By Chioma Okezie-Okeh
A 23-year-old young man named Okechukwu Nnorom, and a lucky survivor of the devastating effect of methamphetamine, otherwise known as Mkpuru mmiri in Igbo language, has revealed how he got hooked with the drug. He stated also how he got knocked out in the process, owing to his ignorance and innocence.
It was meant to be a bet worth N10, 000, and he decided to give it a try, he told Saturday Sun. The bet was all about who could take three cubes of the substance and still remain stable. But in less than five minutes after consuming it, Nnorom became restless and began to sweat profusely. The spectators and other competitors advised him to try and vomit out the substance. But he insisted on hanging on despite the dangerous sign, adding that he wanted the N10, 000 bet for keeps.
Twenty minutes after he refused to heed the advice, he switched personality and started exhibiting the traits of an insane person. According to eyewitnesses, it took the efforts of six able-bodied men to hold him down and to tie him up. When they saw that there was no improvement in his condition, after pouring several sachets of water on him, they alerted his family, who came over to pick him up in the football field where he lay helpless after being tied up. Quickly, they rushed him to a private mental rehab facility in Aba, Abia State. There he spent three months getting well.
How I got hooked
When Saturday Sun met him, Nnorom, who is fully back to his senses said that his greatest wish now is to serve God as a pastor. Recalling what he passed through, the much he could remember before he lost his senses, the young man claimed that he was deceived into believing that the Mkpuru Mmiri of a thing was just a regular ice laced with hot drinks.
His account: “I am from Abia State and the first child of my parents. I have four siblings. My uncle and master sells curtain materials. I was asked to live with him after I lost my father in 2019. In fact, he was the one who insisted that I should relocate. That was sometime in October of that year.
“To be sincere, he took good care of me and all his apprentices with whom I lived together in his house. As a young man, I had few friends with whom I used to go to a football field in Aba to play. The little money we got from hustling in the market was used mostly to buy drinks to entertain ourselves especially on Sunday evenings when we did not go to market.
“Among us boys there were always hot drinks, both sachet and small-bottled ones flying about. I refused to take marijuana because I feared that my uncle, who is a Christian, might notice through my mouth or body odour. He had warned me that if I misbehaved, he would send me packing. I don’t have a father and my mother is a petty trader. I had no better option.”
Nnorom said that he continued to keep to this principle till sometime in August when he was challenged to lick a cube of ice and earn some money. “Normally after playing ball, we would be thirsty. One man that sells all sorts of hot drinks was the one who brought this Mkpuru mmiri thing. He told us that he iced some of the hot drinks for those who were thirsty. Initially, I was not moved to join them to have a taste. He shared it among some of the boys. They took it but I did not see them react to the effect.
“It was the following Sunday when the man who we knew and addressed as “Chief” placed a bet that I became interested. The first set took two cubes and the winner won N5000. I saw that as easy. I decided to give it a try when the man increased the bet price to N10, 000.
“But I found out that after taking it, I started sweating very much as my head began to spin as if it didn’t belong to me anymore. They asked me to force myself to vomit. But thinking that it was just a side effect of what I took, I refused to heed their advice. I had hoped that the effect would clear soon and I would win the bet. But as the impact of the hangover continued to increase, I totally lost it. From that point on, I could not recall what happened until I found myself in the hospital. But my mother told me that I was later admitted in the hospital. I am so ashamed of myself. But right now, I am ok. I believe and pray that I will be able to serve God for the rest of my life.”
Excited mother thanks God for son’s ‘deliverance’
His mother could not hide her excitement when she spoke to Saturday Sun. She called her son’s recovery something of a miracle.
“Just like he explained, he left Kaduna to live with his uncle in Aba after the death of his father in 2019. I also relocated to Umuahia because of the increase in insecurity around the area where we lived in Kaduna. The second reason was that my business was no longer booming. All was well until I received a call in August from his uncle that my son has run mad. He said they were able to grab and drag him to the hospital where he was chained. I thank God that he was discovered on time, allowing the doctors the time to battle and save his life. He spent three months at the rehabilitation centre till he was fully recovered. I thank God for his uncle who did not abandon us for all those three months.”
Nnorom’s story is a tip of the iceberg, as regards the incalculable mental havoc that methamphetamine, or Mkpuru mmiri, the mind-bending drug, is causing among Igbo youths. Determined to bring an end to the spread, Saturday Sun learnt that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), is aggressively clamping down on the barons said to be mainly Igbo businessmen. This has led to several arrests, including the recent one at Enugu airport. The suspect, who was en route to Dubai, was found with a large quantity of Meth.
NDLEA reveals brains behind drugs, vows to stamp it out
So far the NDLEA has succeeded in shutting down some of the conduit pipes and frustrating some of the producers. But at the same time, their efforts have driven many of the patrons and barons underground from where they continue to manufacture and market the product to interested buyers, mainly youths.
In an interview with Saturday Sun, the agency’s Director of Intelligence, Sunday Zirangey, revealed that the drug barons started producing Meth in Nigeria in 2009. Investigations, he noted, revealed that it was South Americans, Colombians and their partners in Nigeria that brought them into the country. They were not only producing the meth in Nigeria, setting up clandestine laboratories, they were also training some Nigerians.
“Criminals, you know, always have foresight,” he said. “They want to make money; they want to be in charge. So, they partner with the South Americans to come and produce meth in Nigeria because they know that millions of dollars are involved. They also, in their own ingenuity, didn’t want to be dependent on the South Americans. They said to Nigerian barons, ‘Okay, we can partner with you. They said: ‘You are producing for us today. Can you train some of our people to be doing it?’ And the first Colombian that came, said: ‘if you can pay me what I will charge you, I will do it.’ And how much was it? – $38,000 per week training seven people for a certain period of time, and they were doing it in their hotel, in Ikeja, in Lekki, Lagos. After some time, those people got trained, that is the locals, Nigerians. They were not even pharmacists; they were not trained chemists. But, by combining one chemical with the other, they were able to get meth. They didn’t know the implication of what they were doing. Some of the locals died in the course of trying to learn the meth production because it involved very hazardous chemicals. If you inhale the chemicals, you develop a lot of organ diseases like kidney, heart, and all that.
“Anyway, when we saw this trend, we started working with our counterparts, the Americans. They showed interest, and through intelligence provided by them we uncovered and seized the first Nigerian lab in 2011. Between 2011 and 2019, the agency was to seize 18 methamphetamine laboratories. We’re not looking only at foreigners. In fact, we usually get intelligence when the foreigners are coming in, right from their take-off to arrival.
We follow them till when they set up the labs and begin to produce. Right from scratch, we started from when they came into the country; we followed them. They went to Enugu, went to Anambra and finally settled in Asaba. This was for a period of 13 months. We followed them without them knowing that they were being monitored. This job is intelligence-driven and takes a lot of painstaking investigation. Our aim is to make sure that the agency is positioned to be able to really rise to the challenge of this time, because the drug traffickers will not stop at anything to make their money; all that matters to them is money.”