National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) agents attacked the Ujiogba Forest Reserve in Esan West LGA, Edo State, ahead of the start of the general elections in 2023 on February 25. They destroyed 7,286 kilograms (72.86 tons) of stored skunk and five hectares of its crop.
The special operation that was conducted on Wednesday, February 22, according to a statement by NDLEA spokesman Femi Babafemi, came as a result of reliable information that some cartels had stored hundreds of jumbo bags of the illegal substance inside the dense forest of the reserve for distribution to some states prior to the general elections.
However, the operation could not begin right away until multiple road obstacles set up by armed guards of the drug lords were removed and they were defeated in a gunfight by the superior firepower of Agency Strike Force officers. During the initial resistance, two rifles, short gun expended rounds, and an empty AK-47 round were found, and a suspect, Calvary Essien, 24, was detained.
Following the shootout, the NDLEA agents successfully stormed a large warehouse made of wood and zinc that contained 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, for a total of 72.86 tons of cannabis.
Following that, seven bags of marijuana and one bag of its seeds were removed from the warehouse for additional examination and suspect prosecution, with the remaining material being burnt on fire.
Following a similar operation on January 18 in the Opuje forest in the state’s Owan West Local Government Area, huge warehouses and tents containing more than 317,417 kilos (317.4 metric tons) of the psychoactive substance were burnt and set on fire over the course of two days.
At least four people were detained in connection with the drugs, including Omoruan Theophilus, 37, a police impostor who was parading as a Police Inspector to transport the drugs from the woodlands to the metropolis, and Aigberuan Jacob, 42, Ekeinde Anthony Zaza, 53, and Naomi Patience Ohiewere, 42.
In response to the most recent operation in the Ujiogba forest, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd), Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, commended all the officers involved in the effort and the nearly 10,000 officers, men and women deployed across the nation 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 claimed that going after the cartels directly is the best way to stop the drug trade’s spread and to make it clear to the barons that there is no safe harbor for them or their investments anywhere in Nigeria.