They are Nigerians who have made big money through dubious international channels as sale of fake and dangerous drugs
They are bedfellows. In their infamous empires, they are the linchpins, dangerous, crude, merciless, cynical and destructive in their operations. In fact, they hold the key to life and death of many people through their nefarious business.
They are also the nation’s worst nightmares. With their operations cutting across the globe, the nation’s integrity is rubbished and its dignity torn into shreds, all because of them. They are in the small minority, yet their bite is enough to categorise Nigeria as a nation of crooks. They are chillingly familiar: they are manufacturers and importers of fake drugs; traffickers of hard drugs and advance free fraud practitioners or 419.
They look and act as if they are untouchable because of their flamboyant lifestyles, array of friends in high places, using their ill-gotten wealth to intimidate and harass the masses. Their names also ring bell.
Until his arrest for advance free fraud, Emmanuel Nwude-Odenigwe, popularly known as Owelle of Abanga, looked and acted as just another businessman. His 11-storey high-rise business building in central Lagos stands out as one of the very modern buildings in the area. He occupies the last floor himself. The ground floor of the building houses a commercial bank while he devotes the rest of the building to his business concern, Euro-Holdings. Nwude-Odenigwe paints a picture of a very successful businessman. He has flashy and expensive cars, such as Mercedes Benz cars, a Bouster Porch, BMW saloon cars, an Acura Honda saloon and a Jaguar Vonder plas, among others. He has houses in eyebrow areas in Lagos, Enugu, Abuja, Port Harcourt, London and Abagana, his hometown. He also has mansions in California and Los Angeles, in the United States. Nwude-Odenigwe has friends in many high places. He is believed to be one of the major financiers of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, especially in Anambra State. He is reputed to be a very close associate of Abubakar Atiku, the former vice-president.
Nwude-Odenigwe has investment in many business ventures. He is the singular largest equity holder in Union Bank PLC, running to millions of dollars. He was member of the board of directors of the bank until December 2001 when he resigned. He owns Lamour sterile water, among other businesses.
It was learnt that Nwude-Odenigwe relies more on advance free fraud for his wealth. His present trouble is believed to be for masterminding the defrauding of Nelson Sakaguchi, a Brazilian bank manager, of the sum of $242 million. Sources revealed that Nwude-Odenigwe was picked up early June (some years back) at his residence in Ikoyi, Lagos. Seven of his exotic cars were also taken to the premises of the EFCC on 15, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi.
Nwude-Odenigwe and Ikechukwu Anajemba, now late, had in 1995, duped Sakaguchi of the $242 million, which led to the collapse of Banco Noroeste, a bank in Brazil, with headquarters in Sao Paulo. Sakaguchi was a director of the international department of the bank.
In striking the deal, Nwude-Odenigwe had posed as Paul Ogwuma, the then governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, while Ikechukwu, who posed as Rasheed Gomwalk, director of International Remittance in CBN, died in 1998. Amaka, wife of Ikechukwu, had acted as wife of Gomwalk in the scam. She inherited the share of her husband in the deal. She has a palatial residence each in Enugu, Abuja, Lagos and abroad. She is known to be a socialite, with friends in high places, especially among the politicians. She loves jewels, shoes as well as flashy and expensive cars.
The Awolowo Road office of the EFCC has also played host to no fewer than 26 advance free fraud kingpins during the heavy campaign against financial crimes. Prominent among them are Fred Ajudua, a lawyer from Ibusa, Delta State; Adedeji Alumile, a lagos socialite popularly called Ade Bendel and Morris Ibekwe, a member of the House of Representatives representing Okigwe North federal constituency in Imo State.
Ajudua is a well-known socialite of his own right. He is arguably, the richest among those who were charged for advance free fraud. His association with scam businesses dates back to about 18 years ago. Then, he went about in his exotic cars with police escort and siren. Despite his arrest and detention for about four years during the late General Sani Abacha regime, Ajudua’s wealth does not appear to dwindle and neither is his flamboyancy. He owns a palatial house on Victoria Island with tunnel underneath. He owns other landed properties in exotic areas in Port Harcourt, Abuja, London and the United States. He lives like a king and enjoys being addressed as “chief.” He likes expensive cars and likes to show off his wealth by spraying entertainers and celebrants in foreign currencies. At one of the parties thrown for his wife, Princess Ajudua, he was said to have sprayed more than $100,000 and other currencies.
He was also known to have dabbled into publishing business. He once financed the publication of the defunct Mr, a newsmagazine.
Ajudua is believed to have made his money through scams. At the moment, he has eight charges of advance free fraud hanging on his neck. One of them is for N234 million worth scam against Remy Cima and Pierre Vijgen, two Dutch nationals between 1999 and 2000. Ajudua and his group had told his victims that they were going to transfer $36 million to their account from the federal ministry of aviation.
Ajudua, who posed as Isa Audu, the auditor-general of Nigeria, had visited London three times to perfect the case. He allegedly collected $1,698,338 from the Dutch men.
Another case involved Frieda Springer-Beck, 54, a German national whom he duped of about $300,000. Springer-Beck was so wrecked by the fraud that she moved to Nigeria, where she is now helping other victims of advance free fraud. Springer-Beck now prepares meat pies, chicken pies and cakes, which she sells to make ends meet in Nigeria.
Ajudua is known to be an arrogant and self-important person. On his arrest, he told the anti-fraud security men: “I am a veteran in these cases. I have spent about four to five years in jail. What you should have done is to say, Chief Ajudua, tomorrow we are going to court and we will meet there…I have been dealing with the police for 12 to 15 years.”
Indeed, But so is his colleague in crime, Ade Bendel, who has also been in and out of detention for several cases of advance free fraud. Like Ajudua, Ade Bendel is a socialite of note. He traverses the length and breadth of social gatherings in the country with reckless abandon. A good mixer, Ade Bendel had friends in high places especially among law enforcement officers.
Like others in his clique, Ade Bendel enjoys riding in flashy cars and owns beautiful houses in several places. He is believed to have enjoyed the company of bevy ladies.
Unlike some of his mates, Ade Bendel set his tentacles to defraud at home and abroad. One of his victims is Abba Kyari, retired brigadier-general and former military governor of North-Central State, whom he duped of millions of naira. Ali Abdul Atiah, 65, a retired Egyptian army general, similarly fell for Ade Bendel’s scam and got about $605,000 from him. The Egyptian had been told that $500 million would be transferred into his account in respect of supply of agricultural equipment. To facilitate that, he was asked to pay the money.
Ibekwe, 51, like his comrades in fraud, acts and lives like a billionaire. A socialite of note, Ibekwe enjoys dancing to contemporary music and indulges in spraying money on musicians. In appreciation of that, Oliver De Coques, a highlife musician, waxed an album titled, “Okwelle Holdings Akuchinyerwata,” meaning, “Okwelle Holdings: The Wealth Destiny Bestowed on a Child,” in his praise. Wasiu Ayinde Marshal I, Kwam I, a Yoruba Fuji musician, devoted a part of an album to sing Ibekwe’s praises.
The indicted member of Nigeria House of Representatives has at least seven houses in choice locations in Festac Town, Lagos. He loves expensive cars, watches, designer shoes and beautiful women. A third of seven children, Ibekwe is said to have a rich brother, Goddy, who lives in Spain. He holds a diploma in journalism from an unnamed institution. He had two wives from whom he had four children.
In the early 1980s, Ibekwe started as a trader, dealing in tyres, through his Okwelle Holdings. But that was said to be a front. During that time, he was said to have pulled off a scam in Libya, which changed his financial situation. Through his social interaction, he dabbled into politics in 1995 and was elected into the National Constitutional Conference organised by the Abacha regime. That seemed to have paved the way for his election to the Federal House of Representatives in 1999.
In another dramatic twist of fate, Ibekwe crashed down from his exalted position as a lawmaker to become a major suspect in another scam. The former House committee chairman on police affairs, was accused of defrauding one Munch Klaus, a German national and Munch System Organisation, an electronics company, of more than $300,000 and Dm 75,000 in 1993. He had deceived Klaus into believing that Klaus’s company would be awarded a contract to deliver computers, monitors, radar system accessories and other needed equipment at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja. Ibekwe allegedly posed as Anthony Israel, the accountant-general in the then ministry of transport and aviation, to pull off the scam.
Ibekwe is not the first legislator to be caught in the web of financial crime. Edwin Onwudiwe, medical doctor and a Second Republic senator, who defeated Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, in 1983, is another one. He was accused of defrauding Partnership Investment Limited the sum of $345,000.
Before Onwudiwe went under, he was the chairman of a privately-owned bank. He had some houses in posh areas of Lagos and in the East. He also had some big cars in tow.
So is Toyin Abraham Igbira, a Lagos socialite, who was arrested for drug trafficking offence. Igbira is an unrepentant baron, who has been arrested many times for carrying drugs and for giving drugs to carriers. She had been the head of a group of drug traffickers since 1994.
Igbira owns comfortable houses in Abuja, Lagos and United States. She cherishes the company of highly-placed people and mingling with them. She lives life on a fast lane. She drives Mercedes Benz cars and other sophisticated cars. Igbira is believed to be worth several millions of naira and in foreign currencies.
She has sponsored many people abroad with drugs. One of the cases against her is in connection with the arrest of one Yekini Olalekan Salau with 2.6 kilogrammes of heroin concealed in his wheel chair, December 7, 1997. Salau was to take the drugs to the US, before he was arrested at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.
On November 15, 2002 she was arrested again with a passport bearing Toyin Oluwasola Abikan and 675 grammes of heroin, which she ingested on her way to New York on Nigeria Airways flight. She was already facing multiple charges on trafficking before the last arrest.
The cartel similarly has Taju Adeniyi, 40, another drug baron. Adeniji is popular among Lagos socialites, where he belongs to many groups. Sleek cars, women and ostentatious living are part of him. He is also known to have houses in Nigeria and abroad, as well as a fleet of costly cars.
Adeniji was arrested in 1997 in connection with the arrest of one Abdullahi Mamman Tunbert from whom 592 grammes of cocaine was seized while he was to board a plane for the US, August 9, 1997. Tunbert confessed that Adeniji gave him the drugs.
One Rachael Adeniran, a resident of Lagos, similarly fingered the baron, December 5, 1999, when she was caught with 2.5 kilogrammes of cocaine. Adeniran was to take the drug to London, on British Airways flight. One Matthew Sunday Ojo, 46, was arrested July 27, 2002 on his way to London, having ingested 1.240 kilogrammes of cocaine. He too, claimed that Adeniji gave him the drug. With the help of one Ahmed Muraina, another drug carrier, Adeniji was arrested According to the NDLEA zonal commander at the airport, Adeniji had been charged to court on various drug-related offences and was on court bail when he was arrested again. “In fact, Adeniji is being arrested for the third time in five years. He is no doubt an unrepentant drug baron that must face the wrath of the law accordingly,” said Abdullahi Danburam, the commander.
The lure of stupendous money being realised from the illicit drug trades appears to be too much for the barons to resist, especially to maintain their flamboyant way of life. Arrested many times in the past is Olatunde Muniru Longe, a baron arrested at the Murtala Muhammed Airport. He had ingested 940 grammes of cocaine with the aim of smuggling same to London. He was earlier arrested October 13, 2001 with 11.2 kilogrammes of heroin on arrival on aboard Kenyan Airlines from Bombay. His passport bore Omoruyi Pedro Obemwengie, but he told the NDLEA that his real name was Wahab Salami.
Chidoka Kenneth Williams, 43, also uses many aliases to deceive law enforcement officers. When he arrived Nigeria from Dakar, Senegal, June 23, 2003, Williams, who hails from Obosi in Idemili Local Government of Anambra State, had Nigerian and Guinean passports and three airlines tickets on him. He identified himself with the Nigerian passport and requested to make phone calls outside the arrival hall before coming back to pick his luggage. He came back shortly after. But when he returned for his four luggage, it was observed that he had dropped the winter jacket he had earlier worn. The tags on the luggage also bore the name Camara Boubacar, whereas the name on his passport was Chidoka Kenneth Williams. A surveillance officer outside the hall had observed that Williams had given his winter jacket to someone later identified as Basil Amadi, 38.
The two of them were taken to the NDLEA office at the airport and thoroughly searched. Williams’ Guinea passport with his picture bore the name Camara Boubacar, two tickets and four claiming tags were found in Amadi’s pant. A further search on the four luggage revealed concealment of cocaine in transparent nylons in the false wall of cream containers weighing 20 kilogrammes.
So far, Joe Brown Akubueze, who was jailed February 7, 1994, remains as Nigeria’s most renowned drug baron. He was very flashy, with sleek cars and multi-billion naira empire spread across the country. He is still believed to have kept millions of dollars abroad and within, from where he is now financing the legal battle for his freedom. The Miscellaneous Offences Tribunal, Lagos zone, jailed Akubueze in 1994, for 115 years imprisonment with hard labour, for importation of heroine into the country in the early 1990s.
Akubueze had brought in four container loads of heroine concealed in water coolers before it was shipped to Nigeria. The consignment weighed 258 kilogrammes and worth about 651 pounds sterling. He was arrested December 30, 1993 by the NDLEA, which acted on a tip-off from the Thai police.
For decades, Marcel Nnakwe, chief executive of Marcel Pharmaceutical, Onitsha, Anambra State, held sway as a linchpin in drug faking business. He was also an untouchable because of the circle of friends he kept and the amount of influence he wielded.
In his vast empire, he was the king. He lived like one and acted to type-arrogant, cynical, and intolerant of any opposition. He owned acres of land where he built himself some palaces and assembled a fleet of choice cars, mostly used by his children, especially those in higher institutions.
The long arm of the law caught him and he became probably the biggest catch by the NAFDAC since the renewed war on fake drugs started. NAFDAC impounded eight lorry loads of fake, expired and adulterated drugs from his two warehouses at 25 and 35 Uga Street, Onitsha.
Nnakwe had had four similar cases. But this time there was no way of escaping the law. He was forced to apologise publicly to the entire nation, while all the fake and adulterated drugs were destroyed in his very presence and those of the world captured on camera by the media. Before then, he had been taken to court three times, 1996, 1997 and 1999, for importing fake and adulterated drugs, without trial.
R.S.P. Yaro, a blind man billionaire, wielded a lot of power in illicit drug business in the North. Until he was arrested years ago, Yaro was the godfather to many people in the cartel. As a Muslim, Yaro lived a simple life, but was said to have used charms and mystical powers, to escape the wrath of the law.
Sometime ago, NAFDAC announced the arrest of Boniface Achoronwa, a big time baron, who specialises in clearing of fake pharmaceutical products at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja. According to the agency, Achoronwa usually collects cargo tags from the importers of fake drug upon arrival and later collects the luggage and delivers to them at arranged spots.
Peter Onyeagba, another big-time fake drugs importer, was arrested by NAFDAC, for importing fake Nizoral tablets valued at about N5 million. The import came in on Ethiopian Airline.
One of shock finds was that of James Wallace, a socialite and business mogul, who imported 17 containers purportedly containing maize starch. But physical examination by the agency revealed that two of the containers were filled with sand.
These ones would not be forgotten quickly as some of them are now living on the right side of the law.
culled from: Newswatch