Cannabis growers take over govt forest reserves in Osun


A government forest reserve has been taken over by suspected hempgrowers in Osun State, just as officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency destroyed 2,317 bags of cannabis weighing 30,992kgs.
Sixty seven bags were also transferred to the state Command of the NDLEA for further investigation and prosecution. The hemp-growers had capitalised on the fact that the Forest Reserves belong to the government and that activities on the land were not known to residents, who regard the forest as sacred. However, NDLEA officials were said to have been tipped off by a patriotic Nigerian who has been monitoring the activities of the cannabis farmers.
The activity of the growers was said to have peaked two weeks ago, when officials, who laid siege to the forest made a daring arrest of eleven suspected cannabis farmers. The exhibits, with an estimated street value of N309,000,000, were found in 27 camps used as storage facilities located within a farmland at Orita-Ijebu Forest Reserve in the Ikoyi area of Ikire in Ayedade Local Government Area of the state.
According to the NDLEA Chairman/ Chief Executive, Col. Muhammad Abdallah (retd), concerted efforts would be required to stop cannabis cultivation, while farmers should be encouraged to cultivate food and economic crops.
Abdallah said, “Unless the current trend of cannabis cultivation is addressed, the country is on the verge of a devastating food insecurity. It is worrisome that the cartels are using government forest reserves in the cultivation of cannabis. Stakeholders must strategise on how to increase food production and prevent criminal organisations from diverting arable farmland for cannabis cultivation.
A situation where food and cash crops are paving way for cannabis plantations portend danger and deserves urgent attention”.
The raid codenamed “Operation Herb Spring” was in response to an intelligence received by the agency on the activities of cannabis cultivators in the forest.
Subsequently, the NDLEA chair man directed the Special Enforcement Team led by Mr. Sunday Zirangey to coordinate the operation. The suspects arrested in connection with the cannabis cultivation are Kofi Mensah, Godwin Monday, Albert Williams Aniama, Enudi Liberty Onyeka and Peter Nelson. Others are Harrison Ewoka Francis, Ossai Nelson, Sulaiman Niyi, Dominic Tobechukwu, Mutiu Kolawole and Chucks Oghenekwu. Abdallah described the operation as a sweet victory for the NDLEA, because the farmers had done all the work by harvesting and processing the cannabis, awaiting evacuation from the farms.
“It was a perfect timing for the Agency and a painful loss to the drug barons. They had prepared the cannabis in bags waiting for shipment when we raided. The Agency will continue to launch similar devastating attacks on drug trafficking cartels until they are completely defeated,” he said.
He recommended a review of laws relating to forest reserves, critical appraisal of the functions of forest guards as well as effective monitoring of the forests.
All suspects will be arraigned soon.