Niger: Record 214 kilos of cocaine seized, mayor arrested

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A Nigerien Mayor and his driver have been arrested by the police for attempting to smuggle 214 kilos of cocaine to Libya. The Central Office for the Repression of Illicit Drug Trafficking (OCRTIS) said Wednesday.

The drugs seized on Sunday, as well as the arrested mayor and driver and their vehicle, were presented to the press in Niamey where they had been transferred on Monday.

According to the spokesperson for OCRTIS, Nana Aïchatou Ousmane Bako, the police were "on the trail of a quantity of drugs brought in from Mali which was about to be transported to Libya."

The investigation "led to the seizure on 2 January of 199 bricks of cocaine weighing a total of 214.635 kilos in a vehicle belonging to the mayor's office in Fachi (north) on which the mayor was traveling" and which was heading for Dirkou, a Nigerian town close to Libya, she added.

She added this is the first time the country has seized such a large quantity of cocaine.

Nana Aïchatou explained, the drugs, which have a "market value of 11.73 billion CFA francs on resale", or nearly 17 million euros, were destined for Europe.

In his response to the situation, Niger's interior minister, Hamadou Adamou Souley said "The government will spare no effort to track down drug traffickers."

Fachi is an oasis in the heart of the Ténéré desert, more than 1,600 km from Niamey and 450 km from Agadez, the major city in northern Niger. The 2,000 or so inhabitants of Fachi derive most of their income from the date and salt trade.

Drug seizures are becoming common in Niger, whose vast northern desert - especially the Salvador Pass area near the Libyan border - is a notorious corridor for drug, arms, and migrant smuggling, and is home to jihadist groups.

In March 2012, 17 tonnes of cannabis resin with a street value of 20 billion CFA francs (more than 30.4 million euros) from Lebanon, via the Togolese port of Lomé, were intercepted in Niger.

Also in June 2018, three tonnes of cannabis resin concealed in crates of fruit and vegetables from the Maghreb and with an estimated value of three billion FCFA (€4.5 million) had been intercepted in Niamey.

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