Let's face it - we have all always suspected Ibrahim Babangida of being a drug dealer. The story of Gloria Okon, Dele Giwa's death, the burning of the Ministry of Defence and other stories are all allegedly tied to an official drug ring during IBB's regime. We researched the rumors, and this is what we found.

Nobody knows more about the international drug trade better than Alain Labrousse. The author of the best selling book 'Geopolitics of Drugs' and former Director of the Geopolitical Watchdog on Drugs (OGD), clearly identified Nigeria's former military rulers and diplomats as drug barons. In an authoritative report still posted on the web site of the Canadian Parliament on the drug trade in Africa, Labrouse marks out Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria's former self-appointed president, as one of the drug-dealing dictators in Africa.

The report says: "The international community has long considered Nigeria a narco-state: the United States put it on the list of 'decertified' countries between 1994 and 1999, and the Dublin Group, consisting mainly of the European countries, unfearingly called it a 'narco-regime'. Its President, General Babangida, and his wife have been suspected of engaging in cocaine trafficking, along with numerous other military officers."

Apart from Babangida and his wife, Maryam, top military brass and members of the diplomatic corps are some others identified in the international investigation of the drug ring that prospered from the early 1980s through the mid-1990s.

Major Orkar, whose unsuccessful coup plot was the most successful attempt to dispose Babangida of power, also alleged that there was drug dealing going on during the regime of the dictator. Said Orkar: " I, Major Gideon Orkar, wish to happily inform you of the successful ousting of the dictatorial, corrupt, drug baronish, evil man, deceitful, homo-sexually-centered, prodigalistic, un-patriotic administration of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida." Since Orkar called IBB a drug baron, many Nigerians have quietly accepted it as a fact.

In Labrousse's report, he claimed: "The United States in particular raised questions about the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tom Ikimi, who made use of the services of the director of a Lagos newspaper who frequently traveled abroad to distribute cocaine and heroin imported from Latin America and Asia among the members of his network of resellers around the world.

"Another soldier long involved in drug trafficking was Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, head of the feared Abacha Security Service (SSS), who carried on his dealings by diplomatic pouch. His wife, of Arab origin, coordinated a ring in the Gulf countries.

"A former head of Nigeria's permanent delegation to the United Nations was also apparently involved.

Nigerian top officials' dealing in drugs under the cover of diplomacy is characteristic of dictatorships around the world, especially in Africa, where Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Charles Taylor of Liberia are known to have treaded the same path.

In the case of Equatorial Guinea, diplomats belonging to the president's family or clan used the diplomatic pouch and their immunity to engage in cocaine and heroin traffic around the world. Tens of them have been arrested over the past two decades, particularly in Spain. The family of Mozambican President Chissano has also been involved a number of times in cocaine cases. But in the case of Babangida, he has been lucky never to have been caught.

The military connection in the drug trafficking business is particularly noteworthy. Military officers have for long been suspected of coordinating the drug trade. The burning of the Ministry of Defence Building in Lagos during Babangida's regime, during which The Sunday Guardian showed IBB smiling right in front of the burning edifice, was believed to have been official arson executed to hide some sensitive information about the trade.

The only case that has been widely linked to Babangida, which many thought could have exposed him is that of Gloria Okon, a Nigerian lady alleged to have been his courier and said to have died in detention but believed to have been resettled in anonymity. It is widely accepted that the murdered journalist, Dele Giwa, was about to unravel the mysterious disappearance of Gloria Okon when he was killed in circumstances tied around Babangida's neck.

Babangida has refused to answer charges of his involvement in the bombing of Dele Giwa, and has used every available legal means to refuse to testify. The Oputa panel set up by the Obasanjo administration to uncover the misdeeds of the past regimes submitted that Babangida has a case to answer regarding Dele Giwa's death.

Starting in the early 1980s, Nigerian traffickers began to gain prominence as they swallowed condoms full of heroin and transported them to European countries and the United States. They sourced the drug from Thailand, Pakistan and India, transited through Ethiopia and Kenya and Central Africa and headed for the Western countries. . At the same time, Nigerians traveled to South America to pick up cocaine destined for European markets and, starting in 1994, for South African markets. According to the World Customs Organization (WCO), Nigerian drug traffickers were involved in 1,200 cases in the world between 1991 and 1995.

According to Alain Labrousse, "It was first thought that the Nigerian organizations were mainly family or clan-based. According to various sources, however, particularly American, there is what could be called a genuine Mafia in Nigeria: "drug barons", supported by "under-barons", who in turn have their own groups of couriers. In this organization, three leaders head up 85 cells of approximately 40 members. In those cells, a "lieutenant" apparently commands six to 20 "soldiers". The structure is found in the organization of the Nigerian rings in the United States. Operation Tonga , carried out by European police in 1995 and 1996, also showed that there were links between the Colombian Mafia, the Neapolitan Camorra and the Nigerian rings.

Similarly, Nigerians are well established in most Eastern countries. Their "bridgeheads" are most often scholarship students from communist regimes who have remained penniless since the political upheavals resulting from the fall of the Berlin Wall. Nigerian traffickers are thus the only native African groups on the most wanted lists of the law enforcement agencies of the rich countries, together with international criminal organizations and the Colombian, Chinese, Turkish, Pakistani and, more recently, Kosovar drug rings.

An estimated 35-40% of all the heroin coming into the United States is brought by Nigerian couriers. In 1989, the United States and Nigeria established a joint Counter-Narcotics Task Force. Lack of cooperation by Nigerian authorities in combating the drug trafficking problem led to a decision by the Clinton Administration in March 1998, as in 1994 and 1996, to put Nigeria on the State Department's list of non-cooperative drug trafficking nations.

The administration of Buhari and Idiagbon saw the grave danger posed by the drug trade, and it waged a very serious war against it. It killed by firing squad two Nigerians caught with drugs while attempting to take them overseas. It had been rumored that if Babangida had not staged his coup at the time he did, he was under the radar for his drug business and would have been arrested.

When IBB took power, Nigeria began to feign combating drug trading. While he put a stop to death sentence for drug trafficking, Babangida set up the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, which recruited its first set of graduates in 1990. Since then, even the agency has been involved in the drug business.

In 1992, drugs seized by the agency continued to disappear even under the oversight of the court in its own premises. The NDLEA ridiculed IBB's drug fight. And no arrested trafficker has given away the name of the boss so far.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Nigeria's anti narcotic efforts remain "unfocused and lacking in material support."

While it has never been official confirmed, reports by some Nigerian newspapers in 1993, at the time when Babangida was disgraced out of power, claimed that the Evil Genius was wanted by the US government for drug trafficking. It was said that was why Babangida has not stepped on American soil since he left power.

So, was Babangida a drug baron? There is sufficient suspicion and information, especially outside of the country to link him with drug trafficking in the 1980s and the early 1990s. However, because he has always avoided circumstances that could make him give answers to those allegations, he has never been pinned down. His failure to travel to a country like the United States, where he is believed to be wanted, adds fuel to speculations about his past. Perhaps, if he were to stop raising legal obstacles to the murder of Dele Giwa, a chance to question him about Gloria Okon may bring up the most closely guided open secret of his regime.

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