By Abel Daniel
The rate of consumption of marijuana, aka Indian hemp, and alcoholic drinks by youths in Lafia metropolis and some parts of Nasarawa State is alarming. Every one wonders whether officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) saddled with the responsibility of curbing the scourge are actually on ground.
These hemp guys have grown big and almost untouchable even by the police as hemp is seen being sold the way candies are sold to children.
Virtually in all major joints in Lafia, you find youths in groups idling away. Many of them really don’t seem to know what a classroom looks like; some are school drop outs, others not exactly drop outs but are hit by the gale of unemployment in the country.
They look at passers-by with cold indifference. They are perpetually angry and despondent. You can read frustration and defiance in their eyes. But they appear to have devised a way out of their unsavoury condition – narcotics, particularly Indian hemp.
Sunday Vanguard findings revealed that there are many no-go areas in Lafia for the NDLEA due to the heavy presence of drug addicts and other notorious boys. At public occasions, the boys are seen in groups feasting on hemp with smoke rising from their nose like chimney. Sometimes police officers who are fed up with the rising smoke go to plead with them to relocate in the interest of second hand smokers at public gatherings.
Spots such as Agwan Jaban, Kilema Junction, Tundun Gwandara, Cashew Heaven, Agwan Tiv, Maraba-Akunza, as well as Tundun Kauri and 16 Mangoes are no-go areas for like lily-livered. The Law enforcement agents know these areas but act as if nothing is going on.
If you are a reporter looking for the real story of the drug ring holding Lafia by the jugular, you do not need to look for the blood-shot–eyed rough neck by the road side. All you need to do is get close enough to the trader selling legitimate items like tea. He sells his tea but his thriving business of Indian Hemp is under the table. And there are many like him all over town.
However, findings showed that only those schooled in the signs and language of the drug business can get the item to buy. “They know their customers,” a source familiar with the trade confided in Sunday Vanguard. According to him “they don’t normally sell it to stranger(s).” The source further said that “the dealers have some notable personalities in the society as customers who he said, “are a cog in the wheel of operations of law enforcement agencies.” The big men don’t go there to buy, they use aides.
It was gathered that some mobile patent medicine sellers also sell drugs. Although, NDLEA destroyed two big hemp farms in Keana and Keffi local government areas of the state last year, the trade in drug continues to thrive.
While marijuana is grown in Nasarawa, it was, however, learnt that some of the dealers smuggle it into the state through neighbouring Benue, Taraba and Plateau States and sometimes, from Abuja through Nasarawa-Toto.
It was gathered that some notable personalities are backing the deviant youths. These powerful people “engage security operatives whenever they are arrested,” a source said. The boys are so emboldened by their godfathers that they dare law enforcement agencies to try them.
Confirming this in an interview with journalists in his office, the state commander of the NDLEA, Manassa Motaa Dishidi, said there were many dangerous areas for the agency, made even difficult by lack of logistics. He said the agency had only one vehicle (a Peugeot 505), adding that all efforts made to ensure that the Nasarawa government came to the agency’s aid had not been successful.
“We have one vehicle and many times, it breaks down with suspects inside. We will then look for another vehicle to tow it with suspects inside it. At times, officers resort to trekking if the suspects are too many. The situation is terrible. All efforts made by the agency to get assistance from the state government have not been successful. There was a time the governor invited me and asked about our challenges, we told him and he said he will get back to us. But up till now, nothing”, Dishidi said.
“We have succeeded in arresting over 200 suspects, 20 were convicted, we were able to rehabilitate 25, so we are making efforts to assist the state. We have to appreciate the Federal Government for opening an office here,” he said even as he called on parents to be forthcoming on information that could assist the agency.
“There was a man who wanted us to rehabilitate his son but the mother said no, that NDLEA is a killer and we enlightened the woman that we are not killers. So, we later advised the father to take him to the police station that we would go and pick him there,” he explained.
These Indian hemp consumers and drugs addicts are said to be involved in crimes of all sorts in Nasarawa State. It is for this reason that crime is believed to have gone up in places around the Nasarawa State Polytechnic even with the absence of students who are not on campus due to strike.
According to a security operative who preferred anonymity, a gang held a meeting one night in an hotel around the polytechnic before proceeding to rob five houses on two consecutive nights recently during which an officer of the Department of State Security Service (SSS) living around the area, was injured when he engaged the robbers.
However two of the robbers were identified and later arrested and are now in police custody.
It was gathered that a joint around the polytechnic is a a notorious hideout where robbers operates from.