Nigeria comic's drug bust a joke

2011-11-01 22:09

kalahari.com

  • Nigeria
    How Ethnic Rivalry and Religious Fundamentalism Threatens Africa's Most Populous Nation Was R342.95 Now R308.66
    buy now
Lagos - Investigators detained the famous Nigerian comedian at the airport, accusing him of swallowing narcotics before trying to board a flight to Paris. But after more than two weeks of observation, Baba Suwe has given up no drugs.

Instead he's made drug enforcement agents the punch line in a country that's a gateway for heroin and cocaine entering Europe and the United States.

On Tuesday, his court appearance amounted to one important question from a stern-faced judge: "You've been to the toilet how many times?"

Baba Suwe's life has been reduced almost to a potty-humour joke after drug enforcement agents arrested the 53-year-old actor on suspicion of hiding drugs inside his body.

Television news programmes have brought on analysts to discuss the actor's bowel movements. And writers have compared the incident to when police arrested late Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti on suspicion of ingesting marijuana, which the musician later memorialised in an unprintable song and album title.

However, Suwe's defence lawyer says the case also has more ominous implications for Nigeria's criminal system.

That "somebody of Babe Suwe's popularity, somebody of his standing in the Nigerian society, somebody's who's so famous can be hauled into detention without any attempt of filing a charge against him, that tells you we may have several thousand people languishing in [drug agency] detention centres with no access to justice", Bamidele Aturu said.

Baba Suwe, whose real name is Babatunde Omidina, is a popular figure in Nigeria's robust national film industry known as Nollywood. He plays as comic relief in films as a butler or a security guard in some films, or as the lead actor in movies spoken in his native Yoruba language.

On October 12, he arrived at Lagos' Murtala Muhammed International Airport to board an overnight Air France flight to Paris, where he was to host a naming ceremony for a newborn.

Full body scan

Agents of Nigeria's National Drug Law Enforcement Agency pulled him out of line for a further screening, officials said.

Such searches remain common in Nigeria, as drug enforcement agents conduct selective searches, usually focusing on travellers who fit the profile of a possible drug courier.

It remains unclear why agents specifically pulled Baba Suwe out of line, as his lawyer said on Tuesday that their selection came after authorities received "information" about his client.

Agents put Baba Suwe through a full-body scanner at the airport that detected a suspicious object inside his body, the agency has said. They detained the actor and newspaper headlines the next morning blared that the actor had been caught with cocaine inside his body.

Except no drugs have come out.

On Tuesday, Baba Suwe appeared in a federal high court in Lagos to challenge his continued detention without charges. His case brought out fans who lined the court compound's fence, peering through the slates to catch a glimpse of the diminutive star.

"As a public person, it's an embarrassment to him and his fans," said Sunday Iyip, 43, who works as a security guard.

The case also has proven to be a high-profile embarrassment for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, which parades a series of suspects before journalists to show its efforts to stop drug trafficking.

Due for release


Despite its campaign, Nigeria remains a major transit point for illegal drugs. Between January and October 2010, Nigeria's drug agency seized more than 180kg of cocaine and more than 40kg of heroin in Lagos, home to the nation's busiest airport, according to a recent US State Department report.

Experts believe much more slipped out of the country via drug mules to airports in Europe and the US.

"Nigerian-organised criminal networks remain a major factor in moving cocaine and heroin worldwide," the State Department report reads. "While many of these organisations are not based in Nigeria, large quantities of both cocaine and heroin transit Nigeria on their way to markets in the West."

Femi Oloruntoba, the drug agency's lead prosecutor, said on Tuesday that he didn't think the Baba Suwe case hurt his agency's image.

"With all the scans and the expert opinion, it's reasonable for us to hold onto" him, the prosecutor said.

Yet inside the court on Tuesday, Justice Yetunde Idowu offered harsh criticism for holding the comedian without charges. She ordered Baba Suwe to be released on Friday on $3 300 bail so long as he doesn't excrete any drugs.

"Mr Omidina is due for release," Idowu said.

And so Baba Suwe left the court, surrounded by Uzi-carrying anti-drug agents. Outside, his fans mobbed around him, applauding him as he passed.

However, even in the moment of judicial glory, the comedian couldn't escape the joke: Those gathered offered an excrement-themed cheer in his local language.




- AP
Read more on:    nigeria  |  west africa  |  narcotics
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Movies
Traffic & Train Alerts
Traffic
Table View 17:05 PM
Road name: Marine Drive Northbound

VERY HEAVY DELAYS between the N1 Highway and Table View

Macassar 16:54 PM
Road name: N2 Outbound

ACCIDENT on the side of the carriageway after the Engen One-Stop garage - HEAVY DELAYS from the R310 Baden Powell Drive

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Social media is pulling you in and you have the desire to find out everything you know about your friends and you have the urge to...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.