Long but interesting story with a sad ending of Alhaja TOYIN MONSURAT IGBIRA
Alhaja Monsurat Asabi (Ashabi) Oluwatoyin Oyemade Rufai Abraham aka Toyin Igbira was born on the 18th of February, 1963 (although she lists her date of birth on her Facebook page as 18th of February 1960, see HERE). When she was nabbed in 1999 after extensive undercover antinarcotic operations that commenced in 1995, she had just clocked her 36th birthday.
Barely literate, Toyin attended St. Paul’s Primary School, Idi Oro, Mushin in Lagos State from 1970 to 1976. After that, she was admitted into the famous Reagan Memorial Baptist Girls High School on 23, Commercial Avenue, Sabo Yaba, also in Lagos State. However, by the time she got to JSS2, she dropped out. This is the unbelievable story of an African woman who defied the odds of her illiteracy to establish a formidable international drug trafficking network – one that destroyed countless lives and made many rich.
BECOMING NIGERIA’S NUMBER ONE DRUG QUEEN
Young, out of school and bereft of any tangible skills but deeply desirous on making money, she soon joined her mother in a trade that was suspected to be the smuggling of cigarettes from Cotonou in the neighboring Benin Republic. Of this, she said:
‘I dey sell am for Ojuwoye market, Mushin…I do am for eight years, I begin selling cloth.”
Toyin Igbira is by all means a grandmother in the cocaine business. She first appeared on the radar of the government drug law enforcement agency as far back in time as 1994. That was an era when the kleptomaniac dictator in person of General Sani Abacha held Nigeria with an iron grip. Abacha was probably too busy deporting Nigeria’s money to secret accounts in Luxembourg, Switzerland and other European states to pay heed to domestic issues such as the transformation of Nigeria into a transit point for Latin American narcoexports destined for the United States via Europe.
In 1994, she was allegedly introduced into the smoky world of drug smuggling by one Fatai, a London-based Nigerian who is now dead. She confessed before her interrogators:
“Fatai befriend my friend Kudirat. Kudirat and Fatai live for London. Na the time when dem come Nigeria they introduce me to drug business. True to God, he did not tell me say na drug. He tell me say na tablet wey dem dey use for horse. That if dem sell the tablet for London, person go get money. He know say I get money for my cloth business. I give am money and he buy am, go sell for London. He come back and give me my money with interest. Later he tell me say na drug. Later, I start to buy myself…The name na heroin.”
In early January 1996, Fatai died in circumstances that are still unclear and it was that time that one Mr. Brown surfaced and commenced ‘business’as a courier for Toyin Igbira. She revealed:
“The first time Brown carry drug to America for me, he carry three kilogramme. The second time, he carry 2.5kg of heroin.’’
Spurred on by the success and the incredibly-fast profits, Brown introduced more couriers including one Ade and two disabled athletes (more on them later) one of whom is named Yekini to the domineering drug baroness. She recollected the incident:
“Na Brown pack the heroin inside foam wey dem take siddon. Na for my dining room and I dey do my hair for the sitting room. Yekini was given one $1000 as pocket money and I for pay Yekini $2000 if he return from America.”
Toyin Igbira was unstoppable as she increased the volume and frequency of the drug deals. It was a lot more favourable than the clothes trade she was using as a camouflage. Before the bubble burst for Mr. Brown, Igbira’s trusted drug mule, he had transported drugs of several kilogrammes and like a stubborn squirrel, he managed to beat the American immigration and border security for Toyin Igbira’s sales agents including Stephen Akinyemi Akingba alias Akinse.
Igbira kept expanding her white powder network. She reportedly claimed she met Akingba in 1991 (although the latter in his own confession said 1992) in Mushin after which she employed him as a driver. A forward-thinking and sophisticated drug queen, in November 1993, Igbira procured a Zimbabwean passport, visa and ticket and it was with these that Akingba snaked his way into the United States of America.
By December of that same year, Akingba would join Igbira’s brother in Chicago, thus consolidating her expansion and presence on American soil. She had truly gone intercontinental.
From their base in Chicago, Akingba often took delivery of drug consignments from Toyin’s brothers and sisters for sale at an agreed commission. He also worked at a hotel as a house keeper but his major work as dishing out cocaine, heroin and all kinds of hard drugs to the hopeless addicts of America. He confessed:
“Alhaja Toyin use to send drug, heroin to her family. When they bring it like that, they will call me. Sometimes, Alhaja use to send two kilogrammes of Heroin or more. Then they will share it and give me about 600 grammes or more to sell…”
“Sometimes, Alhaja Toyin will tell me to sell for 9,500 dollars per 100 grammes. Then I will sell it $12,000 or $13,000. When I sell finish, I will calculate all the money, I will take my gain and give her money to her family.’
Akingba had more to spit out. He claimed he sold drugs worth $600,000 (then N60 million naira) for Alhaja Igbira.
But as it is the case with drug cartels, a fight soon broke out. In April 1997, things took a turn for the horrible for the ‘business partners’. That month, Toyin’s sister had delivered five kilogrammes of heroin in two consignments of three and two kilogrammes.
In a bizarre plot twist, Akingba said all the five kilogrammes of heroin were stolen from his car trunk by unknown persons. Immediately he discovered the ‘theft’, he called Toyin’s sisters and brothers chilling in Chicago and delivered to them the devastating news of the loss of their lucrative ‘cargo’. He did not stop there, he also called Toyin Igbira’s husband in Lagos to intimate him of the development. All parties made frantic efforts to locate the missing drug package or at least understand the mystery surrounding how it vanished but there was no success. Igbira was enraged.
Akingba was in a big mess. He knew how ruthless drug barons and baronesses are and he was not oblivious of the many dangers that confronted couriers who dared to confront or play a fast one with their callous and cold-hearted bosses. In the narcoworld, only one thing mattered – money. Even more than lives.
Cocaine, also known as coke, is a strong stimulant mostly used as a recreational drug. It is commonly snorted, inhaled as smoke, or as a solution injected into a vein. Mental effects may include loss of contact with reality, an intense feeling of happiness, or agitation. Physical symptoms may include a fast heart rate, sweating, and large pupils. High doses can result in very high blood pressure or body temperature. Effects begin within seconds to minutes of use and last between five and ninety minutes. Cocaine is addictive due to its effect on the reward pathway in the brain. After a short period of use, there is a high risk that dependence will occur.Its use also increases the risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, lung problems in those who smoke it, blood infections, and sudden cardiac death. Credits: Creative Commons
Thus, on the 18th of November, 1997, he jumped on the next available flight and his destination was the sprawling West African nation of Nigeria. Upon his arrival, he headed straight for the Lagos Island shop of Alhaja Toyin Igbira, he said of that day he will never forget:
“I explain everything to her that I don’t have money now and I don’t want to do the drug business now because I don’t know who set me up,” he said. “Then I told her to help me with Yoruba medicine, black power, so that we can know who stole the five kilo of heroin.”
But the vicious spirit that dwelled inside Igbira’s dark heart ensured that all the explanations that Akingba gave fell on deaf ears. She was thoroughly dissatisfied and trusting no one, the only thing on her mind was how to retrieve her money. At this point, pay close attention and see how rotten the Nigerian system is.
Alhaja Toyin got across to her friend who was working in the NDLEA and exposed Akingba as a drug dealer. Unknown to Igbira herself, the NDLEA was moving in quietly on her but they played along. On the 18th of January 1998, NDLEA operatives launched a commando-like raid on Akingba’s palatial mansion at 8, Idowu Street, Ipaja and by the time the raid ended, his passport, American green card and other valuables. Igbira did not suspect a thing as the NDLEA operatives played dumb and even organized several meetings at a hotel on Airport Road for the two business partners to resolve their dispute over the missing drug package.
After days of intense negotiation, they reached a conclusion – Akingba was to pay Igbira the sum of N25 million naira for the lost drug. He was instructed to vomit an initial sum of N5 million naira. Alarmed, Akingba screamed that he had no money with him but that Alhaja Toyin could sell his Lexus car, a Quest bus and an Isuzu Rodeo sports utility vehicle all valued at N7.5 million. Akingba confessed:
“She said she will not sell my cars unless I sell all the cars by myself within two weeks and give her N5 million so that the NDLEA oga (officers) will give me my passport and green card.”
It was after this ordeal that the NDLEA arrested Alhaja Toyin Igbira in December 1997 but I will talk about this in detail in the sections below.
A woman with a heart of steel, Igbira was not afraid of the military junta as she was confidently already one of the commanders of a Lagos-based drug-running syndicate. As is the tradition in the danger-ridden and merciless world of drug trade, Igbira worked under a different name.
Igbira quickly gained notoriety as a result of her willingness to risk it all – all in a bid to make some fast cash. She ran into drug law enforcement agents countless times. In 1996, the Nigerian contingent was heading for the Summer Paralympics in Atlanta, United States of America. Slated to hold from 16th to the 25th of August of that year, it was the very first Paralympics to get mass media sponsorship and it had a budget of $81 million. It was a very big deal for the world.
But as the joyful Nigerian team headed for this global sporting event, disaster struck, a calamity beyond anyone’s expectation tore the Nigerian flag into shreds. Two disabled Nigerian athletes were caught with drugs. By the time the investigations were done, all fingers pointed in the same direction of one person – Toyin Igbira. She had engineered everything and her willingness to smuggle her drugs under the official national sports channel only showed how daring she can be.
THE LIFE OF LUXURY, GLITZ AND GLAMOUR
In her heyday, Toyin Igbira was a lady of immense wealth, she was the ultimate Bujebudanu (The One With The Bottomless Pockets). No Lagos party was complete without her as she was the very life of the high society circuits. Fuji musicians sang her praise and poured accolades on her. In fact, the lyrical praise was so much that King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal (KWAM 1 later known as K1 the Ultimate) dedicated entire tracks to her and even made reference to her nasty trade when he called her ‘Ónile Eru L’Abidjan’ meaning ‘The One With The Warehouse At Abidjan’.
Abijdan was one of the centres of drug trade for many of the narcotraders and they also used the Ivory Coast city as a hub for their textile business – a cover for their real occupation. She was one of the biggest players in the West African narcociruit and Abidjan was one of the hubs she controlled. Igbira was so glamourous that even while she was in prison, KWAM 1 continued to sing her praises with melodious tunes.
It must be pointed out that many of the female drug traffickers nabbed in Nigeria all claimed to be into the sales of textiles and fabrics. It will interest you to know that there is a curious reason behind why they are all selling clothes. In a very revealing interview in 1999, the head of NDLEA, Assistant Inspector-General of Police Ogbonna Onovo clarified and below are some excerpts from the interview:
Q: Perhaps we can ask about the mode of seizure. How was it made? Had they passed the customs..?
A: Yes, they had passed the customs. So when you see it you’ll think its a photo album. That’s why I said these people design various methods of concealment. It’s the NDLEA man who’s trained in this that can know, and we’re only demanding that we be allowed to search containers that come from some countries. If a container is coming from the United States, there’s no need, if a container is coming from Britain or from Holland, there’s no need. But the moment a container is coming from Brazil or from Pakistan, India, Turkey or Thailand, there’s red light. The say they’re going to Thailand to buy fabric. It’s not true. They may have up to 50 rolls of textiles inside one container but what matters is just the single roll inside it. And you know these drugs, you can hide them easily. So when the container comes in, all he does is to look for that particular bale that they want. They take it away, just put in the boot of the car and drive away. If you like you sell the remaining 25 bales for 10 kobo. That is not their business. Or when they bring these luxurious buses from Brazil, because some will claim it’s luxurious bus. But you don’t know that they are coming from Brazil, there’s a compartment there that is concealed and drugs can be put. Or they’re importing a car from Brazil, they say they’re importing Golf Jetta or whatever. It gets here and they cannot drive it out. They tow it saying it has engine problem. How can a car you imported from abroad now have engine problem right in the wharf? You know that the fuel tank is loaded with some stuff. You see these are the little things. So some people have something to hide. That’s why they don’t want us to be there.
TOYIN IGBIRA’S FIRST MAJOR ARREST AND HER FIERCE BATTLE FOR FREEDOM
The Untold Story of How Nigeria’s Queen of Drug Trafficking Alhaja Toyin Igbira Almost Used Sex To Finish The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) After She Was Caught And Jailed In 1999
Toyin Igbira when she was nabbed in the late 1990s: She had no equal or rival in the game, at least as far the gender was concerned.
If you are familiar with the bizarre tales of Nigerian men and women who have decided to carve a niche for themselves in the powdery world of drug trafficking, then the name Toyin Igbira will not sound surprising to you. She is the most notorious drug baroness in the history of Nigeria. Of all the female scorpions in the narcotic business, none came closer to Igbira whose daring exploits still shock many till date.
As intelligent and crafty as Toyin Igbira was 1997-2000 was one of the worst periods of her life. For much of that period, she was in jail, locked up like a common criminal after she had been nabbed after a very long pursuit by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
The period remains one of the best in the history of the NDLEA as they went on a major spree and crackdown against drug traffickers all over the country. A big society lady known all at all the parties of Lagos, Alhaja Toyin was caged and as she looked on helplessly in detention, she tried every possible means to liquidate the murderous grip of the NDLEA on her. She was nabbed and flung into cell under the controversial miscellaneous offences tribunals, better known as the MOTs at that time. Although her case had not been decided yet at that time, the MOT system made it possible for her to be jailed indefinitely.
From December 1997 when she was arrested alongside eight others, she was left to rot in jail until 1999 when something interesting happened. By the way, after the arrest of Alhaja Toyin Igbira by NDLEA operatives, she was arraigned before the defunct Miscellaneous Offences Tribunal (MOT) in suit number MOT/L/16/98 on the 27th of May, 1998 based on her confessions and those of five of her drug business partners. It was the MOT that effectively ordered that she be remanded in custody and she would languish at the Kirikiri Maximum Prisons for over 16 months.
Thanks to Igbira, many drug carriers had their trips facilitated through the country’s airports by Toyin Igbira. Nigeria did not just acquire her horrible reputation in one day, we have people like Toyin Igbira to praise for contributing to that jar of tar now staining all Nigerians outside the country.
Months climbed upon months and hoped dimmed for her. But Toyin Igbira is a fighter with a relentless spirit. Her determination to always remain as free as the puffs from a cocaine smoker galvanised her into doing the most unthinkable thing. In her warped mind, she conjured the most devilish plot, an orchestration so manipulative that it could bring down the entire agency.
NDLEA was quite aggressive with her as they did not only cage her but impounded her property running into several millions of naira. In Lagos alone, five landed assets belonging to her were promptly snatched from her. This led to a massive legal gbonmisiomioto (tussle) between her army of lawyers and the gallant NDLEA.
Desperate to enjoy some fresh liberty, Igbira resorted to the oldest trick in the book: seduction. She made several overtures to the zonal commander of the NDLEA office in Ikeja, Mallam Samuel Bashir Gadzama. She was ready to throw her expensive Ankara fabrics away and strip herself naked then give him the most mind blowing sessions of passionate sex but unfortunately for her, the hormone-driven plan blew in her face when Gadzama rejected her Jezebelic proposals.
Igbira was more than ready to use her slim and thoroughly-bleached body to obstruct justice. Morals and ethics were useless in the vocabulary of a coke peddler. It must be highlighted that that same period was one of the bloodiest for the NDLEA as many of their operatives were mercilessly killed by drug traffickers and it would be a big blow to the morale of the agency should their boss agree to free Igbira just for a few rounds of illicit sex with the unrepentant drug empress.
Gadzama was one of the best hands in the NDLEA. A veteran in many undercover operations, he was later promoted to Director of Operations and General Investigations, effectively the number two position in the agency. In the 1990s, Gadzama had taken part in several undercover Joint Task Force operations and formerly served as the commander of NDLEA operations at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos and also as the commander of the JTF.
He also had a brilliant working relationship with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a United States federal law enforcement agency under the United States Department of Justice, tasked with combating drug smuggling and use within the United States of America. So Igbira knew exactly what she was doing and why she chose Gadzama as her specific target.
The amazing thing is that drug barons in Nigeria have actually managed to poison the minds of even the most senior bosses of the agency. In November 2005 for example, a furious President Olusegun Obasanjo fired Alhaji Bello Lafiaji as the chairman of the NDLEA after he was found to have collected money from the same drug traffickers he was supposed to combat, in 2010 he would later be sentenced to 16 years in jail after he was found guilty of stealing the sum of 164,300 euros from the residence of a drug peddler in custody. Gadzama was the prosecution witness at the court trial. Lafiaji was replaced by Ahmadu Giade, a retired deputy commissioner of police. Toyin Igbira would languish in jail until something very dramatic happened.
The Shocking Story of How Justice Abubakar Abdulkadir Jega Assisted Nigeria’s Most Notorious Drug Baroness And Unrepentant Cocaine Peddler Alhaja Toyin Igbira Escape Justice In August 1999
One of the countries I admire most on the planet is Singapore. It has everything that my beloved country, Nigeria does not have. Although Singapore is very tiny, so tiny that Lagos, the smallest state in my nation, is five times bigger than this southeast Asian nation called Republic of Singapore.
But make no mistake, Singapore is one of the richest nations on earth. In fact, just two nations are richer than Singapore in the whole world. This is a country that has no natural resources but leads the world in education, healthcare, technology, life expectancy, housing, personal safety and quality of life. But how come Singapore that got independence from United Kingdom in 1963 is so successful while Nigeria that became independent from the same colonial power in 1960 is struggling with devastating indicators such as the second worst infant and maternal mortality rates on earth?
Well, the answer lies in the hands of Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister and the founding father of modern Singapore. Better known as LKY, it was Lee Kuan Yew who was the brain behind the incredible leap of his country from being a haven of poverty to one of the most admired corners of prosperity in the world. However, he was able to achieve such a mind blowing transformation because he ensured the judiciary was reformed. It was so thoroughly reformed that any form of indiscipline was severely dealt with. In fact, trafficking in drugs was followed by the death sentence.
For LKY, the rights of their law-abiding citizens to a life devoid of the nefarious effects of drugs trump the so-called human rights of the drug mules. Why am I comparing Singapore with Nigeria? I am doing so simply because while the judiciary is one of the pillars of success in Singapore (where African leaders like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe now run to for medical care), the same judiciary is one of the biggest obstacles to progress and development in Nigeria and until a proper reform of the Nigerian judicial system is done, nothing is really going to shift for the betterment of the society. I will use the case of this infamous drug peddler as an illustration.
Notoriety personified, Toyin Igbira was one of the most difficult nuts for the NDLEA to crack. For years upon years, she had managed to outsmart the nets of the country’s top drug law agency. She seemed invincible, slippery and smooth; she always operated under the radar like the lethal B2 Spirit Stealth Bomber of the United States Air Force. Igbira was known but no one knew how to nab her until luck smiled on the agency one sunny day in December 1997. There was jubilation in the NDLEA camp. One of their most prized assets was finally in their trap and they were so ready to ensure that she would rot in jail. But it was not to be. Something that would never have happened in Bedok, Singapore happened in Lagos, Nigeria.
At the very top of the list of the self-confessed drug kingpins was none other than Alhaja Monsurat Oluwatoyin Oyemade Abraham aka Toyin Igbira. On that same list were seasoned drug peddlers and cocaine trafficking veterans such as Steven Akinyemi Akingba aka Akinse (who interestingly, was the United States-based ally of Toyin Igbira as mentioned earlier), Mohammed Mohammed who was an immigration service officer attached to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja in Lagos and it was from his duty post that he facilitated all kinds of illicit drug transactions within and outside Nigeria, Peter Oriamen, Babajide Adeoye, Tokunbo Olaiya, Rachel Moronlayo Adeniran, Yetunde Akintan and another suspect who was captured with him.
To the utter shock and massive heartbreak of the NDLEA, five of these nine major drug suspects were all freed by Justice Abdulkadir Jega of the Federal High Court Eight. Those who regained their freedom in the hands of Jega included Toyin Igbira, Akingba, Oriamen, Adeoye and Olaiya. As for Mohammed, he was granted bail by Justice (Mrs.) Olomojobi while Adeniran, Akintan and his fellow in crime were released by Justice Kassim of Court Annex Two.
While asking for bail for Igbira, Kasoki Hart Olakanma of Femi Falana Chambers put up an energetic show and implored the judge to declare that the continued detention of the suspect at the Kirikiri Prisons since 26th of August 1998 was illegal and unconstitutional; that the provisions of section 2 (4) and 3(2) of the Tribunals Decree 62 of 1999 are illegal and unconstitutional as they violated her rights which were clearly guaranteed by section 35 and 36 of the Constitution and that the respondents (NDLEA) do not have the competence and authority to arraign, prosecute and try Igbira on account of the charges that were pending before the MOT.
The attorney did not stop there. The lawyer sought an order directing NDLEA to release all the property and documents seized from Igbira and those of other persons in her custody from illegal custody forthwith. Above all, the lawyer contended that Igbira was an innocent pigeon who knew:
‘….nothing whatsoever about the offences she is being charged with…’
The lawyer also promised that Igbira would not jump bail if granted. It was a lie and a thinly-disguised ruse. The legal team of the NDLEA smelt this deceit and launched a counter attack. Lawyer Nnanna Alamegie of the NDLEA argued that Toyin Igbira was facing a solid four-count charge with several other accused persons at the MOT, Lagos Zone and that trial was already in motion before the tribunal’s dissolution on the 29th of May 1999 with the coming of the democratic dispensation it is quite interesting to note that it was democracy that Igbira exploited to the fullest to regain her freedom).
Alamegie argued on with vigour saying the accused was not granted bail at the tribunal because her offence carries an imprisonment for a term of between 15 and 25 years. He dropped a bombshell:
‘…The release on bail of a person with enormous wealth may lead to a frustration of the course of trial.’
He further insisted that it is in the interest of Nigeria as a country that the suspect was allowed to conclude her case from custody because she is very likely to tamper with the overwhelming bail. He thundered:
‘At the Miscellaneous Offences Tribunal, more than seven key witnesses gave evidence and the evidence so far taken shows that the applicant is one of the big-time drug barons that bring the reputation of this great country Nigeria to disrepute in the international community.’
At that point, Igbira’s lawyer Olakanma disputed the assertion of the NDLEA that the stupendous amount of money that the drug baroness controlled was going to frustrate the trial. Without missing a heartbeat, Alamegie dismissed this argument when he revealed that Toyin Igbira was not only facing trial at the Zone Three of the MOT, but also another charge at the Zone One of the MOT on Kingsway Road, Ikoyi, for attempting to bribe NDLEA men with the hefty sum of N1.4 million naira to forestall investigations into the drug peddling case against her. She was desperate to be left off the hook.
After listening to both arguments, the judge made a puzzling declaration:
On the 18th of August 1999, Justice Abubakar Abdulkadir Jega threw a dagger right at the hearts of the tireless NDLEA operatives and detectives when he granted Toyin Igbira bail in the sum of N1 million with two sureties each in like sum. Small piece of cake. She promptly met up. All she had to do was to press buttons on her vast Lagos-Ijebu Ode network.
But the NDLEA operatives were so furious with the baffling judgment that they were ready to pounce on Igbira and re-arrest her immediately with fresh charges on her neck. In order to ensure this did not happen, Justice Jega personally and physically shielded Toyin Igbira from the action-ready NDLEA operatives when he drove her out of the court premises with his own car all in a bid to just make sure the NDLEA operatives do not rearrest the heroin baronness. Although the case was adjourned until the whole thing went hazy. Stylishly, she regained her freedom but the NDLEA was so pissed off that they refused to hand over the property they seized from her. Not even all the legal acrobatics from Femi Falana Chambers could convince the NDLEA to release a pin to her. The following were seized from Toyin Igbira by the NDLEA operatives:
Assorted clothes and fabrics from her 14, Nnamdi Azikiwe Street, Lagos Shop valued at N17.5 million naira.
Landed property and buildings at 36, Itire Road, Mushin, 14, Bereola Street, Surulere, 12 Owodunni Street, Iwaya and an undeveloped plot of land at 212, Church Street, Onigbagbo Village at Opebi, Ikeja.
NB: Justice Abubakar Abdulkadir Jega (who happens to be the brother of former INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega) would later rise to become an Appeal Court Justice. In September 2015, he was crushed to death during a Hajj stampede in Muna, near Mecca in Saudi Arabia while the pilgrims were on their way to Jamarat to perform the stoning of Satan. Jega was a member of the Kebbi State’s hajj delegation to the desert kingdom.
But as NDLEA had predicted, Igbira did not become repentant as she immediately resumed her trade in hard drugs. It seemed nothing could deter her as she had the ultimate belief that she had mastered all the intricacies of the heavily-flawed Nigerian justice system – via a vast system of patronage and ‘connections’ that often involved the very functionaries in government. However, it was not long afterwards that her paths crossed again with that of her old enemy – the NDLEA.
You can see that it has been long that the Nigerian judiciary has been a major obstacle to justice in our country. In fact, on this matter, the NDLEA was so pained that on the 24th of August, just few days after Justice Jega had freed her, the agency slammed Toyin Igbira with two new charges at the Federal High Court. The first suit FHC/L118c/99 had a two-count charge: that Toyin Igbira on or about 5 April 1995 conspired with and aided one George Olanrewaju Owumi to export 1.112 kilogramme of heroin to Zurich, Switzerland and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 10c (b) of NDLEA Decree 15 of 1992.
In the second suit, the accusation hammered on Igbira’s head had it that Toyin Igbira conspired with and aided Miss Helen Osemene Izien to export 1.35 kilogrammes of heroin to New York, United States of America, offences punishable under section 10c (b) of the NDLEA Decree 15 of 1992. The NDLEA was so certain they had bulletproof cases against Igbira and that there was no way she would escape spending the rest of her cocaine-filled life behind prison walls. They were painfully disappointed.
On Monday, 6th of September 1998 when the case came up, Toyin Igbira pleaded that she was sick all of a sudden. The drama queen was determined to frustrate the case and return to her money-spinning business by all means. The cases were then adjourned till 14th of September when the charges would then be read to enable her enter a plea.
HER SECOND ARREST AND IMPRISONMENT
After trailing her for five years since 1997, the NDLEA finally made another major breakthrough on the 15th of November, 2002. On that day, an excited Zonal Command of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency at Ikeja announced with maximum glee that they had trapped a legendary suspect alive.
It was Alhaja Toyin Abraham Igbira again and she was arrested red-handed with a hefty package – 72 wraps of substance suspected to be heroin. Her fall from narcotic grace to criminal grass that fateful day occurred at the ever-bustling Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos. Igbira had informed her contacts on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean that she was on her way already. As a veteran in the illegal trade, she made sure she closed all the loops and perfected every move. However, it was a terrible day for her as the devilish package on her was discovered shortly before she was to board her flight to the United States of America.
It was that moment that many Nigerians really heard her name and saw her face for the very first time. She was paraded before ogling journalists at the NDLEA headquarters. During the adrenalin-filled press conference, Alhaji Abdullahi A. Danburam who was the NDLEA zonal commander trumpeted it loud for everyone to hear that they had been placing traps for Alhaja Igbira since 1997 but she managed to evade almost all by remaining several steps ahead of them – until the gods got pissed off and declared her cup full again on the 15th of November.
Toyin Igbira had proven to be too much of a headache, the Nigerian version of Griselda Blanco (also known as La Madrina, La Dama de la Mafia (The Lady of the Mafia), the Black Widow (because she killed all her three husbands), the Cocaine Godmother and the Queen of Narco-Trafficking, Griselda Blanco was a Colombian drug lord and she belonged to the dreaded Medellin cartel (same as that of Pablo Escobar although she was by far Escobar’s senior in the trade, in fact, she was the mentor for Escobar, Gilbero Molina, Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha and other notorious drug lords), she was a pioneer in the Miami-based cocaine drug trade and the underworld during the 1970s and the early 1980s. Records indicate that she was responsible for up to 200 murders as she moved cocaine from Colombia to New York, Miami in Florida and Southern California, all on American soil. An unrepentant bisexual, utterly ruthless, extremely violent and ready to kill anyone who stood in her way (at the age of 32, she gunned down her own husband and his six bodyguards over missing cocaine profits, when her third husband kidnapped their child, she had him assassinated and got her child), Blanco’s distribution network brought in an eye-popping $80 million every month. Even in prison, she continued running the cocaine empire. She was shot dead in Colombia on the 3rd of September 2012 at the age of 69. A man on a bike pumped two bullets in her head as she was buying meat and he calmly walked back to his bike and vanished.)
NDLEA was working with the United States DEA and they viewed Igbira as their own Griselda Blanco. Alhaji Danburam added with pride of an accomplished agent:
“This particular arrest led to chains of arrests that unravel the most notorious drug cartel in Nigeria, headed by a Lagos socialite, Alhaja Toyin Abraham Igbira.”
Igbira was in the highest echelon of the most dangerous drug cartels in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and for the NDLEA, getting the shark in their net was a really big deal.
During the arrest, it was revealed that Igbira’s address was listed as 5A, Idowu Agbede-Ile, Mushin, Lagos and her passport with which she attempted to access the United States airspace was numbered A077834 and the name she had on it was Alhaja Toyin Olusola Abikan (one of her many aliases). As if using the green passport was not damaging enough to our national image, Igbira had bought a Nigeria Airways ticket with the number 10874403939266-3.
While in NDLEA custody, the Saudi Arabia returnee excreted the entire 72 wraps of heroin. It was a messy task for NDLEA officials as they had to sort out the heroin capsules out from her faeces stage by stage, she defecated in three sessions. The drugs weighed a total of 675 grammes – shocking by any measure or standard. Igbira had everything lodged inside her gastrointestinal system, the love of sudden wealth blinded her to the fact that one of the packets bursting would mean an excruciating death for her. She did not seem to care.
The NDLEA boss called on the public to assist them in the war against dangerous drugs while revealing that Igbira was going to be dragged to court as a second offender on drug running charges. He said:
“This particular case, which was a celebrated one in the history of NDLEA, is still pending in the law court with Alhaja Toyin A. Igbira facing multiple charges for drug related offenses…”
As part of the evidence collected against Igbira and her fellow drug traffickers were a Mercedes Benz 300E and Nissan Altima and two Nissan sport utility vehicles that belonged to Stephen Akingba – Toyin’s accomplice who was based in the United States of America.
LIFE OF TOYIN IGBIRA AFTER FREEDOM
After her relentless battle to free herself from the grips of the NDLEA and the government, it did not look like Igbira left her nefarious old trade. She continued with the drug business. In August 2007, something very dramatic happened at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport. Just a few days after the NDLEA arrested a senior crew member of the Virgin Atlantic Airways with about 1.75 kilogrammes of substances suspected to be cocaine, another drug peddler was nabbed.
This time around, it was not a well-dressed member of the flight crew but a regular passenger. Aged 42, Babatunde Jamiu was arrested by eagle-eyed NDLEA officials during the screening of passengers on Virgin Nigeria from Lagos to London at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammad Airport, Ikeja. The time on that fateful day was around 8:48 pm Nigerian time and it was on a Sunday. He was attempting to export the narcotic substances which he had ingested when he was arrested.
The most interesting part of his story came when he was being interrogated. That was when he revealed that he was not acting alone. The name of his sponsor that mentioned flicked more than a few eyebrows in the NDLEA. He revealed that he was being sponsored by no other than the notorious Toyin Igbira and he gave her residential address as being in Surulere, Lagos.
Pumped with action and armed with scandalous information from the suspect, NDLEA officials stormed the home of Igbira in the early hours of 13th August, 2007. But as if she was alerted by an informant or insider owl at the airport of Jamiu’s capture, Igbira had vanished.
It was a massive disgrace and a gargantuan humiliation. She had stealthily escaped from the radar of Nigeria’s number one drug law enforcement agency. NDLEA officials were told she had travelled the previous day. It was a disappointing outcome for the gallant officers of the agency. While Babatunde Jamiu was still excreting the drugs he ingested, a flustered agency released a press statement signed by the NDLEA public relations officer at the airport, Mr. Ofoyeju Mitchell and in it, Alhaja Toyin Igbira was declared wanted. It went thus:
‘A prominent Lagos-based celebrity, textile merchant and notorious drug baroness Alhaja Toyin Igbira has been declared wanted by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) following the arrest of one Mohammed Babatunde Jamiu by Narcotic Officers at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.’
Most probably the woman with the worst record with the NDLEA in Nigeria, Toyin Igbira remains a prominent Lagos-based socialite, ‘celebrity’, textile merchant and incorrigible drug baroness who operates with absolute impunity in a country with broken legal system steered by a nonchalant judiciary. Convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment in two separate cases filed against her by the NDLEA on several counts of exportation and conspiracy to export illicit drugs, Alhaja Toyin Igbira remains that drug baroness who outsmarted an entire nation.
According to an interview done in September 1999 with NDLEA Boss Assistant Inspector-General (AIG) of Police, Ogbonna Onovo, Igbira was going straight to resuming her drug business. While expressing his frustration at the country’s justice system, an exasperated Onovo said:
Journalist: Perhaps I should ask you a question about the long detention period. In the past there had been cases of people being detained for three, four years….
Onovo: Are you talking about detention in prison custody or in NDLEA custody.
Journalist: NDLEA custody.
Onovo: We don’t detain people. Go and check. We complete our investigations early enough, we file provisional charges and such person is detained in prison custody. Look at it, that was why special offences tribunals were created so that these cases can be handled immediately. We have a detention cell here. For example, if they bring a deportee from the airport now or like these people we brought from Kano, for preliminary investigation, we can take them to court on a charge and they will be detained in prison custody awaiting trial. So you take them to court; the court will now remand them in prison custody. And that brings us to the fact that we’re now operating in a democracy where we’ll have to take our cases to the federal high court. The miscellaneous offences tribunals have been abolished. So, we all know that in the federal high court, they have their hands filled up now and what we’re seeing today is that most of the suspects that are taken to the federal high court are being granted bail. I’m not saying that the citizen who’s entitled to bail should not take it but what I’m saying is about national interest. We cannot take a drug baron and send him back to society in the name of complying with his fundamental human rights when that person is also a danger to the society. We’re taking cases to courts and the courts are granting bail to drug barons. When I say drug barons I know that such people have the wherewithal to organise and thrive in drug business. Alhaja Toyin Igbira is on bail. You know the celebrated case. We went to court the other day and she was granted bail. When NDLEA goes to arrest now, they say NDLEA has committed contempt of court. Mohammed, the immigration officer, is on bail.
The human rights groups, they’re shouting. Judges are saying that they’re complying with the rule of law. I tell, you anyone who’s a drug baron cannot change. It’s like a leopard that can’t change its spots. Now she’s on bail, I tell you she (Igbira) has started the business again.
TOYIN IGBIRA TODAY
In March 2014, it was reported that the mother of three was battling an unnamed illness and was hibernating abroad where she had reportedly gone for treatment. Below are recent photos of Toyin Igbira:
Today, Toyin Igbira lives her life as a free Nigerian woman. She still maintains her textile shop at her usual base and is not far from parties. A lover of fun, customized diamonds, expensive jewelry, exotic automobiles and anything that oozes luxury, Toyin Igbira seems determined to enjoy her life to the fullest and till the very end. Her tempo might have reduced somewhat but she is still very much active.
A couple of decades ago, she dominated the news waves of the Lagos society alongside personalities and the big spenders like Sanje (Sanjay) Olohuntoyin, Muyiwa Bashorun aka Bill Gates of Africa aka Borokini of Isolo, Niyi Obodo (Niyi Aderinoye), Sati Ramon aka Omo Salawe aka Ibu Owo Oko Monica, Kunle Atoigbe, Akindele Olohuntoyin, Demola Oyefeso, Akanni Gbenguse Gentleman, Bode De Way, Kuso Ferrari, Ago Guarantor, Femi Abiodun Lekuti (aka Danku Baba Imole), Prince Bola Atobatele, Toyin Akindele Ikumoluyi (Ile Eru), Rilwan Aleshinloye, Tunde Borokinni, Wale Saubana Atanda Balogun, Wale Adeniyi Saubana, Goddy Anabor, Alumile Adedeji aka Ade Bendel (I wrote about him HERE), Monsurat Chicago (Toyin Igbira’s goddaughter who died suddenly in her sleep at the age of 50 in June 2015 few days after celebrating her mother’s 75th birthday celebration), Kayode Oduniyi aka Kay-Hanger, Dotun Aderibigbe aka Lobito, Jide Okunnu aka Oga Copperfield, Segun Alawaye, Ade Odutayo, Babatunde Onakoya aka Debasco, Yomi Oluwole, Wole Amodemaja, Tunde Oloko, Muhyideen Aileru, Kayode Lanihun, Segun Awesu, Wale Awesu, Tayo Alakiu, Taye Adekanmbi, Olumide Abegunde and so many others I cannot remember now. These people were hailed to no end by musicians but 99% of them are nowhere to be found today although almost all of them are alive.
On 12th May 2017, Toyin Igbira launched a major party for the burial of her mother at Eagles Club, Surulere, Lagos. King Sunny Ade was there to play live on the stage. Toyin Igbira did not spare any cash in honouring her late mother – the one who put her toes in the line of business that brought her so much turmoil and wealth.
Alhaja Monsurat Asabi (Toyin Igbira) finally succumbed to ovarian cancer on Saturday 20th July, 2019 in a private hospital at Surulere.