Drugs agency seizes Nigerian comedian at airport

AP News
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Posted: Oct 14, 2011 4:18 PM
Drugs agency seizes Nigerian comedian at airport

A popular Nigerian comedian was being held by authorities Friday after an airport full-body scanner detected what investigators believed to be drugs hidden inside his body, an official said.

Baba Suwe, whose real name is Babatunde Omidina, was stopped by National Drug Law Enforcement Agency investigators Wednesday night at Lagos' Murtala Muhammed International Airport before he could board a 10 p.m. Air France flight to Paris.

Agency spokesman Ofoyeju Mitchell said the scanner picked up a suspicious object inside his body.

Baba Suwe, 53, is a popular figure in Nigeria's robust national film industry, often playing a comically befuddled butler or security guard in his native Yoruba language.

"I find it is very difficult to believe that Baba Suwe would do that," said Jide Kosoko, ex-President of the Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners, to which Baba Suwe belongs.

Kosoko added: "Let's wait and see."

The Nigerian drug agency said Baba Suwe was traveling to France for the naming ceremony of a daughter of an Air France employee. The comedian was expected to host the event, the drug agency spokesman said.

An airline employee who was accompanying Baba Suwe when he was detained was also prevented from boarding the flight. However, the employee was not detained as a full-body scan did not reveal anything, the drug agency spokesman said.

A spokesman for Air France-KLM SA declined to comment.

Nigeria is a major transit point for cocaine and heroin moving to Europe and the U.S. Between January and October 2010, Nigeria's drug agency seized more than 400 pounds (some 180 kilograms) of cocaine and more than 90 pounds (more than 40 kilograms) of heroin in Lagos, the nation's busiest airport, according to a recent U.S. State Department report.

A few months after a Nigerian man allegedly attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner in Christmas 2009, Nigeria started installing scanners at its international airports and sought training for its agents. The scanners create detailed 3-D images of passengers but remain largely unused. Anti-drug agents conduct selective searches, usually focusing on travelers who fit the profile of a possible drug courier.