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Page last updated at 22:26 GMT, Monday, 17 May 2010 23:26 UK

'Cocaine smuggling' Nigerian politician held in Lagos

Eme Zuru Ayortor
Eme Zuru Ayortor sais he needed the money to stand for election

A Nigerian politician has been arrested on suspicion of smuggling cocaine at Lagos airport.

Nigerian drug enforcement officials say Eme Zuru Ayortor swallowed nearly two kilograms of cocaine (4.4 lbs) in order to fund his election campaign.

Police say body scanners revealed the contents of his stomach as he attempted to board a flight to Frankfurt.

Mr Ayortor, 52, is running in the Edo state House of Assembly election but it is not clear for which party.

'Wider network'

Officers from Nigeria's drug law enforcement agency say they recovered 100 parcels of cocaine from the politician's stomach at Lagos' Murtala Mohammed International Airport.

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The quantity of cocaine we recovered is large. We believe it may not be his first attempt to smuggle drugs
Nigerian police officer

It is understood that Mr Ayortor told officers he needed the money - because his last election campaign, in 2007, bankrupted him.

He was arrested two weeks ago - police are now at the end of their investigation.

They believe Mr Ayortor is part of a wider network.

"The quantity of cocaine we recovered is large," one officer told the BBC. "We believe it may not be his first attempt to smuggle drugs."

Mr Ayortor, a qualified pharmacist, studied at the University of Wisconsin in the US.

The BBC's Caroline Duffield in Lagos says politicians in Nigeria raise large amounts of money at election time - much of it goes on bribing election officials and paying gangs of young men to intimidate voters.

Last month, customs officers at the same airport seized a consignment of military uniforms which they linked to politicians preparing for elections next year.

Nigeria is a major transit route for drugs - from South America and Asia - to the US and Europe. More than 300 tonnes of narcotics were seized in the country last year.

Drugs law enforcement officers in Lagos have only four police sniffer dogs to monitor the airports, land borders and a massive seaport. They privately complain they need many more sniffer dogs to do their work properly.



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