A Nigerian air stewardess, Chinwendu Uwakaonyenma Ogbonnaya, who was caught trying to smuggle cocaine worth N60million into the United Kingdom (UK) recently has been sentenced to five and a half years inprisonment.
The 29-year-old crew member had flown into London's Heathrow airport from Lagos as a member of crew on Arik Air flight from Lagos on December 18, 2011.
She was apprehended during screening by UK Border Agency officers at the airport's crew clearance facility, as her luggage revealed that she was carrying a rucksack with a false back hiding package of cocaine.
Forensic tests later showed that the package contained approximately two kilogrammes of high purity cocaine, with UK street value of about £250,000.
Ogbonnaya claimed that she had been given the bag by a friend and that she was unaware it contained drugs.
However, she later pleaded guilty to attempting to import a class A drug, and a judge at Isleworth Crown Court in West London on Thursday February 2 sentenced her to five and a half years in prison.
She will also face deportation at the end of her sentence.
Assistant director Pete Avery, from the UK Border Agency's Criminal and Financial Investigation Team, said: "The cocaine found here was of a very high purity and there is no doubt that had this woman not been stopped it would've ended up being cut and sold on the streets of London.
"Ogbonnaya sought to abuse her position as a crew member by bringing these drugs in. As a result she now faces a long time away from home and behind bars."
"UK Border Agency officers are on constant alert to keep class A drugs and other banned substances out of the UK and take them out of the supply chain before they reach the streets."
Speaking on the issue, managing director of Arik Air, Mr. Chris Ndulue said that the airline is taking measures in-house to ensure it forestalls such situations in the future.
He said the airline has put stringent checks in place but that despite all efforts one can never do enough in the area of security.
He said," When we started international operations, we were particular about drugs and all other banned substances as well as explosives. We bought equipment that has helped us and it has helped give credibility to our operations."
"We have a lot of personnel in-house that are experienced to deal with such difficulties and they are doing their job. If in three years that incident happened once, it means there are some checks. Despite all efforts you can never do enough."
"We have to and we will tighten all loose ends, bring in more equipment and personnel. We are also urging the press to educate and sensitise people and appeal to their sense of morality because it is a crime that affects innocents too."
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