Controversial drug baroness, Alhaja Monsurat Asabi (Ashabi) Oluwatoyin Oyemade Rufai Abraham aka Toyin Igbira was born on the 18th of February, 1963 (although she lists her date of birth on her Facebook page as 18th of February 1960).
Toyin attended St. Paul’s Primary School, Idi Oro, Mushin in Lagos State from 1970 to 1976. After that, she was admitted into the famous Reagan Memorial Baptist Girls High School, Sabo Yaba, also in Lagos State. However, by the time she got to JSS2, she dropped out.
THE HUMBLE BEGINNING OF HER ILLICIT TRADE
In 1994, she was allegedly introduced into the smoky world of drug smuggling by one Fatai, a London-based Nigerian who is now dead. She confessed before her interrogators:
“Fatai befriend my friend Kudirat. Kudirat and Fatai live for London. Na the time when dem come Nigeria they introduce me to drug business. True to God, he did not tell me say na drug. He tell me say na tablet wey dem dey use for horse. That if dem sell the tablet for London, person go get money. He know say I get money for my cloth business. I give am money and he buy am, go sell for London. He come back and give me my money with interest. Later he tell me say na drug. Later, I start to buy myself…The name na heroin.”
In early January 1996, Fatai died in circumstances that are still unclear and it was that time that one Mr. Brown surfaced and commenced ‘business’as a courier for Toyin Igbira. She revealed:
“The first time Brown carry drug to America for me, he carry three kilogramme. The second time, he carry 2.5kg of heroin.’’
Spurred on by the success and the incredibly-fast profits, Brown introduced more couriers including one Ade and two disabled athletes (more on them later) one of whom is named Yekini to the domineering drug baroness. She recollected the incident:
“Na Brown pack the heroin inside foam wey dem take siddon. Na for my dining room and I dey do my hair for the sitting room. Yekini was given one $1000 as pocket money and I for pay Yekini $2000 if he return from America.”
TOYIN IGBIRA AND AKINGBA CONNECTION
By December, 1996, Akingba would join Igbira’s intercontinental connection in Chicago, thus consolidating her expansion and presence on American soil.
She reportedly claimed she met Akingba in 1991 (although the latter in his own confession said 1992) in Mushin after which she employed him as a driver. A forward-thinking and sophisticated drug queen, in November 1993, Igbira procured a Zimbabwean passport, visa and ticket and it was with these that Akingba snaked his way into the United States of America.
From their base in Chicago, Akingba often took delivery of drug consignments from Toyin’s brothers and sisters for sale at an agreed commission.
“Alhaja Toyin use to send drug, heroin to her family. When they bring it like that, they will call me. Sometimes, Alhaja use to send two kilogrammes of Heroin or more. Then they will share it and give me about 600 grammes or more to sell…”
“Sometimes, Alhaja Toyin will tell me to sell for 9,500 dollars per 100 grammes. Then I will sell it $12,000 or $13,000. When I sell finish, I will calculate all the money, I will take my gain and give her money to her family.’
Akingba had more to spit out. He claimed he sold drugs worth $600,000 (then N60 million naira) for Alhaja Igbira.
But as it is the case with drug cartels, a fight soon broke out. In April 1997, things took a turn for the horrible for the ‘business partners’. That month, Toyin’s sister had delivered five kilogrammes of heroin in two consignments of three and two kilogrammes.
In a bizarre plot twist, Akingba said all the five kilogrammes of heroin were stolen from his car trunk by unknown persons. Immediately he discovered the ‘theft’, he called Toyin’s sisters and brothers chilling in Chicago and delivered to them the devastating news of the loss of their lucrative ‘cargo’. He did not stop there, he also called Toyin Igbira’s husband in Lagos to intimate him of the development. All parties made frantic efforts to locate the missing drug package or at least understand the mystery surrounding how it vanished but there was no success. Igbira was enraged.
Akingba was in a big mess. He knew how ruthless drug barons and baronesses are and he was not oblivious of the many dangers that confronted couriers who dared to confront or play a fast one with their callous and cold-hearted bosses. In the narcoworld, only one thing mattered – money. Even more than lives.
Thus, on the 18th of November, 1997, he jumped on the next available flight and his destination was Lagos,Nigeria. Upon his arrival, he headed straight for the Lagos Island shop of Alhaja Toyin Igbira, he said of that day he will never forget:
“I explain everything to her that I don’t have money now and I don’t want to do the drug business now because I don’t know who set me up,” he said. “Then I told her to help me with Yoruba medicine, black power, so that we can know who stole the five kilo of heroin.”
But the vicious spirit that dwelled inside Igbira’s dark heart ensured that all the explanations that Akingba gave fell on deaf ears. She was thoroughly dissatisfied and trusting no one, the only thing on her mind was how to retrieve her money. At this point, pay close attention and see how rotten the Nigerian system is.
Alhaja Toyin got across to her friend who was working in the NDLEA and exposed Akingba as a drug dealer. Unknown to Igbira herself, the NDLEA was moving in quietly on her but they played along. On the 18th of January 1998, NDLEA operatives launched a commando-like raid on Akingba’s palatial mansion at 8, Idowu Street, Ipaja and by the time the raid ended, his passport, American green card and other valuables. Igbira did not suspect a thing as the NDLEA operatives played dumb and even organized several meetings at a hotel on Airport Road for the two business partners to resolve their dispute over the missing drug package.
After days of intense negotiation, they reached a conclusion – Akingba was to pay Igbira the sum of N25 million naira for the lost drug. He was instructed to vomit an initial sum of N5 million naira. Alarmed, Akingba screamed that he had no money with him but that Alhaja Toyin could sell his Lexus car, a Quest bus and an Isuzu Rodeo sports utility vehicle all valued at N7.5 million. Akingba confessed:
“She said she will not sell my cars unless I sell all the cars by myself within two weeks and give her N5 million so that the NDLEA oga (officers) will give me my passport and green card.”
It was after this ordeal that the NDLEA arrested Alhaja Toyin Igbira in December 1997 but I will talk about this in detail in the sections below.
WOMAN WITH HEART OF STEEL
A woman with a heart of steel, Igbira was not afraid of the military junta. As is the tradition in the danger-ridden and merciless world of drug trade, Igbira worked under a different name.
Igbira quickly gained notoriety as a result of her willingness to risk it all – all in a bid to make some fast cash. She ran into drug law enforcement agents countless times. In 1996, the Nigerian contingent was heading for the Summer Paralympics in Atlanta, United States of America. Slated to hold from 16th to the 25th of August of that year, it was the very first Paralympics to get mass media sponsorship and it had a budget of $81 million. It was a very big deal for the world.
But as the joyful Nigerian team headed for this global sporting event, disaster struck, a calamity beyond anyone’s expectation tore the Nigerian flag into shreds. Two disabled Nigerian athletes were caught with drugs. By the time the investigations were done, all fingers pointed in the same direction of one person – Toyin Igbira. She had engineered everything and her willingness to smuggle her drugs under the official national sports channel only showed how daring she can be.
She was the most notorious drug baroness in the history of Nigeria. Of all the female scorpions in the narcotic business, none came closer to Igbira whose daring exploits still shock many till date!
Toyin Igbira was one of the most difficult nuts for the NDLEA to crack. For years upon years, she had managed to outsmart the nets of the country’s top drug law agency. She seemed invincible, slippery and smooth.
“In 1996, the Nigerian contingent was heading for the Summer Paralympics in Atlanta, United States of America. Slated to hold from 16th to the 25th of August of that year, it was the very first Paralympics ; as the joyful Nigerian team headed for this global sporting event, disaster struck, a calamity beyond anyone’s expectation tore the Nigerian flag into shreds. Two disabled Nigerian athletes were caught with drugs. By the time the investigations were done, all fingers pointed in the same direction of one person – Toyin Igbira.”
Bit of drama in court…. On the 18th of August 1999,when Justice Abubakar Abdulkadir Jega granted Toyin Igbira bail in the sum of N1 million with two sureties each in like sum.
But the NDLEA operatives were so furious with the baffling judgment that they were ready to pounce on Igbira and re-arrest her immediately with fresh charges on her neck. In order to ensure this did not happen, Justice Jega personally and physically shielded Toyin Igbira from the action-ready NDLEA operatives when he drove her out of the court premises with his own car all in a bid to just make sure the NDLEA operatives do not rearrest the heroin baronness!
However,NDLEA was so pissed off that they refused to hand over the property they seized from her. The following were seized from Toyin Igbira by the NDLEA operatives:
“Assorted clothes and fabrics from her 14, Nnamdi Azikiwe Street, Lagos Shop valued at N17.5 million naira.
Landed property and buildings at 36, Itire Road, Mushin, 14, Bereola Street, Surulere, 12 Owodunni Street, Iwaya “and an undeveloped plot of land at 212, Church Street, Onigbagbo Village at Opebi, Ikeja.”
Intrestingly, after trailing her for good five years since 1997, the NDLEA finally made another major breakthrough on the 15th of November, 2002. On that day, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency at Ikeja announced with maximum glee that they had trapped a legendary suspect alive.
Alhaja Toyin Abraham Igbira , was arrested red-handed with a hefty package – 72 wraps of substance suspected to be heroin. Her fall from narcotic grace to criminal grass that fateful day occurred at the ever-bustling Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos.
It was that moment that many Nigerians really heard her name and saw her face for the very first time. She was paraded before ogling journalists at the NDLEA headquarters. During the adrenalin-filled press conference, Alhaji Abdullahi A. Danburam who was the NDLEA zonal commander trumpeted it loud for everyone to hear that they had been placing traps for Alhaja Igbira since 1997 but she managed to evade almost all by remaining several steps ahead of them – until the gods got pissed off and declared her cup full again on the 15th of November……
During the arrest, it was revealed that Igbira’s address was listed as 5A, Idowu Agbede-Ile, Mushin, Lagos and her passport with which she attempted to access the United States airspace was numbered A077834 and the name she had on it was Alhaja Toyin Olusola Abikan (one of her many aliases). As if using the green passport was not damaging enough to our national image, Igbira had bought a Nigeria Airways ticket with the number 10874403939266-3…..
Alhaja Monsurat Asabi (Toyin Igbira) finally succumbed to ovarian cancer on Saturday 20th July, 2019. She was aged 56.