Sat, 22 Feb 2003

37 Nigerians arrested in Tanah Abang raid

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Police arrested on Friday 37 Nigerians who failed to show their passports, in Hotel Tanah Abang Indah in Central Jakarta. Police also confiscated 400 grams of heroin and a scale.

The arrest which was made at 11:30 a.m., is the first ever involving a large number of foreigners, although only a small amount of drugs was found.

Police needed two buses to transport them from the hotel to the city police headquarters for questioning.

The men were apprehended after police received a tip off that Mamanda restaurant in Tanah Abang, had become a place where drug traffickers conducted transactions.

"Last night, we nabbed a dealer at the restaurant. He led us to Hotel Tanah Abang Indah where he has been staying for at least two weeks," said Adj. Sr. Comr. Anjan P. Putra, the newly appointed chief of detectives for narcotics.

After obtaining information from the dealer, later identified as Dayke Obe Kana, 22, police detectives raided the hotel's rooms.

"We found two bags containing heroin and a bag containing a scale in rooms 359 and 362 on the third floor," said Anjan, adding that police found four people in room 359, while there were 12 people in room 362.

The rest of the 21 people were taken from five of the seven other rooms on the floor.

"However, we have not determined the owner of the heroin as they refuse to admit ownership of the bags and claim that the heroin belongs to someone else who has left," said Anjan.

Joseph Samual, 27, one of those who were arrested from room 359, told reporters that the heroin belonged to a friend, named Paul.

"But, he's left now," Samuel said. But he could not specify Paul's whereabouts.

Samuel who failed to show any identification, claimed that he had lost his passport in the fire which gutted Tanah Abang market.

Samuel said he had been staying in Jakarta for six weeks.

Samuel stayed in the room along with Fran Ugwoke, Chidi Ekemere, Chris, while in the room 362, Dayke Olekauma stayed along with 11 other people.

Anjan added that police were still questioning them to determine whether they really did not have passports.

"If it is proven that they do not have any passports, we will detain them as they have violated the immigration law," said Anjan.

Nigerians, like many foreigners from African countries, are known to be buyers of cloth in textile market Tanah Abang which has been on fire since Wednesday. But, police have arrested some of them for involvement in drug trafficking.

Last year, police arrested three Nigerians for allegedly smuggling 5.9 kilograms of heroin into the country at Regency Melati Mas housing estate in Serpong, Tangerang, on Aug. 22, 2002. They are the late Izuchukwu Okoloaja, alias Kholisan Nkomo, 25, Michael Titus Igweh, 23, and Hillary K. Chimezie, 33.

The three defendants were released by the Tangerang District Court, which dropped charges on Feb. 4, citing legal technicalities. But, police recaptured them. Okoloaja, who had AIDS, died while in police custody.