Oyo State’s growing hemp business
By Oluwatoyin Malik
THE bid of the Oyo State command of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency to rid the state of criminal elements who plant cannabis sativa succeeded again on Monday, October 7 when a 51-hectare farm was discovered in the depth of Gambari Forest Reserve under Oluyole Local Government, Ibadan. Also found on the farm was unascertained kilogrammes of the banned drug which was spread for drying, in readiness for bagging and sale.
It would be recalled that the same exercise was carried out in September near Osun Eleja village in Ona Ara Local Government where cannabis sativa planted on 26 hectares was discovered by Oyo NDLEA based on information received by the officials. Crime Reports also learnt that NDLEA officials destroyed a farm in the same forest reserve two years ago.
The journey into the farm from Kopek Construction Company’s quarry revealed that the popular programme sponsored by Nigerian Breweries, the Gulder Ultimate Search was a child’s play, compared with the distance covered by journalists and security agencies which included NDLEA, Nigeria Police Force, Directorate of State Services, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and Nigeria Immigration Services.
With the assistance of okada riders hired by the NDLEA and Oluyole Local Government, about 50 kilometres were covered, after which it took about 40 minutes on foot to get to the cannabis farm. Even while on okada, thorns tore at the flesh of those making the journey on both sides of the path which was freshly opened with the assistance of cutlasses held by the officials and the labourers hired to do the job of cutting.
After cutting the mature cannabis plants, the stems were gathered by the NDLEA officials and set on fire along with the dried ones.
The state commander of NDLEA, Mrs Omolade Faboyede, told journalists that the cannabis sativa farm was 51 hectares. On how the agency got the information, the commander said “it was through information we received on September 9, 2013. My men went on surveillance and were able to pick one person who was working on a farm, and who gave his name as Morgan Etakefe.
“After that, we had to plan and involve the local government and other security agencies to be part of the operation.” She confirmed that the state command had once destroyed a hemp farm on the same location about two years ago but said that the planters went farther into the jungle and made their farm more hidden than the former one.
The arrested suspect, Etakefe, told Crime Reports that he knew those who owned the farms, giving their names as Azuka from Delta State and Ebunke, a Yoruba man from Awori tribe. He however said he was just a labourer whose services were usually hired to weed the farm, adding that he was on another farm when he was arrested by NDLEA officials.
“I was on a corn farm when the NDLEA officials picked me while looking for the Awori people who own the cannabis sativa farms. It is true that I had worked for them as a labourer but I am not one of them. When the NDLEA people asked whether I knew them, I answered in the affirmative.”
The 49-year-old man revealed that he was from Olorogun Local Government, Delta State.
When asked why he did not inform law enforcement agents about the farm, Etakefe said “that was my mistake.”
The chairman of Oluyole Local Government, Prince Abass Alesinloye, gave kudos to the NDLEA for doing a wonderful job. “For them to have traced a cannabis farm that takes about 50kilomtres on a motorcycle from the road side, and an additional 40minutes walk through unmotorable jungle path, is a great evidence of how they had been working.”
He added that the local government would support the NDLEA in every way possible to make it a crime-free area.
Mrs Faboyede also declared that Oyo State is no place for cannabis planters. “They should steer clear of the state, but if they desist, I assure them that we will find them out and destroy their farms.”