Sustaining the Fight against Illicit Drugs in Nigeria
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency recently embarked on 'Operation Thunderstrike IV', a week-long fight against drug farmers and distributors, combing forests in areas notorious for Cannabis cultivation in what appears to be an end of the year clean
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has been battling illicit drugs use, trafficking and cultivation in Nigeria for several years. To many youths, drugs provides an elixir, an escape into the world of dreams and from experimentation to addiction; many youths in Nigeria indulge in the use of drugs.
Rehabilitation institutions have shown that drugs use does not discriminate on social status or economic wellbeing; it is an infectious habit that attracts anyone that exposes himself to it.
It has been established that in the last 10 years there has been a growing use of cannabis in Nigeria. This fact has made the work of NDLEA more daunting and the agency, under Chairman/Chief Executive, Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (Rtd), has decided to fight the use of drugs at the roots.
Recently NDLEA embarked on the fourth campaign against the cultivation of cannabis in Nigeria. The intelligence-driven counter narcotic campaign led to unprecedented seizure of tons of Cannabis already harvested and heaped for onward movement to the illicit drug markets. At the end of the operation, approximately 195.8 tons of the illicit drug crops were recovered from six camps raided by the operatives.
Spokesman of the agency, Jona Acheme, told THISDAY that the officers and men of the agency, with the army personnel providing cover, took to the forests, covering distances of several hours, running through the nights to uncover camps, warehouses and depots where harvested cannabis bags are concealed. He said in the operation, the ruggedness of the terrain met with the doggedness of the operatives.
“A major haul was recorded in Ala Forest Reserve in Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State where the agency intercepted and burnt down 181.2 tons of the illicit drug crop concealed in warehouses. The haul was made from three different warehouses spread across the forest. A total of 12, 078 bags of the illicit drug crop were discovered in the three warehouses out of which 16 bags weighing 240 kilograms were brought to the office for prosecution. In addition, 730 sacks of Cannabis seeds weighing 21.9 tons were recovered and destroyed by burning. The agency also recovered two single barrel guns and expended cartridges,” Acheme said.
He disclosed that Uzebba and Ukpoji-Ihkin, two communities in Owan West LGA of Edo State, bordering Ondo State, which NDLEA identified as being notorious for the cultivation of Cannabis, were the first to receive the beam of light of the well-studded operational team.
“There was one Ohimai Ayodele, ‘51 year-old man and a title holder in Uzebba, a notable cannabis merchant suspected to be the mastermind of the killing of NDLEA personnel earlier in the year, was apprehended during the operation. In an attempt to resist arrest, his gang opened fire and injured some of the operatives,” he said.
According to the agency’s spokesman, a reinforcement of NDLEA and army personnel stormed Ivbiodeohen forest in Uzebba where five different warehouses were raided with at least two tons of cannabis destroyed. The agency personnel arrested a 66 year-old man, Ojeagbese Asabiya, where he was allegedly hiding in a locality seemed to have been deserted, where several Cannabis nursery and transplant farms were discovered and destroyed.
NDLEA discovered eight locally fabricated guns and several rounds of ammunition from the spots. Six locally fabricated Cannabis compressing machines were also recovered from the camp.
“At Uteh, near Ifon in Ondo State, the operation lasted twenty hours as the operatives invaded and ransacked the Ajobieye forest in Owo Local Government Area, leading to the destruction by burning of 1, 225 bags of Cannabis sativa, weighing 12. 3 tons. A total of 174.5 kilograms and sample of fresh plants were brought to the office for prosecution purposes.
“The operation came with high level strategic planning because of the volatility and rugged terrain. The agency pulled its resources from the six geographical zones and got the collaboration of the military formations within the axis. A total of 45 army personnel joined forces with 329 officers and men of the agency to embark on the campaign,” Achema said.
He disclosed to THISDAY that the operational team was drawn from all the specialised teams of NDLEA. These include the Directorate of Operations and General Investigation, Tactical Team, Joint Task Force, Special Enforcement Team and Combined Inter-Agency Task Force and personnel of Edo, Ondo, Osun, Oyo and Ekiti State Commands. The Army personnel were drawn from 4 Brigade, Nigeria Army, Benin and 32 Field Artillery Brigade, Owena Cantonment Akure.
The State Commander, NDLEA Ondo State Command, Haruna Gagara, who hosted the operation was elated by its success.
“The operation has caused a serious disruption in the drug market and has checked the likely influx of drugs during the yuletide”, Gagara said.
He added that the impact of the operation would be felt in the illicit drug market nationwide, because about 80 per cent of Cannabis markets across the country obtain their cannabis supply from the states touched by this operation, remarking that the previous operation targeted the planting and growing of the illicit crop which succeeded in nipping in the bud several hectares of Cannabis farms.
Gagara assured that the agency would continue to wait for drug merchants on the road to intercept cannabis shipments smuggled into the market.
“I can assure you that we will sustain current efforts”, Gagara said.
NDLEA said that between January and October 2019, the agency has made a total seizure of 555. 3 tons of Cannabis and has arrested 5, 913 suspected drug offenders.
“NDLEA has made a huge difference in the drug control firmament under the present administration with every formation of the agency now living up to expectation. Take Kano State for instance where the NDLEA Command has brought the hitherto thriving illicit Tramadol and cough syrup with Codeine market on its knees, with a sustained crack down on warehouses and joints. Taraba State Command of the agency in a recent sting operation apprehended 21 suspected suppliers of illicit drugs to the terrorist strong holds. The command seized 239 kilograms of drugs from the suspects.
“Osun State Command equally uncovered and destroyed 2.4 hectares of Cannabis plantations located in a near-impossible terrain. The officers and men of the command risked being drown as they had to cross a waist-deep-River without the aid of a canoe and had to trek several hours to access the farms. Ondo and Oyo State Commands of the agency have had to spend days and nights combing the forests for Cannabis plantations and destroying same,” Achema said.
He also disclosed that in September, Kaduna
State Command intercepted 923.65 kilograms of Cannabis, part of which was meant for the Kano illicit drug market. Within the spate of two months, Kwara State Command arrested seven notorious drug merchants and in one single interception took in 500 kilograms of Cannabis at the Bode Sadu end of the state. The consignment was heading for the Northern part of the country.
By September 2019, the agency had arrested over 3, 465 suspected drug offenders and had seized more than 39 tons of illicit drugs and has secured 150 convictions.
“In the first one year of Abdallah’s assumption of duties, the agency arrested 8,257 suspected drug offenders. This figure is made up of 7,720 males and 537 females. The total drug seizures during the period stood at 267 tons. During this period, the agency prosecuted 2,271 cases in which it won 2,249. Among this number, 19 cases were discharged and acquitted while a case was struck out.
“The agency maintained its steady performance even in 2017 where it arrested 10,009 drug suspects nationwide. It seized 309 tons of drugs. In 2017, the agency achieved 98 percent success even when it lost 192 cases out of the 1, 666 offenders prosecuted. The agency secured the conviction of 1, 621 drug offenders,” NDLEA spokesman disclosed.
He said the NDLEA operational balance sheet in 2018 was positive in all respects.The agency arrested 9, 824 suspected drug offenders and seized 316 tons of the dangerous drugs.
“Awareness is the first line of drug abuse prevention. One factor Abdallah has discovered to be working in favour of drug abuse is ignorance. He has therefore given impetus to the anti-drug awareness drive of the agency. There has been an intensive and extensive anti-drug abuse education and awareness programme in schools and communities.
“The agency’s counseling scorecard indicates that 2, 777 drug dependent persons were counseled in 2016 and 1, 167 in 2017 while in 2018 it counseled 1, 236 persons.”
Achema also said that Chairman and Chief Executive of NDLEA, Abdallah is equally redefining international collaboration, knowing that drug trafficking is a transnational organised crime which requires synergy among nations.
“Through his strategic action, the agency now enjoys robust relationship with international partners which has led to the donation of six sniffer dogs courtesy of the German government, donation of vehicles by the American government, donation of drug testing machine for dependent persons by the French government and rebuilding of NDLEA NAHCO Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc) Office by the British government. The agency has continued to maintain the American government’s clean bill of health as a cooperating country against illicit drug trafficking, globally.
This continuous fight against drugs by the NDLEA is commendable because of the evil the menace portends to the society. According to Freedom Foundation, some of the common side effects of cannabis include an altered state of consciousness in which the user may feel “high”, very happy, euphoric, relaxed, sociable and uninhibited. The user may also suffer distorted perceptions of time and space. The user may also feel more sensitive to things around them, and may also experience a more vivid sense of taste, sight, smell, and hearing.
Cannabis also caused increased pulse and heart rate, bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils and often increased appetite. It also leads to impaired coordination and concentration, making activities such as driving a car or operating machinery difficult and dangerous.
“People who use large quantities of cannabis may become sedated or disoriented and may experience toxic psychosis – not knowing who they are, where they are, or what time it is. High doses may also cause fluctuating emotions, fragmentary thoughts, paranoia, panic attacks, hallucinations and feelings of unreality,” the foundation said.