Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
Not too long ago, the Ondo State Command of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), said it destroyed cannabis saliva also known as Indian hemp planted on over 40 hectares of land. It also said 61,298.47kg of cannabis was seized last year.
This is even as the Nigerian Army disclosed that its men seized 63 bags of Indian hemp in Owo, headquarters of Owo Local Government. The soldiers who acted on a tip off raided some farms in the town to make the discovery.
These revelations were indications that planting of illicit drugs thrives in the state, probably more than other states in the South West. Daily Sun discovered that there are cannabis plantations in some parts of the state and efforts to get rid of the plantations by the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), have not yielded much positive results.
The riverine area produces large quantity of the illicit drugs due to the nature of its soil, which experts said is good for planting Indian hemp. Other areas including the forests in Ogbese and Owo produced it in low quantity.
The high level of production of cannabis saliva has increased the rate at which people, especially youths and teenagers smoke Indian hemp in Akure, the state capital, and its environs. Recent survey revealed that young individuals between 13 and 25 years are involved in the illegal act.
It was gathered that residents of the areas where the smokers use to carry out their acts have reported the ugly development to security agencies but nothing much has been done on the matter. Those involved in the sale and smoking of the illicit drug are concentrated at Iludun, Ala, Gbogi and Oja Oba areas of Akure.
It was also gathered that students of the Federal University of Technology (FUTA), Akure and Adekunle Ajasin University (AAU), Akungba-Akoko, do patronise Indian hemp spots at nights. This perhaps encouraged sellers of the drug open spots close to the campus of the universities.
A source said Indian hemp sells faster than other consumable goods in some parts of Akure because of the high patronage. A visit to one of the Indian hemp spots at Iludun Ala in Akure metropolis showed that the addicts of the illicit drug smoke publicly.
Young individuals were seen moving around with Indian hemp carelessly. A smoker, who craved anonymity, did not see anything wrong in smoking Indian hemp as “it improves my agility.”
The state commander of the NDLEA, Mr. Mohammed Sokoto, admitted that the consumption of Indian hemp was high among teenagers adding, however, that NDLEA would not relent in its efforts at ensuring zero drug consumption. He said he has identified various Indian hemp joints and destroyed hectres of land of Indian hemp plantation in Akure and its environs.
He said the command would intensify efforts at ensuring that “young individuals are enlightened on the dangers inherent in illicit drugs. He disclosed that the NDLEA was working in partnership with the state government.
“The Cocoa Revolution Initiative (CRI) of the state government is the most practical step towards eradicating cannabis plantation. Most people especially youths can now channel their energy towards cocoa, which is one of the richest crops instead of the illegal cannabis plantation.”
Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Army Artillery, Owena, Major Ojo Adelegan, told Daily Sun that the Nigerian Army would do everything possible “to ensure that drug abuse becomes a thing of the past in the state. Our men will continue to raid areas notorious for planting of the illicit drugs.
“During the last operation where illicit drugs were discovered in Owo and its plantation also in the town, some residents have promised to volunteer information to the Nigerian Army on the activities of drug addicts and farmers who specialise in planting Indian hemp.
“The operation was at the instance of some residents of the town who volunteered information to the soldiers on the activities of some miscreants in the area. The Army will build on that and intensify efforts to curtail the excesses of the farmers, as NDLEA alone cannot solve the menace.
“A gang of notorious miscreants was discovered in a hideout in the forest after which the illicit drugs and items were also discovered. During the operation, there was an exchange of fire between our troops and the criminals who later fled as a result of the superior power of our men against them.
“No arrest was made, but efforts are on to ensure that the miscreants and others dealing in illicit drugs are arrested. I urge the people to avail the security agencies useful information on any criminal act.”
Meanwhile, wife of the governor, Mrs. Betty Akeredolu, said government was making progress through the support of NDLEA at eradicating cannabis production and consumption among youths. She said government would not relent in the fight against illicit drugs.
She urged the hemp planters to embrace government’s agricultural revolution by using their land for cocoa plantation. She also appealed to parents to have a close relationship with their children and monitor them from time to time.