Navy intercepts N40m drugs, assures NDLEA of cooperation

Some bags of the recovered drugs
  • As IMF warns Zimbabwe against excessive spending

Plans by a trans-border gang to export cannabis worth over N40 million through the nation’s waterways to other West African countries was, weekend, foiled by the Nigerian Navy, following the recovery of two fibre boats loaded with 100 bags of the substance.

Vanguard gathered that the suspects were heading towards Benin Republic, when they were accosted by Naval personnel at Igbooja village, close to Badagry area of Lagos State. On sighting the personnel, the suspects jumped into the river and swam for safety, abandoning their boats.

The recovered bags of cannabis, which had different inscriptions, such as TMT, AI, PMAN, Gad and WK, on them to indicate the different owners, were handed over to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, by the Commander of NNS Beecroft, Commodore Mauris Eno.

Eno told newsmen that the arrest followed activities of some suspected criminals, who transport cannabis and other illicit substances through the waterways. He said: “The suspects absconded before the navy patrol team got to the scene; as such no person was arrested.

“The substance was packaged in 77 big bags and 23 medium bags, weighing about 4226.6kg with an estimated street value of over N40 million.

“The Navy, under the leadership of Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ibas, is determined to rid our waterways of all forms illegalities.

“NNS Beecroft is, therefore, committed to assisting NDLEA deal with the issue of trafficking of illicit substance.”

Receiving the recovered substance, NDLEA’s Principal Staff Officer, Operations and Intelligence, Lagos State Command, Mr. Lawal Isiaka, said the agency would continue from where the Navy stopped.

He added that NDLEA will also do all within its abilities to curb the use and distribution of illicit drugs across Lagos State in particular and the country in general.

In the meantime, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned Zimbabwe against excessive spending as this may worsen cash shortages and ultimately fuel inflation.

The IMF said this in a statement after a two-week mission to the southern African country from May 2 to May

“Spending pressures stem from high employment costs, government transfers to support specific economic sectors, and elevated discretionary expenditure. Action on these three fronts, while safeguarding social outlays, is therefore crucial,” IMF team leader Ana Coronel said.

She said a severe drought in the 2015 and 2016 agricultural season and slow reform momentum had led to high expenditure levels by the Zimbabwe government since late 2015.

This was happening against the background of subdued state revenue and foreign inflows, forcing the government to finance the large fiscal imbalances through domestic borrowing.

The IMF said the expansionary fiscal stance and curtailed net capital flows had resulted in cash shortages, hampering economic activities.

Zimbabwe is facing severe bank note shortages since January 2016 and bond notes introduced in November 2016 have not helped to address the cash shortages.

The country also moved out of deflation in March, after having been stuck in negative inflation since 2013.

Annual inflation for the month of April stood at 0.48 per cent, with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe forecasting inflation to close the year at between one and two per cent.

The country suffered from hyperinflation during a decade of economic crisis which ended in 2009 when the country abandoned the worthless Zimbabwe dollar and adopted multiple currencies.

The IMF said Zimbabwe’s economy was facing difficulties which require government to take action to unleash the potential of the private sector and ensure that growth benefits the most vulnerable segments of the population.

“Building on the progress already achieved, the government is encouraged to demonstrate that Zimbabwe is open for business.

“This will include enhancing efforts to tackle corruption, encouraging private sector investment, allowing the market to determine prices, promoting labor flexibility, and creating a stable legal and regulatory framework to reduce policy uncertainty,” Coronel said.

The IMF added that restoration of confidence is essential for Zimbabwe to attract necessary dollar inflows to the economy.

The recovery in agriculture and mining would drive growth this year but maintaining the growth momentum would require action to expedite the authorities’ plans to reduce the fiscal deficit to a sustainable level, the IMF said.

Zimbabwe is expecting higher economic growth of 3.7 per cent in 2017 from an initial projection of 1.7 per cent following a better agriculture season.

Additional report from Vanguard