From Tony Osauzo, Benin
Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Edo State have made the largest seizure ever of cannabis with an estimated street value of N1.4 billion in Ukpuje forest of Owan West Local Government Area of the state, where they discovered a village for the cultivation of the illicit drug.
Four large cannabis warehouses with a total of two hundred and thirty-three thousand, seven hundred and seventy-eight kilograms, (233,778 kg) of the dried weeds were discovered in the village, while seven suspected drug barons believed to be running the cannabis trafficking syndicate were arrested.
The identities of the suspects were given as the chairman of vigilante in Ukpuje, Emmanuel Oki, 62; Chief Odi Sabato, 42 and Bright Inemi Edegbe, 53. Others are Gowon Ehimigbai, 53; Enodi Ode, 37; Ayo Oni, 30 and Akhime Benjamin, 43.
Edo State Commander of the NDLEA, Buba Wakawa, who disclosed this, said it is the largest single concentration of cannabis discovered by the command.
He gave the breakdown of the drugs as follows; 318 bags of 80kg each weighing 25,440kg, 15,853 bags of 13kg weighing 206,089kg, adding that while the total quantity seized is 2,249kg others weighing 231,529kg was destroyed at the farm.
The NDLEA boss attributed the success of the operation to the enabling environment created by the new Chairman/Chief Executive of the Agency, Brigadier-General Buba Marwa.
‘We took delivery of two new Hilux operational vehicles presented to the command last week. This is the first assignment of the vehicles and it turned out to be the best for the command. We are grateful to the chairman, and this is a clear warning that there is no room for drug barons in the state,’ Wakawa said, adding that the seizures represent a large chunk of the previous cannabis planting season.
‘They planted, watered, harvested and processed the drug only for us to dispossess them of their labour because their action is criminal. The warehouses are located in the heart of the forest, yet we were able to uncover them based on intelligence gathering,’ he stated.
According to the NDLEA Commander, Okpuje community, notorious for cannabis cultivation and trafficking as well as attacks on law enforcement officers, stood still as a combined team of NDLEA and combatant military personnel overran the drug trafficking syndicates ‘due to our superior firepower.”
He said the joint team of NDLEA and Army officers that carried out the raid had a strength of 80 personnel, while the operation that lasted from Thursday night through Friday night February 5 was jointly coordinated by the Officer in charge of Strike Force, James Olarewaju, the Principal Staff Officer Operations, Bisong Peter and Captain Abdullahi Abukori.
He commended 4 Brigade Commander in Benin City, Brigadier-General MA Sadik, for the logistics and personnel assistance that led to the successful clampdown on the cannabis syndicates in the area, describing the synergy between the Nigerian Army and NDLEA in the state as an unbeatable force against drugs and related crime in the society.
Wakawa assured that the suspects will be investigated and the case charged to court soon.