Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have uncovered a huge methamphetamine-making laboratory in Asaba, the capital of Delta State. Officials of the agency’s Special Enforcement Team (SET) also busted the masterminds of the major drug trafficking organization when they arrested eight suspects, four of them Mexican nationals, four Nigerians. The NDLEA stated that the suspects behind the syndicate were arrested in simultaneous operations in Lagos, Obosi, a town near Onitsha in Anambra State, and at the location of the lab in Asaba.
A statement by the agency, signed by Ofoyeju Mitchell, disclosed that the methamphetamine laboratory resembled those found in Mexico. It was the first lab of its kind to be discovered in Nigeria, the agency said.
The NDLEA’s chairman, Colonel Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah, revealed that the laboratory had a capacity to produce between 3,000 kg and 4,000kg of methamphetamine per production cycle. He said the highly sophisticated lab used the synthesis method of methamphetamine production.
The Nigerian suspects are believed to be joint owners of the laboratory, with the Mexicans hired as methamphetamine production experts. The Nigerian suspects’ names are Chibi Aruh, William Ejike Agusi, Umolu Kosisochukwu, and Umolu Chukwuemeka. The Mexican suspects are Cervantos Madrid Jose Bruno, Rivas Ruiz Pastiano, Castillo Barraza Cristobal, and Partida Gonzalez Pedro.
Colonel Abdallah disclosed that the raid on the lab was an undercover operation, adding that the four Mexicans were arrested during active production inside the laboratory. “The cartel first brought two Mexican methamphetamine experts, Cervantos Madrid Jose Bruno and Rivas Ruiz Pastiano, to Nigeria. But because of the size of the laboratory, coupled with the volume of work, two additional Mexicans, Castillo Barraza Cristobal and Partida Gonzalez Pedro, were added,” said the NDLEA chairman. He also stated that a successful test production was carried out at the laboratory in February 2016. The agency’s operatives struck as the second production cycle was in process, according to the NDLEA’s statement.
The items recovered from the raid include 1.5 kg of finished methamphetamine, 750 liters of liquid methamphetamine, industrial pressure pots, gas cylinders, gas burners, facial masks and numerous chemicals. The agency also seized a Toyota Tundra, a Mercedes Benz Jeep ML, and a Toyota Corolla car.
The NDLEA warned that drastic steps must be taken to fight the rise of super laboratories in Nigeria to ensure that the country did not attain a global spotlight in methamphetamine production. “Nigeria methamphetamine is now competing with others in Asia and South Africa markets. The super laboratory does not need ephedrine because it uses the synthesis method. Drug cartels are now shifting from simple method of methamphetamine production to a more complex process,” the agency remarked.
It added that the operation in Asaba demonstrated the agency’s capacity and preparedness to track down drug cartels “irrespective of their covert mode of operation.”
The NDLEA chairman noted that the lab in Asaba posed a serious threat as mass production of methamphetamine could increase the rate of abuse of the drug. He added, “More citizens will equally be targeted by drug cartels that are searching for drug mules to smuggle drugs outside the country. This has the tendency to increase the number of Nigerians in foreign prisons thereby affecting the image of our country.”
The agency drew attention to the grave danger to humans posed by pollution linked to methamphetamine production, adding that the drug used toxic chemicals. “Methamphetamine dump pollutes the environment. This is because, for every one pound of methamphetamine produced, about three to six pounds of toxic waste is created. This can contaminate the water table within 500 meters radius from the laboratory. Even plants close to the dump were found to be dead. The laboratory contains highly poisonous solvents and gasses,” said Colonel Abdallah. He explained that some of the materials used in the drug’s production are capable of an explosion while other are linked to cancer.
The NDLEA stated that funds would be required to enable the agency to detect laboratories producing illicit drugs, to acquire protective kits for its agents, and to decontaminate production sites. Colonel Abdallah estimated the cost of cleaning up the laboratory in Asaba at N35 million.
The NDLEA urged members of the public to report suspicious factories to the agency. It explained that a methamphetamine laboratory could be identified by its secretive operations or detected by the irritation and smell caused by chemicals as well as colored water appearing in sewage. The agency warned that any houses used for methamphetamine production should be avoided while chemical containers must not be put to domestic use..
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