London police arrest Arik cabin crew members over alleged drug trafficking

By The Citizen

Two workers of Arik Air were on Tuesday arrested at London Heathrow Airport in connection with alleged drug trafficking.

Both the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Arik Air are investigating the circumstances that led to the drug trafficking by the duo said to be cabin crew members of the airline.

The airline, however, said it would wait for the outcome of the investigation before it could come out with a statement on the situation.

There are indications that Arik Air may be fined if the suspects are found guilty of the illicit act in line with aviation practice.

The frequency of drug trafficking aboard Brazilian national airline, Varig, was one of the reasons the carrier ceased operations to Nigeria 19 years ago.

The same reason was adduced for the cessation of operations of Air India to Nigeria many years ago.

The Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Ahmadu Giade, has ordered the investigation of the two crew members of Arik Air.

It was learnt that one of the suspects was found in possession of 6kg of cocaine while the other was found with 60 packets of cigarettes.

The Arik Air flight reportedly took off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, on Monday. Eight out of 10 crew members that travelled with the flight were said to have been cleared while the remaining two were still being held in London.

According to the NDLEA chairman, 'we have received a report of the arrest and I have ordered a full-scale investigation of the incident. Anyone found wanting shall be brought to book as no effort shall be spared in protecting the image of our country.'

The Spokesman for NDLEA, Jarikre Ofoyeju, recalled that on August 8, 2007, officials of the NDLEA arrested a Virgin Atlantic crew member with drugs on a London-bound flight.

The crew member was caught at the Lagos airport with 1.743kg of cocaine. The drug, which was concealed in a black polythene bag inside a hand luggage, was found in the flight compartment.

The agency also vowed to beef up security checks at all entry and exit points in the country.

The Spokesman for Arik Air, Banji Ola, said the airline was co-operating fully with the United Kingdom (UK) authorities and all other agencies concerned in the investigation.

The street value of the cocaine in possession of a member of the crew, according to a source in NDLEA, is valued at over N180 million.

He said the carrier remained committed to the fight against drug and illicit substances trafficking and would not tolerate the use of any of its aircraft or crew for the trafficking of banned items and substances.

According to the airline, 'the attention of the management of Arik Air has been drawn to the detention in UK of two of its cabin crew members in connection with alleged possession of items suspected to be banned substances.

'Arik Air is co-operating fully with the UK authorities and all other concerned agencies in their investigations.'