By Nairobian Correspondent
The once untouchable West African drug lords in Nairobi have gone underground as they plot to fight robust government efforts to cripple them. The barons, who have for years been said to pay protection money to security agencies and politicians, have been rattled by the deportation of some of their alleged counterparts.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has in recent weeks declared war on drug kingpins, leading to the deportation of at least 20 foreigners, most prominently controversial Nigerian Anthony Chinedu, who has lived in Kenya for at least 18 years.
The man usually described as a ‘businessman’, who has constantly made headlines in his property and child custody tussles with estranged Kenyan wife Joyce Akinyi, has been vocal on Nigerian media after his deportation.
“They burst into my house, armed to the teeth and said they were policemen. They numbered about 25 fierce-looking men. That is how they usually harass Nigerians. They would ransack your house without your supervision and by the time they leave your house every valuable is gone. They picked me up early morning on Sunday, May 26, 2013, as I set out for the gym, and that was the last time I saw my family. They detained me till Monday when they finally deported me via a chattered flight,” said Chinedu, who in 2007 fought off attempts to deport him.
He claimed he was detained in an isolated place without food, bathing water and ventilation.
“I saw hell, my brother. In fact, they treated me like an animal,” Chinedu is quoted to have said, further alleging that his deportation was instigated by his ex-wife and a politician who was after his property.
When contacted by The Nairobian, Akinyi denied she had anything to do with Chinedu’s woes.
“I don’t want to talk about such things. My focus is on raising my children,” she said.
Chinedu is currently facing drug related charges at a city court. His battle for the ownership of Nairobi’s Deep West Resort has also been the subject of a court battle.
Foreign Affairs and police sources indicate that a list of the next batch of undesirable foreigners is now ready. But even before this is done, a diplomatic war between Nigeria and Kenya is simmering after the West African giant detained the chartered plane used to deport Chinedu and others at the Murtala Muhammad Airport in Lagos. Kenya police, state officials and the crew that accompanied the deportees were also still stuck in Nigeria by the time of going to press.
Chinedu has demanded that the plane be sold to pay for his loss of property in Kenya. The Nigerian government is also reportedly unhappy that its High Commission in Nairobi was not informed of the deportations.
Others said to have been deported alongside the flamboyant Nigerian are Eneke Chimeze alias Joshua Boafo, Inobemhe Emmanuel Peter, John Peter Osinomuno, Paul Maison alias Yellow man, Christopher Nawengu Uche, Uche Fatai, Adebayi Oluwatosin, Toure Abubakar (Nigeria), Peter Sessay, Kamara Koman (Guinea) and Ona Kazuo Ben (Japan).
The individuals own businesses and property in Kenya, mostly real estate. They are also said to be married to or dating several Kenyan women. While most West Africans in Nairobi are generally referred to as ‘Nigerians’, they come from countries as diverse as Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Benin and Niger.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has in recent months raised the alarm on the rising power of drug cartels in West African countries, with links to the more potent Colombian and Mexican syndicates. The West African cartels are thought to have expanded their reach to East Africa over the years. Kenya has especially provided a hub for their operations, with the help of corrupt security officers and politicians.
The West Africans and their Latin American counterparts usually target the Asian and European markets, but are also thought to be responsible for the emergence of cocaine trafficking and abuse in East Africa, which is a transit route. Kenyan police sources believe that the cartels may have influenced the detention of the plane in Nigeria.
Even as the government cracks the whip on suspected foreign drug barons, their internal and external networks remain intact.
The Nairobi-based foreign drug barons — who mostly live and own property in upmarket estates like Kilimani, Kileleshwa, Lavington and Riverside — are adept at the art of seduction, luring young beautiful Kenyan women to act as mules (individuals used to carry drugs) in a mix of business and pleasure. The Kenyan women mostly targeted are students, airhostesses, models and high-end prostitutes. Some are married to the drug barons and junior members of the cartels while others are their girlfriends, who are co-opted into the highly secretive and intricate syndicates. Less influential members of the cartels are also said to be increasingly renting houses in South C and South B.
Some of the suspected drug barons in Nairobi are known to frequent various entertainment joints, often accompanied by bodyguards and beautiful women. In two establishments on Koinange Street, the kingpins and their hangers-on usually buy expensive drinks by the bottle and fill the tables with beer. They are loud and arrogant, and can never be touched by bouncers, no matter what they do. Some even hold licensed guns.
According to a security officer, it is almost impossible to link the drug lords to the business since they have perfected so well the art of covering their tracks. They indeed do not even touch the drugs.
Head of Anti-Narcotics Unit (ANU) Hamisi Masaa said his officers have made many arrests adding that they are on the trail of those still plying the trade.
“We shall get them. We have arrested many suspects before and the statistics speak for themselves,” he said. The ANU boss said they were now preparing the quarterly statistics that will be released at the end of this month.
Errant security agents, immigration and registration of persons officials, influential politicians, airline staff, revenue and tax officials have been drafted to work for these cartels that use Kenya as a transit point – though there is a growth in the local market for the drugs. The officials are now panicking following the President’s tough stand.
Apart from buying influence, the barons have also used the courts to frustrate any attempts to arrest and deport them.
A senior police officer working at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and who did not want to be named, described the real barons as being faceless because of their ability to fool all those involved in the trafficking chain.
“They walk free as work is done on their behalf. They recruit so many agents that even when we arrest a suspect, he or she has no idea who is the owner of the drugs. The chain is too long and reaching the real boss is sometimes impossible,” said the officer.
Our source, who has been involved in many drug busts at the airport, said a majority of those caught are innocent Kenyan unknowingly recruited as traffickers or couriers.
For now, it appears some barons have gone into hiding as they wait for things to cool off, and are supposedly fully briefed about the government moves against them Their active networks, however, remain a threat.