A staff of Arik Air has told the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency investigators how members of staff of the airline smuggle illicit drugs aboard flights.
Oliver Chibuzor, a catering loader at the airline who has been arrested by NDLEA officials, said they subvert airport security checks by concealing cocaine in catering supplies.
On Monday, Chika Udensi, a senior member of the Arik Air cabin crew, was arrested by UK Border Force officials with 20 kilogrammes of cocaine at Heathrow Airport in London.
Mr. Udensi, an air steward, allegedly concealed the cocaine which has an estimated street value of N100 million, within the “construction of laptop bags,” according to the NDLEA.
In a statement on Thursday, the NDLEA quoted Mr. Chibuzor as telling narcotic investigators that he was introduced into the illicit drug business by Mr. Udensi.
“Whenever Chika gives me the drug, I will hide it in catering supplies. Chika knows where to collect the drug inside the flight,” the agency quoted Mr. Chibuzor as stating during interrogation by investigators.
“They pay me N400, 000 per bag. I was expecting N1.2 million for the three bags that I smuggled into the aircraft,” he said.
The anti-narcotics agency said that preliminary investigation revealed that both Messrs Udensi and Chibuzor had been infiltrated by a suspected drug cartel.
Mr. Chibuzor, who hails from Isiala Ngwa North local government of Abia State, is a graduate of Business Administration and was employed by Arik Air in 2009, according to the NDLEA.
Ahmadu Giade, NDLEA’s Chairman, said he had directed that henceforth all airport workers must be extensively searched.
“The agency has taken drastic measures to avert infiltration of airport workers by criminal syndicates,” Mr. Giade said.
“Airline officials and airport workers shall be subjected to comprehensive search. The NDLEA will resist any act capable of undermining security at all entry and exit points,” he said.
Mr. Giade also said that all catering trucks, luggage trucks, aviation fuel tankers, machines and personnel whose duty directly or indirectly relates to tarmac and flight operations would be subjected to full screening.
As part of its investigation, the NDLEA said its operatives had searched the rented apartment of Mr. Udensi in Ejigbo, a Lagos suburb, where he lives with his mother and siblings. His wife and children are based in Canada.
The NDLEA also said that Mr. Udensi’s Range Rover car, which had been impounded and was parked at the airline’s premises, had been moved to the agency’s office as exhibit.