NDLEA destroys over 184 hectares of cannabis plantation in Ondo
A combined team of 100 National Drug Law Enforcement (NDLEA) officers drawn from eight commands have jointly raided Wese Forest Reserve and destroyed 184 hectares of cannabis plantations.
The raid, according to NDLEA spokesman, Mr Mitchel Ofoyeju, lasted 72 hours leading to the dismantling of a cannabis syndicate known as Akunnubas.
The treasurer of the group, Eke Sylvester, 37, and five members of the association were apprehended.
They are Friday Julius, 28, Azonobi Godwin, 21, Leke Cletus, 29, Festus Osagie, 30, and Charles Osanebi.
Chairman/Chief Executive of the NDLEA, Ahmadu Giade, has described the operation as a positive step towards the total dismantling of cannabis cartels in the country.
“I am very pleased with the success of the Operation Wese. This is obviously a positive step towards the eradication of cannabis cartels. I commend the officers for a great job. Let me assure members of the public that this is the beginning of total war against cannabis cultivation in the country,” Giade said.
Since the commencement of the Operation Burn the Weed exercise in 1990 where NDLEA officials discovered and destroyed cannabis farms, the battle against cannabis cultivation has grown in leaps and bounds.
According to Ofoyeju, there is no state that has not recorded cannabis farm destruction in Nigeria. From Lagos to Sokoto and from Adamawa to Rivers State, the story is practically the same.
Cannabis, he said, is grown effortlessly across the length and breadth of the country.
NDLEA statistics have shown that large scale cultivation of cannabis occurs predominantly in the South West and South South states of Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Ogun, Edo and Delta. The scope of cannabis cultivation has grown dangerously with grave security implications.
The Operation Wese has revealed the modes of operation of cannabis production syndicates and related implications for the country.
In Akure, the capital of Ondo State, cannabis cultivators have now organised themselves into illegal associations. The name of the cannabis syndicate dismantled by the Operation Wese is Akunnubas.
According to investigation, this full-blown drug-trafficking network has an executive arm that oversees the administrative affairs of the group.
There is a Task Force that implements policies and decisions as well as advisers who serve as consultants to the group on legal and technical affairs.
In a surveillance operation that lasted six months, the NDLEA has uncovered the top hierarchy of Akunnubas.
The chairman of the group, Akwuzonu, is currently at large. The chief scribe of the syndicate is known as Saky, while Ojo is the manager of the group.
There is a Task Force headed by one Babatunde also known as “Brazil.” The treasurer of the Akunnubas, Eke Sylvester, known as Okworo is among those apprehended during the Operation Wese.
He said: “The cannabis cultivators find their way into the heart of Forest Reserves, cut down economic trees and cultivate their deadly weeds. The clandestine activities of the drug cartel are not known as legitimate farmers do not go that far into the forest to cultivate their crops.
“In the early hours of the day, the 100-man tactical team drove into Wese Forest Reserve at the Ipele area in the Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State.
“After driving for over two hours along the narrow bush path, the team arrived at a point where the vehicles could no longer negotiate the rough terrain rendered impassable by the heavy rains.
“The team had to continue the rest of the journey on foot. Armed with rifles, the team made its way through the heavy forest until they located the first cannabis farm which had at its centre a makeshift tent which served as shelter for workers who provide security and look after the farm.
“The tent was camouflaged by corn stalks strategically planted around it to conceal it from view. Upon arrival, a suspect was apprehended and the farm was immediately cordoned off.
“Armed with machetes, the officers cut down acres of the cannabis farm and set the plants ablaze with the tent before continuing their search for more farms. Within 50 metres, they discovered that several hectares had been cleared and converted into a large collection of cannabis farms.
“The officers walked the length and breadth of each farm to accurately calculate the size of the farms. This continued until it was getting dark and the team withdrew to Akure NDLEA Command Office.
“After a review of day one activities that night, the team rested for a few hours before setting out very early the following morning to continue the mission. Along the bush path one of the suspects, Festus Osagie was promptly apprehended while trying to escape on a motor bike with four bags of harvested cannabis weed. ”
He further:” The three-day operation, led to the discovery and subsequent destruction of approximately 184 hectares ( 456 acres) of cannabis plantations.
“Cannabis plantations are located in the deep forests far beyond where legitimate farmers care to cultivate. The process is kick-started by cutting down trees to create room for sunlight at the nursery beds. It is from there the seedlings are transplanted to the farms. Much labour is required at the preparatory stages because it involves falling trees.
“Investigation revealed that members of the group hire people to work in the farms. Part of the illegal workforce is drawn from minors and school age children. They are reportedly paid the sum of ?10,000 monthly. “
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