The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig. Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa, said on Tuesday during a media briefing at the NDLEA headquarters in Abuja, that the operatives of the Agency have arrested two notorious operators of Methamphetamine drug factories in Lagos and Anambra States.
He said the arrest was possible with the 200-man-NDLEA Strike Force on Saturday who apprehended the two owners with the drugs worth US$500,000, per kilo in the international market.
Marwa stated that the first factory was located in the Victoria Garden City (VGC) Estate of Lekki, Lagos, and owned by one alleged baron, Chris Emeka Nzewi, while the second, is in a Community of Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State adding that the owner is Paul Ozoemenam.
According to the NDLEA Boss, the owners of these two illicit meth laboratories were successfully arrested alongside Sunday Ukah from Aba, Abia State, the cook or chemist that produced the drugs for them.
According to him, the agency employed the professionalism and intelligence of the special units assigned for the task to unearth the huge discoveries of the factories and apprehend the suspects.
NDLEA Chairman stated that the team included the forensic experts and the 200-man Strike Force team that were deployed for the operation that executed the mission of dismantling the labs, seizing the crystal methamphetamine, precursors, paraphernalia, and arresting the culprits.
Marwa explained that the agency after months of painstaking intelligence gathering, diligent tracking, and coordinated offensive action were able to record a breakthrough on Saturday, July 30, 2022, when officers and men of the Agency successfully busted the two methamphetamine manufacturing facilities, called Meth Laboratories.
According to Marwa, the Agency in its effort to control and eradicate the abuse of methamphetamine in Nigeria and especially south East of the country, where the drugs are ravaging the youths of the zone forced Agency to decide to go all hug in trying to discover the root of the menace.
“No doubt, we’re all familiar with reports on the outbreak of crystal methamphetamine abuse in the last quarter of 2021, predominantly in the South East part of the country. Many communities in the area cried for help because of the devastating effects the distribution and abuse of the dangerous stimulant drug were having on their youths and others.
“Over the past seven months, we have deployed all available assets to find the primary source of manufacturing of this dangerous drug in Nigeria and arrest the barons behind it. I am pleased to inform the public today that, the first one, located in Victoria Garden City (VGC) Estate of Lekki, Lagos, is owned by a baron, Chris Emeka Nzewi, while the second, in Nise Community of Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State, was owned by Paul Ozoemenam.
“The owners of these two illicit meth laboratories were successfully arrested alongside Sunday Ukah from Aba, Abia State, the cook or chemist that produced the drugs for them.
“The laboratory in Lagos was set up inside the Boys’ Quarter building of a four-bedroom duplex. From there, we recovered a total of 258.74 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and various precursor chemicals used for the production of the toxic drug.
“The complete paraphernalia Laboratory equipment such as gas cylinders, giant gas burners, industrial face masks, industrial gloves, tubes, and flat-bottomed conical flasks, among others were also found.
“NDLEA is obliged to brief the public about this recent bust to raise people’s awareness of the danger that meth production constitutes to public health. And also to let you know the modus operandi of the barons involved in this unwholesome activity. We believe the knowledge will raise public awareness about the risk of meth production in their vicinity.
“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.” Marwa disclosed.
He stated that aside from the laboratory being close to the kitchen of the main house, the waste from the laboratory was channeled into the septic tank and soaked away in the compound, with a high risk of contamination of the water table of the entire neighbourhood.
According to him, the suspect was living in a hotel at the Admiralty Way Lekki Phase I; while production was ongoing in his house. He said the suspect’s car was often parked in the compound to give the false impression that he was at home.
“We knew this from our reconnaissance. In fact, he did not sleep at home on Friday, 29th July 2022, and did not come back to the house the next day. But the operatives of the Agency who had been on his track for weeks picked him up at 2 pm from his hotel and brought him to the house to be present when the search was conducted on his compound.
“Similarly, the cook was also not resident in the building housing the lab. He, too, was 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 hotel was the haven that he retired to after each day’s activity at the lab.
“On average, the lab produced 50 kilos of methamphetamine every week with plans underway to increase the capacity of production to at least 100kg per week. Where do these drugs end?
“From our preliminary interrogation, we now know the drugs from this lab were both for export and local consumption.
“We also know there is 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 as high as US500, 000 per kilo in the international market in recent times, 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. Hence, taking these two labs out of operation is a major feat in our continuing effort to curb the meth problem.
“This operation also exposed the interconnectivity among syndicates involved in meth production. For instance, the cook was hired by both producers. He produced for the VGC lab, as well as the lab in Anambra.
“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. They also locate meth labs in remote unsuspecting communities where residents would not be aware of their activities.
“It is very important to note 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.
“On this note, I’ll like to renew the call to members of society to work in partnership with us to safeguard their health. With society working with us, we are confident of cleaning this Augean stable of illicit drugs.
“I also take this opportunity to commend the professionalism of our intelligence-led special units assigned this task, our forensic experts, and the 200-man strike force team that we deployed who were the operational arm that executed the mission of dismantling the labs, seizing the crystal meth, precursors, paraphernalia and arresting the culprits.” The NDLEA boss stated.
He added that since launching offensive action against the cartel behind the Methamphetamine scourge six kingpins and two cooks have been apprehended adding that is a loud statement to those involved in the criminal illicit drug trading.
He said warned them to quit the illicit trade or risk losing it all.
“That is losing their freedom, investment, and assets acquired through proceeds from the illegal business.”
“On a final note, I will boldly say I’m glad that since we launched offensive action against the cartel behind the Methamphetamine scourge, we have arrested four kingpins and a cook; now, we have added two barons and another cook. This no doubt is a loud statement to those involved in the criminal illicit drug trade that it’s time for them to quit or risk losing it all; that is losing their freedom, investment, and assets acquired through proceeds from the illegal business.” He said.
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