Pubdate: Sun, 01 Feb 2009
Source: Punch (Nigeria)
Copyright: 2009 The Punch
Author: Ademola Oni
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


The scourge of Indian hemp cultivation in the South-West of Nigeria 
is a major problem for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, 

EACH week at the nation's international airports, tens of Nigerians 
are caught with hard drugs of varying weights. Yet, the National Drug 
Law Enforcement Agency has not expressed its desperation to tackle 
the drug menace at the points of exit.

Somehow, the NDLEA appears to be fighting a battle that seems to be 
taking a lot of resources of the anti-narcotics body. At its third 
zonal awareness campaign on the prevention of the cultivation of 
illicit drugs, trafficking and abuse, in Abeokuta last week, the 
Director-General of the NDLEA, Chief Lanre Ipinmisho, expressed 
concern on the notoriety which the South-West had gained in the 
cultivation of cannabis, popularly known as Indian hemp or ganja in 
local parlance.

The NDLEA team had also held the North West and East Zonal workshops 
in Kano and Bauchi respectively. Ipinmisho said each time the agency 
discovered a cannabis plantation, another one was waiting to be 
discovered or already harvested by unscrupulous elements. While the 
commercial crop could be found in other parts of the country, the 
size of the plantations found in the South-West, he added, was mind-boggling.

In the South-West alone, the NDLEA has arrested 992 drug suspects and 
seized 175,835.53kg of the illicit drugs between January and October 2008.

The agency had equally destroyed farmlands of 196.5 acres of Indian 
hemp in various parts of the South-West in the months under review.

To tackle the problem frontally, the anti-drugs body designed that 
the traditional rulers, the opinion leaders, politicians, state 
lawmakers, national youth corps members and students would have to be 
co-opted into the fight against illicit drugs use, especially the 
cultivation of cannabis.

Ipinmisho said, "Our records have revealed that the South-West region 
is one of the main hubs of illicit drugs cultivation and trafficking 
in the country. The drug trafficking situation for this region is 
very worrisome and efforts must be made to counter it.

"This campaign is therefore a deliberate effort by the agency to seek 
the support of all stakeholders in the zone to give the war against 
illicit drug trafficking, cultivation and abuse the priority 
attention it deserves for the good of all."

The NDLEA boss disclosed that its officials were shocked when they 
discovered two acres of cannabis farmland in the Epe area of Lagos 
State, while the Osun State Command discovered another plantation 
that equally harbours a worship centre and other recreational facilities.

"The colossal seizures of cannabis in this region are beyond imagination.

This is unthinkable. The Ekiti State Command uncovered 53.7metric 
tons of cannabis in a story building at Ise-Ekiti in February 2008. 
The Oyo State Command on May 29, 2008, made the single largest 
seizure ever of 80.53 metric tons of cannabis. The deadly weeds were 
concealed in two clandestine warehouses in a residential area of Ibadan."

The Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; the Speaker, House of 
Assembly, Mr. Tunji Egbetokun; and the Alake of Egbaland, Oba 
Adedotun Gbadebo, expressed disappointment that the South-West, once 
known for its agricultural potential, had become a haven for the 
cultivation of cannabis.

Daniel regretted that the zone had become the hub of illicit drug cultivation.

The governor, who was represented by Maj. Seun Fadipe (retd.), noted 
that the South-West was formerly known for its prominence in 
agricultural and academic excellence.

He added that the greed and the lust for quick money had attracted 
people to the illicit trade, saying the state was taking steps to 
empower youths to draw them away from crime and drugs.

Ipinmisho reminded his hosts that they were leaders in their own 
areas, challenging them to prevail on their subjects and electorate 
to stop towing the path of illegality, which might lead them to 
destruction. The deputy speaker in the house, Pastor Remmy Hazzan, 
said with the help of some of his colleagues, he would be useful in 
the area of counselling for those the agency hopes to rehabilitate.

The NDLEA attributed the preponderance of Indian hemp plantations in 
the South-West to the fertile land that God had blessed the zone with.

One of the officials told our correspondent that the majority of the 
farmers were from the neighbouring states of Delta and Edo. "You know 
the South-Western states are the most fertile of the six geographical 
zones in Nigeria," he said.

"You can see that in all the politics of fertiliser in this country, 
the South-West is usually not involved because the land is naturally fertile."

The team's visit to the Neuro Psychiatric Hospital, Aro, was quite 
revealing as the director-general noted with delight the good 
organisation and the facilities in the hospital, which many dread 
like a plague.

Ipinmisho explained that the facilities in the hospital could rival 
those he had seen in many advanced countries of the world.

The consultant psychiatrist, Dr. Akinwande Akinhanmi, told his 
visitors that the hospital had a way of "penalising some of the 
inmates who had told a lie and rewarding those who had behaved well."

Akinhanmi said, "We keep some of them here for about six months so 
that they will have the time to stabilise. When we notice that one 
has behaved well over a period of time, we allow such a person to put 
on his or her wrist watch and sometimes, we take them out to Sweet 
Sensation (fast food outlet) but if one has lied, we punish such one 
by compelling him to scrub the floor for one week."
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