Ahead of the commencement of the 2023 general elections on Saturday, operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have stormed the Ujiogba Forest Reserve in Esan West LGA, Edo State where they destroyed 7,286kgs (72.86 tons) of warehoused skunk and five hectares of its plantation.
The special operation carried out on Wednesday followed credible intelligence that some cartels had warehoused hundreds of jumbo bags of the illicit substance inside the thick forest of the reserve for distribution to some states ahead of the general elections.
Spokesman of the agency, Femi Babafemi, said on Thursday that the operation stalled until after several roadblocks set up by armed guards of the drug lords were cleared and they were overpowered by the superior firepower of the Strike Force officers of the agency in a gun duel.
“After the initial resistance, two rifles, spent cartridges of short guns an and an empty shell of AK47 rifle were recovered while a 24-year-old suspect, Calvary Essien, was arrested.
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“After the gunfight, the NDLEA operatives in their numbers successfully descended on a big warehouse constructed with wood and zinc containing: 100 jumbo bags of cannabis sativa weighing 3.2 tons; 5,000 bags of cannabis weighing 65 tons; and 137 bags of cannabis seeds weighing 4.66 tons, totalling 72.86 tons,” Babafemi said.
He also said that seven bags of cannabis and one bag of its seeds were subsequently taken out of the warehouse for further investigation and prosecution of suspects while the rest was set ablaze.
This is coming on the heels of a similar operation on Wednesday 18th January in the Opuje forest in Owan West Local Government Area of the state where massive warehouses and tents storing over 317,417kgs (317.4 metric tons) of the psychoactive substance were destroyed and set ablaze in a two-day operation.
A police impersonator, Omoruan Theophilus, 37, who was parading as a police inspector to convey the drugs from the forests to the cities and three others: Aigberuan Jacob, 42; Ekeinde Anthony Zaza, 53, and Naomi Patience Ohiewere, 42, were arrested in connection with the drugs.
In his reaction to the latest operation in Ujiogba forest, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd), commended all the officers involved in the effort and about 10,000 officers, men and women deployed across the country in the pre-election renewed offensive action to clear every part of the country of illicit substances for use by thugs and miscreants before, during and after the elections.
He said taking the battle to the doorsteps of the cartels deep in the forests is to attack the menace of drug supply from the source and to also send the right message to the barons that there is no safe haven for them and their investments anywhere in Nigeria.