Violence As NDLEA Officers And Drug Lords Engage In A Gun Battle In Edo State

Hoodlums suspected to be drug barons have engaged operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in a gun duel which left three officers injured. 

The hoodlums had reportedly blocked roads to Opuje community in Owan West local government area of Edo State to stop the operatives from accessing the community.

Spokesman of the agency, Femi Babafemi, said on Thursday in a statement in Abuja that the attack was to prevent the anti-narcotic officers from accessing the forest warehouses where tons of processed psychoactive substances had been stored for distribution nationwide ahead of the coming Christmas and New Year seasons.

The NDLEA operatives were able to exit the area after over two hours of gun fight with the armed hoodlums, Babafemi said.

According to him, this was coming barely 11 months after armed youths recruited by drug barons ambushed NDLEA officers who stormed same community to destroy massive warehouses and tents storing over 317,417kgs (317.4 metric tons) of cannabis sativa on Wednesday 18 January 2023.

At least, three suspects: Omoruan Theophilus, 37; Aigberuan Jacob, 42; Ekeinde Anthony Zaza, 53, and Naomi Patience Ohiewere, 42, were arrested in connection with the drugs then.

“The Opuje community is notorious for cannabis cultivation, where the cartels invest huge resources, cutting down economic trees of the forest reserves and cultivating cannabis on a large scale, running into hundreds of hectares.

“After harvest, they build warehouses inside the forest reserves and employ the services of armed youths to protect the warehouses 24/7,” Babafemi said.

He said that following credible intelligence that the drug cartels had again stocked their warehouses in the forest to start distribution of the psychoactive substance to various parts of the country ahead of the yuletide season, teams of NDLEA officers were mobilised to enter the Edo forests and block the distribution of the illicit drug by destroying their warehouses.

Some of the warehouses containing about 6,000kgs of cannabis were first taken down in Ujiogba forest in Esan West LGA last weekend.

The NDLEA teams however came under gunfire attack in the early hours of Monday, December 4, when they approached the Opuje forest after the armed hoodlums had blocked all access roads to the community.

Babafemi added that unfortunately, three of the officers were injured in the attack with one of them shot in the head while some of the vehicles used for the operation were riddled with bullets.

The affected officers were rushed to the hospital for treatment while the critically injured one had a major surgery on Wednesday to remove the bullets in his brain.

Speaking on the incident, the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the agency, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) warned that those sponsoring attacks on the operatives would know no rest until they were all brought before the law to face the consequences of their action.

While commending the professional conduct of the officers involved in the operation, Marwa said the incident would not in any way deter the agency from continuing its ongoing offensive action against drug barons and cartels who are merchants of death bent on destroying the lives of innocent citizens especially the youths.

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