By Rotimi Ojomoyela
Hidden deep inside the forest, without any discernible route, somewhere in the sleepy town of Ogotun-Ekiti, Ekiti South-West Local Government Area, is a plantation of a dangerous plant, cannabis sativa, also known as indian hemp. Cannabis sativa is reputed with many aliases which are: igbo, dope, ganja, morocco, eja and weed among others.
Though usually smoked, the plant can be soaked in alcoholic drinks dubbed ‘monkey-tail’, some people cook food with it, some boil it to drink as tea, while others just chew the plant and seeds. According to medical experts, some of the negative effects of indulgence in cannabis include: liver problem, heart diseases, lungs problem, poor coordination, immune system suppression, reduction of male sex hormones, reduced sexual capacity. It can also cause paranoia and cause short-term memory loss.
Invasion by drug lords
Forests of Emure and Ise/Orun local governments are other hotbeds for these notorious drug lords, who are believed to hail from Delta State. They are daily pillaging the fertile forests of Ekiti, perhaps because of its topography for their illicit deal. This dangerous and deadly plant, whose origin could be traced to Central and South Asia, is fast displacing cash crops and despoiling the fertility of the forest, rendering it useless for the plantation of crops that could support and sustain humanity.
Part of the cannabis sativa, when eventually harvested found its way into some dark spots in the streets of Ado-Ekiti, while the rest are moved out of the state to Lagos, Abuja and some northern states. Little wonder, the Commander of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in Ekiti, Mr. Suleiman Jadi described the state as one of the leading cultivation centres for cannabis, followed closely by Osun and Ondo States.
Hard drug fromcultivators
The Agency revealed that over 2000 farms of cannabis in Ise and Ogotun areas had been destroyed within this year alone, while it has also seized a total of 1,562kgs of substances suspected to be hard drugs from cultivators and couriers. Jadi said his men had seized several farmlands across the state, with largest seizure in Ogotun Ekiti , leading to the arrest of three culprits, who are being detained.
He said two culprits were arrested for cannabis cultivation in Ikere Ekiti recently, while seven were arrested in Ikogosi for related offences, saying they will be charged to court soon.
“The farm we seized in Ogotun covers several kilometers. It started from the town and extended to Ikeji Ile and Ikeji Arakeji in Osun State. With this, we are keeping close tabs on border towns because this is where the cultivation is taking place in most cases.
Jadi added that available reports had indicated that those bankrolling cannabis cultivation in Ekiti reside in Edo, Delta and other South -South states.
Jadi said his agency has taken the battle to the streets of Ado-Ekiti where consumption of cannabis sativa seems to be taking a dangerous dimension. According to the NDLEA Commander, in a bid to dissuade people from drug abuse, NDLEA secured the conviction of 20 persons for drug related offences in 2015.
He said those convicted at the Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti were nabbed at various locations across the state before they were prosecuted. The NDLEA boss revealed that 17 accused persons are still being remanded in prison, with assurances that more convictions will be secured before the end of the year.
Challenges facing war against illicit drug
Explaining the challenges hampering the war against illicit drugs, the NDLEA Commandant said, “Funding has been our major problem. To really bring the barons to justice, we have to send our operatives to those states for investigations and this costs money.
“Even in most cases my men would have to destroy several cannabis farms through manual process, which is not easy. So, what we crave for now is aerial spraying through chopper, so that we can destroy as many hectares of land with minimal efforts.”
Rehabilitating drug addicts
Jadi, also identified poor rehabilitation equipment and low enlightenment, as some of the factors hampering the rehabilitation of drug addicts in the country. Describing the rate of drug addiction among the youth as very alarming, Jadi urged the state and Federal Government to make rehabilitation of drug addicts a matter of importance and a necessity.
The NDLEA Commander, said in spite of the dearth of rehabilitation equipment, a total of two hardened drug addicts have been rehabilitated by the agency in 2015. The Commander revealed that the counseling unit of the agency had also interacted with about 222 drug abusers, which he said had helped the NDLEA in reducing the menace of mental disorders among youths.
The NDLEA boss said a total of 47 sensitization and counselling programmes have been organized this year to interact with potential drug abusers in the State. “We are holding periodic sensitization programmes. During those times, we met with Commercial drivers, commercial motorcycle operators, hotels and other suspected black spots across the state.
“We also visited all parks and other joints where youths normally assemble to interact with people and counselled them on the danger inherent in drug abuse. “We are achieving results within the limit of our resources, but the main challenge has been that we don’t have enough rehabilitation equipment and they can only be provided by governments, either at the federal or State level.”