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Drug War: NDLEA Officers in Crossfire with Hoodlums in Notorious Edo Hemp Forest

Tons of processed psychoactive substances were stored for distribution nationwide ahead of the festive season.

Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have engaged armed hoodlums in a crossfire during a siege on forest warehouses in Opuje community, Owan West local government area of Edo state where drugs  to be sold during the forthcoming Yuletide period were stored.

A statement on Thursday from the spokesman of the anti-narcotics agency, Femi Babafemi said the operatives repelled rain of bullets from armed hoodlums who blocked all roads in Opuje community, Owan West local government area of Edo state to prevent the anti-narcotic operatives from accessing the forest warehouses where tons of processed psychoactive substances have been stored for distribution nationwide ahead of the coming Christmas and New Year season.

He noted that this is coming barely 11 months after armed youths recruited by drug barons ambushed NDLEA officers who stormed the community to destroy massive warehouses and tents storing over 317,417 kilogrammes (317.4 metric tons) of cannabis sativa on Wednesday 18th January 2023.

He recalled that at least, three suspects: Omoruan Theophilus, 37; Aigberuan Jacob, 42; Ekeinde Anthony Zaza, 53, and Naomi Patience Ohiewere, 42, were arrested in connection with the drugs then.

Babafemi said Opuje community is notorious for cannabis cultivation, where the cartels invest huge resources, cutting down economic trees of the forest reserves and cultivating cannabis on a large scale, running into hundreds of hectares. After harvest, they build warehouses inside the forest reserves and employ the services of armed youths to protect the warehouses at all time.

He said following credible intelligence that the drug cartels had again stocked their warehouses in the forest to start distribution of the psychoactive substance to various parts of the country ahead of the Yuletide season, teams of NDLEA officers were mobilized to enter the Edo forests and block the distribution of the illicit drug by destroying their warehouses. Some of the warehouses containing about 6,000 kilogrammes of cannabis were first taken down in Ujiogba forest in Esan West LGA last weekend.

He added that the NDLEA teams however came under gunfire attack in the early hours of Monday when they approached the Opuje forest after the armed hoodlums had blocked all access roads in the community. He said the NDLEA operatives were able to exit the area after over two hours of gun fight with the armed hoodlums.

Babafemi said unfortunately, three of the officers were injured in the attack with one of them shot in the head while some of the vehicles used for the operation were riddled with bullets. The affected officers were rushed to the hospital for treatment while the critically injured one had a major surgery on Wednesday to remove the bullets in his brain.

In his reaction to the attack, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the Agency, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (Retd) warned that those sponsoring attacks on the operatives would know no rest until they are all brought before the law to face the consequences of their action and their criminal trade terminated.

While commending the professional conduct of the officers involved in the operation, Marwa said the incident will not in any way deter the agency from continuing its ongoing offensive action against drug barons and cartels who are merchants of death bent on destroying the lives of innocent citizens especially the youths for their own comfort across the nooks and crannies of the country.

Michael Olugbode in Abuja

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