Saturday, July 23, 2011

US experts investigate Lagos hard drugs factory

Forensic experts from the United States of America have arrived Nigeria and commenced investigation into the illicit Methamphetamine production factory recently discovered in Lagos by operatives of the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). The experts are also expected to safely dismantle the laboratory and evacuate materials used for production of the drug. Several Methamphetamine products manufactured and packaged at the illegal factory meant for export were intercepted and seized by the NDLEA.

Officials of the Agency described the illegal factory as a possible production centre. NDLEA chairman and chief executive, Ahmadu Giade vowed in an interview with Weekly Trust on the issue that intensive surveillance is on by men of the agency to trace the source of the drugs. "We uncovered a clandestine laboratory for the illicit production of Methamphetamine here in Lagos through intelligence work", he confirmed.

Methamphetamine is a white, odourless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol and is taken either orally; by snorting the powder; by needle injection or by smoking.

Methamphetamine produced by the illegal factory are called among its consumers as "speed", "meth", "chalk", "ice", "crystal" and "glass". There are very few cases of abuse of methamphetamine in the country as most seizures so far made were meant for export. The mode of export of the illicit drugs is not yet clear despite the assurances the agency has been giving on its ability to curtail drugs' deal in the country.

"The production centre is a three bedroom bungalow located around Iba, Ojo Local Government area of Lagos State. It has a production capacity of 20 to 50 kilogrammes per cycle thus making it a large production centre similar to the ones found in Mexico," he explained.

He assured that officials are working to ascertain the possibility of a link with other international drug networks.

"The agency is ready for the new twists and forms in the criminal trade which is the first of its type in West Africa and a land mark success in Nigeria's drug control operations. The house had been sealed off by our operatives."

He said some persons, including the suspected kingpin have been arrested in connection with the illicit drug production centre. The suspects, according to him, are Bernard Umezurike, 44 years old, the alleged owner of the illegal production centre, Polycarp Ndilobi, 41 years old who was working at the clandestine laboratory at the time men of NDLEA stormed the place. It is a strong stimulant that affects the central nervous system, Giade informed.

He said the substance is highly addictive and a derivative of Amphetamine. Long-term methamphetamine abuse, he warned, has many negative health consequences, including extreme weight loss, severe dental problems also known as "meth mouth", anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behaviours. "Other psychotic features include paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions such as the sensation of insects crawling under the skin," he said.

Giade blamed the sad development on the get rich quick syndrome identified among most Nigerian drug barons. He noted that the agency was not unmindful of the additional responsibilities placed on law enforcement with the strange twist in drug trade, adding, "Covert laboratories such as this where narcotics are produced is novel in the country. The demand on law enforcement is quite enormous and the health implications horrific. The inordinate quest for wealth has driven man to commit unimaginable criminal and sordid acts," the NDLEA boss observed.

While raising the alarm over the dangerous nature of the attacks, the chairman urged members of the public to be vigilant and avoid falling prey to drug criminals. He said Methamphetamine preparation emits gases like Phosphine and Hydrogen Chloride that can cause instant pulmonary damages and death when inhaled. The agency is aware of reliable studies that have also shown that even when there is a clean-up exercise of the house; it is still risky to inhabit the house used for the production of methamphetamine.

The Agency said members of the public could identify where illicit drugs are produced through the strange smell of chemicals, withering of grasses, skin irritation and choking sensation experienced in the neighbourhood of the production centers. He said such locations used for the illegal production of drugs are most times under lock and key while occupants usually avoid interaction with neighbours. "We urge Nigerians to report all such places to the nearest offices of the agency or other security operatives."

The head of public affairs of the agency, Mr. Mitchell Ofoyeju could not however allow this reporter to have a chat with any of the suspects saying they are currently helping detectives from the agency with useful information and may not want them to lose track. He however said the agency is prepared to arrest and prosecute anybody including their foreign collaborators linked to setting up and operation of the factory.


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