Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, have busted and dismantled two major clandestine crystal methamphetamine production laboratories in Lagos and Anambra States.
The Chairman/Chief Executive of the anti-narcotics agency, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd), disclosed this Tuesday, 2 August 2022, while addressing the press in Abuja.
TheFact Daily reports that the agency carried out the raids in the states, following the outbreak of crystal methamphetamine (also known as mkpuru mmiri in local parlance) distribution and abuse in the last quarter of 2021, predominantly in the Southeast, and the cry for help from communities in the region because of its devastating effects on their youth.
Marwa said that the breakthrough recorded on Saturday, 30 July, 2022, in successfully busting the two methamphetamine manufacturing facilities, came ‘after months of painstaking intelligence gathering, diligent tracking and coordinated offensive action’.
According to the NDLEA boss, the Lekki laboratory was owned by a baron, Chris Emeka Nzewi, while the second one was in Nise Community of Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State, owned by Paul Ozoemenam. Both barons were arrested alongside Sunday Ukah from Aba, Abia State, who is the cook/chemist that produced the drugs for them.
Marwa explained that the laboratory in Lagos was set up inside the Boys’ Quarters building of a four-bedroom duplex, from where a total of 258.74 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and various precursor chemicals used for the production of the toxic drug were recovered, alongside other laboratory paraphernalia.
“The owner of the laboratory in VGC, for instance, was producing this highly unstable and toxic drug in a house where he lived with his family. This speaks volumes about his insensitivity to the consequences of exposing his family, which includes a three-month-old baby, to the danger of hazardous chemicals. If that is the case, that is an indication that public health was of no concern to him.
“In this particular case, aside from the laboratory being close to the kitchen of the main house, the waste from the laboratory was channelled into the septic tank and soak away in the compound, with a high risk of contamination of the water table of the entire neighbourhood”, Marwa disclosed.
He said the suspect, who was arrested by operatives who had been on his track for weeks, was living in a hotel at the Admiralty Way Lekki Phase I while production was ongoing in his house, and had his vehicle parked in the compound to give the false impression that he was at home.
The cook, Marwa said, was also lodged in a hotel outside the estate where Chris Emeka Nzewi had deposited a huge amount of money for his accommodation for up to one month.
The NDLEA chief said that according to preliminary investigation, the drugs from the lab were both for export and local consumption, with a supply chain of distributors and buyers for export and the domestic market.
“When you consider the fact that the price of this dangerous drug was going for as high as $500,000 per kilo in the international market in recent time, you will understand why Nzewi cared less to put the lives of his own family at risk by producing this in the same house where they live.
“This operation also exposed the interconnectivity among syndicates involved in production. For instance, the cook was hired by both producers. He produced for the VGC lab, as well as the lab in Anambra”.
Marwa further noted that the agency deemed it fit to brief the public about the recent busts to raise people’s awareness of the danger that methamphetamine production constitutes to public health and to also let the public know the modus operandi of the barons involved in the unwholesome activity.
“As we step up the offensive against drug traffickers, we want the public to be more vigilant and be aware of the fact that producers of methamphetamine always choose unsuspecting environments with tight security, like the VGC estate, in this case. And the reason is not far-fetched: They choose secured estates to prevent law enforcement agents from monitoring their activities”.
Marwa disclosed that the manufacturers locate methamphetamine labs in remote unsuspecting communities where residents would not be aware of their activities, and emphasized that the waste from methamphetamine production is dangerous to the ecosystem.
“The chemicals are toxic and once they seep into the soil, they contaminate the water table from which surrounding wells and boreholes draw their water.
“And citizens, who unwittingly consume the water from such sources are exposed to heart and kidney ailments and other organ diseases. Neighbours, too, who inhale gases from the lab are also susceptible to the same risk.
“What makes it worse is that the production usually takes place in the middle of the night, between 11 pm and 4 am, and therefore, unsuspecting neighbours could have been exposed to the hazards for months or even years”, he added.
Marwa, therefore, called on the general public to work in partnership with the Agency to safeguard their health and to clean the Augean stable of illicit drugs in the country.
While commending the professionalism of the Agency’s intelligence-led special units assigned to the task, Marwa noted that, since the launch of the offensive action against the cartel behind the Methamphetamine scourge, the Agency has arrested four kingpins, two barons and two cooks.
He warned those involved in the criminal illicit drug trade to quit or risk losing it all: their freedom, investment and assets acquired through proceeds from the illegal business.