Afam Ukatu, a Nigerian billionaire businessman who is the chairman of Mallinson Group, a pharmaceutical and plastic manufacturing firm, has been nabbed by the anti-narcotics agency.
The business owner, said to be a major importer of tramadol, was arrested by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), after being identified by the agency as the drug baron behind the N3billion tramadol deal involving Abba Kyari, the suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police, who led Intelligence Response Team (IRT).
Tramadol, an addictive opioid used as pain medication for moderate to moderately severe pain, was banned by the Nigerian government because of its endemic abuse in the country.
A typical opioid, the common side effects include constipation, itchiness, and nausea.
More severe side effects may also include hallucinations, seizures, increased risk of serotonin syndrome, decreased alertness, and in some cases kidney or liver problems.
Among other revelations about the fugitive billionaire, Femi Babafemi, spokesperson for the NDLEA who announced his arrest in a statement on Monday, said he operated as much as 103 bank accounts, most of which are used to launder money.
Babafemi said Ukatu was nabbed onboard a flight to Abuja at the MM2 terminal of the Lagos airport, Ikeja on Wednesday 13th April, after months of surveillance and evading arrest.
Notably, he was identified as the billionaire drug baron behind the N3 billion Tramadol deal involving Abba Kyari, the disgraced police chief who is currently standing trial over an alleged cocaine deal, among other drug related charges.
Babafemi, in the statement on Monday, also Ukatu has been a major importer of large consignments of different brands and high dosages of Tramadol Hydrochloride, ranging from 120mg, 200mg, 225mg and 250mg, all of which are illicit.
“Ukatu owns pharmaceutical and plastic manufacturing companies, which he used as a cover to import illicit drugs into Nigeria. This is in addition to operating 103 bank accounts, most of which are used to launder money,” Babafemi said.
According to the NDLEA spokesperson, “Ukatu came under watch last year after five cartons of Tramadol 225mg were seized from his staff on 4th May 2021 when he sent them to sell to undercover police officers (unknown to Ukatu) from the then Kyari-led IRT of the Nigeria Police, Ikeja Lagos. The price of a carton of Tramadol was negotiated at N17million each as against the then black market value that ranged between N18million and N20million a carton in Lagos.
“After the arrest of Ukatu’s staff: Pius Enidom and Sunday Ibekwete, Kyaris men were then led by the suspects to Mallinson’s warehouse at Ojota in Lagos where 197 additional Cartons of Tramadol 225mg were seized by the IRT Team. The monetary value of the 202 cartons of Tramadol seized from Mallinson in one day was over N3billion.
“Three weeks after the seizure, the Kyaris IRT team transferred only 12 Cartons of the Tramadol with one truck and a suspect to the Lagos Command of the NDLEA, leaving 190 cartons unaccounted for. After over eight months of following the lead, anti-narcotic officers of the Agency eventually arrested Ukatu at the Lagos airport on 13th April 2022. Kyari and four top members of his team are already facing trial for a different but similar offence at a Federal High Court in Abuja.”