ANLCA, the association I served as National President, abandoned me during my ordeal in the hands of NDLEA
Alhaji Inua Muhammed is the former National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA). In 2011, he was discharged and acquitted by a Federal High Court, Lagos over a case of alleged complicity in the importation of a container load of cocaine into Nigeria. He had spent more than 12 months behind bars before justice finally came his way.
In this interview, the Chief Executive Officer of Jafana Ventures speaks on his experience in the hands of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) officers during the trial. He also shares his thoughts about major events in the freight forwarding business.
How will you describe the freight forwarding profession? You are a leader in that profession and how has it been; business-wise for you?
I must be very honest with you; the business is good depending on the clientele you have and depending on how you set up your operations.
First, you must ensure you do the right thing at the right time. Second, you must ensure you don’t break the rules. This brings me back to my problem because I am an advocate of not doing the wrong thing. But it was so unfortunate that when the drug case issue came up I was involved wrongly. I will use the medium to tell the world that my company did not clear that container.
My company, Jafana Ventures, was not mentioned in any of the cases during our trial. It is so unfortunate that the container that was cleared was not cleared by us because at the time of the clearing our license had expired so we sought the services of other clearing agents but unfortunately the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) goofed and at the end of the day, we were made scapegoats. And I have said it many times; it was an act of stupidity from the NDLEA because if they had done due diligence, they won’t have made us suffer unnecessary.
When the case came up, the people investigating did not even check if I am the owner, what is my relationship with the container? The next thing was that they just went on air to say that NDLEA has arrested the Nigerian counterpart, the drug baron and at the last minute when they got to know the truth of what happened, out of shame they couldn’t reverse. Anyway, that is a forgotten story and I leave everything that happened in God’s hands.
Definitely, if I don’t get justice in this world, I will get it over there (in heaven). This is my belief because I have faith in God that I will definitely get justice.
But the court acquitted you?
The court discharged and acquitted me because there was nothing to hold us to. So we thank God.
But you were in detention, I think for up to a year?
Yes, one year plus. I was in detention from the 23rd of July 2010 to the 8th of July 2011. You can see what I went through, what my family went through.
So what happened to your businesses while you were incarcerated?
I lost some of my customers and again sometimes you know people don’t always listen. People listen to rumours and gossips because when this incident happened some agents were shouting maybe this is what he does. Some were saying I collected N600 million, some said N60 million and so on.
If I had that kind of money, I know where to invest. If when I was young I did not do all this trash – going into drugs when people did not even know what drugs was all about; yet I did not do it, is it now that God has blessed me with a good home, family, office, friends that I will start doing drugs?
I am that kind of a person that will not take rubbish for an answer. I have good friends and I am happy some of these friends followed me when I was being detained because they knew me to be a man of integrity. They followed me and at the end of the day everything went well.
Have you ever done drugs?
I have never! In fact, I will tell you the truth, if there is anything I hate in my life, it is drug because I have this young friend who was doing very well in life and suddenly he was introduced to drugs. Whenever I see this boy I sometimes shed tears because drugs have finished him. Now when I remember such things, why should I be a party to someone doing drugs? So it is very painful. Again, I will tell you the truth, my going into Ikoyi prison for that long made me learn what I wouldn’t have learnt. And I now know what this world is. I know that no matter who you are, you can be framed or something miraculous can happen to you. But again if you have faith, which I had throughout my stay and at the end of the day, we were exonerated.
I remember I came to see you when you were at NDLEA detention and also at Ikoyi Prison and you never lost your composure. Anytime I visited, you were always laughing, smiling and well dressed.
It is because I know I didn’t do it. And again I am a Nigerian and if I want to do anything bad at my age, I should be ready for the consequence but all I know was I had faith in God.
Now the importers of the drug, what impression did they give to your boys about what was inside the container?
The man we do business with is based in Kano. His name is Mr. Wang. He was jailed. He was the one we knew and we had been doing business with him and we never had any problem until Mr. Fong, his friend based in Ibadan asked him who his clearing agents were because his own agents always delayed his goods. That was how he mentioned us to him and the papers were given to Mr. Wang. I am not happy with what Mr. Wang did. He ought to know who he was dealing with before collecting papers for us.
If you are going to quantify what you lost during your incarceration in naira and kobo, how much will it be?
I lost a lot of money because I had to sell some of my properties to pay up my lawyer and also lost a lot business.
Have you sat down to calculate it?
I sometimes don’t want to remember because whenever I remember these things I laboured for, when I was even pushing trucks, or going to buy things sleeping at the airport; I laboured hard to make the money; then I was living in a room apartment and at the end of the day, I lost most of them.
And again some of my staff even connived to sell some of my properties thinking that I would never come out of it but God proved them wrong. Today you can see that I am a happy person. I am moving freely and again the business is coming back.
Your immediate constituency – the freight forwarders; you were President of ANLCA and of course almost every freight forwarder in Nigeria knows you; most of them look up to you. What role did they play when you were going through this hard time?
I will be honest with you. Irrespective of our differences, I have a lot of respect for Dr. Aniebonam because Aniebonam was more concerned about my problem than ANLCA under the leadership of Alhaji Olayiwola Shittu. Olayiwola Shittu only sent someone once! They came to find out if it was true and after that nothing. But Aniebonam kept sending lawyers, sending people. One of the lawyers was challenging another lawyer in the court, I was impressed. Despite the fact that I am ANLCA, he is NAGAFF but he remembered that we are in the same profession and I am a friend and was an ex-president of ANLCA, I have a lot of respect for him for that. He is a good man. Forget whatever Aniebonam is, if you sit down to understand who Aniebonam is, Aniebonam is a good man. Another man I respect a lot in this freight forwarding business is Chief Henry Njoku. Henry Njoku came to see me. He was with me for about 30 minutes. He couldn’t utter a word because when he looked at my face, he would be crying. He cried all through his stay with me. All he was just saying was Alhaji we are sorry. He couldn’t say a word and he went to see my family.
I also have respect for the Customs, even the Area Comptroller and the officers at Tincan where this thing happened were nice. Some of them went to see my family and they helped
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