Sunday, 8 March 2015

'How I Escaped From UK,US Prisons' - Ex-Female Drug Trafficker (PHOTO)

As a teenager in the 70s, Mrs. Iya­bo Yomi’s greatest dream was to climb the social ladder at all costs. That quest pushed her into joining a drug trafficking cartel which landed her in and out of several prisons across the world. After several jailbreaks and series of unfinished prison sentenc­es, she was arrested in Ghana where she decided to turn a new leaf and complete her 10-year jail term.

Broken but grateful to God for having spared her life, Iyabo, who is in her early 60s, went down memory lane to tell Satur­day Sun the story of journeys through sev­eral prisons including how she broke out of UK prison twice and once in US prison. She is currently involved in a ministry that sees to the rehabilitation of persons going in and out of prison.

     “I got it all wrong from the very beginning. It was all about enjoying myself and climbing the social ladder at all costs. Shortly after my secondary education in 1975, I told my parents that I wanted to travel down to London to further my edu­cation. Every big boy and girl was travel­ling to London for business or studies then. Initially, my mother refused, insisting that I was too young to be alone. She, however, took me to Mecca twice, and I became an Alhaja at 18.

    “I was able to convince my mother and she allowed me to travel out of the coun­try. I got to London and made some friends. During the period I spent in London, I was able to research the possibility of owning a shop in London.
    “I came back, was able to raise 500 pounds and prepared to travel back to Lon­don. My aunty gave me a parcel to help de­liver to a friend in London. I never knew that she added Indian hemp in the package. When they called me to open my bag at the airport, I innocently opened the bag, and they found the wrap. I was arrested and tak­en to Reading police station and later sent to Holloway prison”, she stated

In the prison, she was convinced that drug peddling was the key to the success that she sought.

     “I met a lot of Nigerians, it was there that they told me the worth of what I was carrying. I couldn’t believe it, that I just got the key to my wealth. Luckily, I was given three years suspended sentence and later deported back to Nigeria.”

Insatiable lust for wealth
Back home in Nigeria, all that was in Iyabo’s mind was how to start moving In­dian hemp from Nigeria to London.

     “I im­mediately got another passport with another name and started my trip with packs of Indi­an hemp. It was a good business and money started to flow. I continued till 1981 when I was arrested. I was pregnant with my sec­ond child. I was 26 years old and full of en­ergy. For the sake of my pregnancy, I was also given suspended sentence and deported back to Nigeria.
    “The more they arrested me, the more I became crazy and determined to continue in drug pushing. I kept strategizing and perfecting my skills. I was young and very rich. I did not know the value of money then, I was ready to spend it on anything. At the age of 20, I bought the latest car, BMW sports for myself.”

Still not satisfied, Iyabo got another passport and returned to London.

    “Getting passports was easy then, unlike now that is very difficult. I got a new passport with a new name and entered London again. After several successful trips, I was arrested again and jailed. Then I was pregnant and almost due to deliver. I actually gave birth there and handed over my baby to my friend. I did that because I needed to come out and claim my baby. If they discovered that there was no body, government would claim that child.

    “They later transferred me to Asken grange where I met those who were in for much more terrible offences. We hatched a plan and escaped by jumping through the fence. I was able to get a travel certificate after I bought a British birth certificate from a white friend and moved over to Holland. I went to the Nigerian embassy and told them that I lost my things in transit. They gave me ticket and a covering passport back to Nigeria. This did not change me. Naturally, as a mother, I am supposed to slow down and face my family but I had so much mon­ey and left them at the mercy of my mother, relatives and friends.”

    While in Holland, Iyabo got a connec­tion to start trafficking heroin. “It was much better and you can carry as much quantity as possible. I decided to try US and it was a huge success. I could travel every two weeks to US with wraps of heroin. I suc­cessfully moved drugs in and out of US for more than 24 times before I was caught. I was remanded at MCC in New York and sentenced to five years imprisonment. I was later moved over to West Virginia prisons in US, where I was to serve my remaining sen­tence. It was there that I met a friend from Columbia, her case was worse than mine. We also hatched a plan and escaped after spending several months. We scaled the wall and ran away. They declared a man­hunt but because everything about me was fake including my passport, it wasn’t easy to find me. I quickly made arrangements and got the services of a man who posed as my husband. We got a ticket from Boston to Washington and then to London.

    “Whites love couples and they believe so much in them, so it was easy for me to move ahead of the man and just wave that my hus­band was right behind me with my passport. Since I had a boarding pass, they would let me through. I immediately disappeared in the crowd. In London, I told them that I was in transit, that I did not know what was holding back my husband. They allowed me through and promised to help sort it out. This was how I landed in Nigeria.

    “But instead of change of mind, I became worse than I was before. I changed location, from Bangkok, India, Thailand, Pakistan and different countries in Europe and Asia. My craze continued even after giving birth to five kids. One thing I never did was to take drugs. Most successful drug couriers do not take drugs. I was very confident of myself and never wore anything with metal to avoid the machine from asking me to re­turn. The machines then could not detect if you were carrying hard drugs. The officer would only watch if you are nervous. I was so perfect that even with my body heav­ily laced with drug, I will stop a drug en­forcement agent and request for direction to where I was going to. I also stayed away from Mecca and Israel because these coun­tries are sacred. As I said earlier, I became an Alhaja at the age of 18, I only visited the country to seek God’s forgiveness. I feel bad when I see those who carry drugs to Mecca and Israel in the name of seeking the face of God”, Iyabo narrated.

The beginning of the end
Her crave for wealth continued and in 1999, Iyabo promised herself for once that she would spend Christmas with her fam­ily.

     “I felt that money can buy all including the love of a mother to her children. During December period, I decided to do a quick one so I travelled to Pakistan. The news was all over the place that the world was coming to an end and I wanted to spend it with my family. I needed all the money in the world to celebrate with my family before the world comes to an end as predicted. I guess you will wonder what happened to all the money that I made. I was living a luxurious life and once you are caught, you will be expected to spend your last kobo to secure your freedom.

    “So, I moved drugs from Pakistan to Ghana, to sell some over there before com­ing back to Nigeria. I was with some female friends who were in the same business. Ghana’s illicit drug control officers stopped us because Pakistan was seen as a notori­ous route for drug peddlers. We were de­tained for days while they ran tests to know if we swallowed any substance. Because of the delay, one of us who swallowed the pill became sick. She had no choice but to confess.

    We were taken to Osu police sta­tion in Ghana and later remanded in James Fort prison pending the outcome of the trial. On September 18, 2000, I was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and moved over to Asawam female prisons. I lost all and was terribly devastated. I knew I had failed my family especially my seven-year-old boy who was deprived of the love and affection of a mother. I was still con­templating on what to do, when I met fellow inmates who drew me closer to God. I started reading the Bible and knew that whatever a man sows, he must surely reap. I got to know that riches from God added no sorrow. I repented and was converted to Chris­tianity. I decided to serve my sentence and promised God that I will never go back to my former life.”

Life in various prisons
According to Iyabo, one of the con­tributing factors to her change was the state of the prison in Ghana.

    “In US and UK prisons, the only thing you miss is your family. You are even more comfortable than most homes in UK and US. You are even given opportu­nity to work and support your family from the prison. Most Nigerians who couldn’t get a job will commit a mi­nor offence and be sent to jail. They support their families in Nigeria from US prison. They can spend years over there and no one will miss them. Even when I gave birth, I had all the facili­ties needed. We were well taken care of till I gave my baby to my friend.”

In Ghana prison, the story was not the same.

    “It was a living hell. About 25 persons were expected to sleep in the same room with a bucket which was used as a mobile toilet. You can imagine the stench. Inmates who were in charge of the kitchen turned it into a money making adventure. They will cook without oil and force us to buy from them. It was then I knew that I was being punished for an offence.
    “I was determined to change, that was why I chose the best option. There were so many hardened criminals, those who killed their husbands and are proud of it.”

New life
Back home in 2010, Iyabo had to face her family and convince them that she was here to stay for good. “I was more of a pastor when I came back and this did not go down well with my mother who is a Muslim. She was happy that I had returned but disap­pointed that I changed religion. I told her that Jesus changed me and I was not going to look back. I begged her and I am still begging.

    “I also reconciled with my children both in Nigeria and in London. I had two kids in London and they are doing well. I thank God for keeping my chil­dren intact despite my waywardness. I never allowed them to be part of my illegal business because I knew the after effect. It was God all the way es­pecially for my son who I left when he was barely seven. I thank my family for accepting me back despite all the embarrassment that I caused them.”

Iyabo said that she was determined to save more souls and share her story on the dangers of hard drugs.

    “That was how I met Arhur Judah Angel, founder of Livewire International Organisation. I have been part of his project which sees to the rehabilitation of inmates in and out of prison.” And to those still in the drug peddling busi­ness, she said: “It is bad, you will for­ever live with consciousness that you have destroyed so many lives.

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