Following growing complaints of Nigerian nationals peddling drugs in the stretch between Byculla an d P D’Mello Road, and adjacent to railway tracks of Masjid and Sandhurst stations, the crime branch with over 70 officials raided the area on April 29. While they found 20 foreign nationals, only two were arrested and the remaining escaped. The operation left seven policemen injured after the foreign nationals pelted them with stones. The third Nigerian was arrested yesterday, May 4.
The operation involved around 80 policemen from various crime branch units who had come together after receiving various reports of increased instances of foreigners peddling drugs in the area stretching from P D’Mello road to Byculla.
“We had received reports that the foreign nationals roam around the area in big groups making it difficult for small police teams to nab them. Hence, we decided to form a number of teams of at least four to five officers in each and take them by surprise,” said a senior crime branch officer.
While the police team had the element of surprise, the drug peddlers had the advantage of knowing the area very well.
“We conducted the operation after midnight and took private vehicles to intercept them. However, the accused were comfortable with the topography of the area and ran towards the railway tracks between Masjid and Dockyard road station and escaped. As the area is not well-lit and has high traffic of fast trains, we could not pursue them for long,” said Atulchandra Kulkarni, joint commissioner of police (crime).
Sources also said the accused were highly violent and athletic.
“One of them jumped from a 30-foot high bridge,” said another officer.
He also said the accused picked up stones lining the tracks and pelted them at the officers, slowing their progress and also injuring many. The attack on the policemen by drug peddlers of Nigerian origin is not the first, said another officer who was part of the operation.
The arrested accused have been identified as Ifunanya Ginika Minke (37) and Igwe Chikwneni Emaniyal (24),(pictured) both Nigerian nationals. Sources said that Minke, who was jailed previously was out on bail and is the alleged mastermind.
“They were found with packets containing cocaine, each weighing 20 grams,” said Mr Kulkarni. The officials also found that accused would camp in a scarcely populated building owned by the Bombay Port Trust. “It is a four-storey building where only two families live and they would first meet there and then head out in taxis to areas around Wadibunder,” said an officer.
The police also seized seven mobiles, a digital weighing machine and Rs 44,000 in cash.
“The operation left eight policemen injured with senior inspector Santosh Bagwe in a near critical state. Some of them ambushed Bagwe and would have crushed his head with a stone but ran away after we fired a round to frighten them,” said another officer.
Bagwe is undergoing treatment at JJ Hospital along with senior inspector Ajay Sawant (unit V) who sustained injuries to his leg and ankle. Sources have said that the crime branch was contacting various departments to curb the menace of drug peddling in Wadibunder area.
“We will write to the railway police force (RPF), the railways, BMC and even the local police to help us put up preventive measures. For instance, we want the railways to increase lighting near the tracks leading to Masjid, Sandhurst and Dockyard road stations,” said a senior officer
The third Nigerian suspect (not pictured) was arrested yesterday, May 4 by Crime branch officials for drug possession and peddling. The accused identified as Ugwu Ugochukwu Stanley (33) was caught from near P D’Mello road. While he did not have any drugs on his person, sources say he is part of the same gang of about 20 people and was a close aide of the two arrested last week. The police has also booked the accused under the attempt to murder sections of the Indian Penal Code.
“The foreign nationals are very athletic and they will do anything to escape arrest. Many of our teams were attacked previously too when they tried to nab them. In fact one of the accused bit the hand of a policemen and he needed stitches,” said a crime branch officer.
Sources say the accused Ginika Minke and Igwe Chikwneni Emaniya have not yet revealed where they had stayed while in the city.
“They just point to slums and railway stations, knowing that we can’t trace them. In fact, they even fear their own brethren and are scared that if they reveal details, they will be killed by the other gang members,” he added.
Sources say the area near Wadi Bunder has become a hotbed for drug peddlers.
“Most of them are foreign nationals and they openly sell cocaine and don’t display any fear or worry about being caught by the authorities,” an officer said.
To curb these activities, the police is also approaching other departments to look at bettering the facilities in the area.
Source: The Asian Age