficking.
The NDLEA therefore called on airlines to take necessary steps to prevent drug trafficking in the country.