By EZEKIEL OBI, Abuja –
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) on Thursday said hoodlums have shot and injured 3 of its operatives during a drug raid in Edo State.
The NDLEA Director of Media and Advocacy, Mr Femi Babafemi, who disclosed this in a statement, said the armed hoodlums blocked and opened fire on the team of narcotic officers deployed to Opuje community, Owan West LGA, following discovery of thousands of kilograms of psychoactive substances stashed in warehouses in the area.
Mr. Babafemi said the drugs were stored for distribution nationwide ahead of the coming Christmas and New Year season.
He explained that the community has been known to harbour criminal drug lords who cultivate Indian hemp, and “after harvest, build warehouses inside the forest reserves and employ the services of armed youths to protect the warehouses 24/7.”
Babafemi said that the operatives had credible intelligence that the drug cartels had stocked the warehouses in the forest.
“Some of the warehouses containing about 6,000kgs of cannabis were first taken down in Ujiogba forest in Esan West LGA last weekend.
“The NDLEA teams however came under gunfire in the early hours of Monday Dec. 4, when they approached Opuje forest after the armed hoodlums had blocked all access roads in the community.
“The NDLEA operatives were able to exit the area after over two hours of gun fight with the armed hoodlums.
“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 Dec. 6, to remove the bullets in his brain,” he said.
Babafemi recalled that 11 months ago, armed youths recruited by drug barons ambushed NDLEA officers who were there to destroy massive warehouses and tents storing over 317,417 kilograms, about 317.4 metric tons of cannabis sativa, on Jan. 18, 2023.
“At least, four suspects: Omoruan Theophilus, 37; Aigberuan Jacob, 42; Ekeinde Anthony Zaza, 53, and Naomi Patience Ohiewere, 42, were arrested in connection with the drugs then,” he added.
Babafemi said that the drug cartels have invested huge resources, cutting down economic trees in forest reserves and cultivating cannabis on a large scale, running into hundreds of hectares in Opuje community.
In his reaction to the attack, NDLEA Chairman, retired Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa warned those sponsoring attacks on the operatives that they would be brought before the law to reap the consequences of their action.
Marwa commended the professional conduct of the officers involved in the operation, saying that the incident would not deter the agency from the ongoing offensive against drug barons and cartels.
”These are merchants of death bent on destroying the lives of innocent citizens especially the youths for their own comfort across the nook and cranny of the country; we will take them down,” he added.