Less than three weeks after the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agencies (NDLEA), Ondo State Command, swooped on illicit drugs and their dealers in the state, four officers of the agency were murdered by unknown gunmen in an utmost bizarre manner.
The unfortunate attack occurred on Sunday while the NDLEA officers, five in number, were at their duty post along Ikaro Road checkpoint, lfon, Ose Local Government Area of the state, which is also notorious for Indian hemp plantation and related businesses.
According to reports, the gunmen, numbering three, stormed the checkpoint on motorcycle, attacked the unsuspected officers with AK-47 rifles and set the agency’s Toyota Hilux patrol van ablaze, carting away their arms and ammunition.
However, it was gathered that one of the officers escaped the assault while others namely: Abduljalad Mohammed (ASN ll), Wellington Emmanuel (SNA), Magaji Aliu (CAN) and Mohammed lliyasu lost their lives.
It was also learnt that the bodies of the NDLEA officials, without their guns, were discovered in the early hours of Sunday by some farmers while returning from their farm.
Some sympathizers who spoke with The Guardian on the attack, noted that the assault may have been a reprisal attack by drug dealers, who had been victims of several efforts made by the agency to stop illicit drugs in the state.
In September 2018, the state command destroyed 110,542 tonnes of Indian hemp and other illicit drugs under the supervision of its national officers and the governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, along Oda Road Akure.
Similarly, in preparation for the 2019 general elections last month, it seized 851,000 kilogrammes of tramadol, 851.027 kilogrammes of psychotropic substances and expressed determination to stamp out hard drugs and send the drug dealers out of business.
The successes were consequent upon the activities of a special squad inaugurated by the command, tagged: “Operation Ijo Oloogbo,” which constantly combed the forests to root out Indian hemp plantations.
While reacting to the attack yesterday, the state NDLEA Commander, Mr. Haruna Dagara, disclosed that “our men have gone to evacuate the bodies from the scene and other paramilitary agencies are on ground.”
Despite the logistic issues that often times make the agency susceptible to incessant attacks, he affirmed that the state command would not be intimidated by the scourge to drastically reduce narcotics and other illicit drugs in the state.
Dagara, who described the loss of his men in the attack as “a very painful one,” recounted that “five of my officers were on patrol duty along Ifon road, two persons on motorcycle with Ak47 riffles in a sack opened fire on the officers, killing four and one escaped unhurt.
“They set the patrol van ablaze before they left. This type of incident has not happened before, but we have had cases of mob attack. This is the first time they came and attack our men for no reason.
“It is an unprovoked attack. The people we are waging war against are the prime suspects. I am sure that God will expose them and we will get them.”
Dagara, nonetheless, assured that with the collaboration of other security agencies in the state, NDLEA would not relent; saying the fight against narcotics dealers had just begun.
“Am promising you, this will not deter us, rather this will ginger us to do more. I assure you that with other security agencies in the state, the war will surely be won.”
Speaking on the raids carried out through Operation Ijo Oloogbo, the state NDLEA Commander recounted that during an operation at Ipele forest in Owo Local Government Area, it confiscated 30,618 tonnes of cannabis sativa.
Dagara added that five hectares of Indian hemp farm were raided, where they recovered three single barrel guns, and one pump action gun with psychotropic substances including Tramadol, were recovered.
According to valid estimation from him, 93,480 tablets and syrup containing codeine were confiscated; others were 8,630 tablets of Rophynol, 80,000 tablets of Benzhexol-5 and 4,800 bottles of Panpedeen cough syrup with codeine.
“At the Ipele forest which is the location of Operation Ijo Oloogbo, the exercise led to the arrest of 12 male suspects and seizure of 54 bags of cannabis sativa, weighing 627,5 kilogrammes (29.04 tonnes) and 12 bags of cannabis sativa seeds, due to inadequate logistics for the evacuation.”
Though five suspects were referred for counseling from the Supply Reduction Unit, (SRU), three drug dependent persons were also admitted for counseling and rehabilitation, there are still large number of addicts roaming the town.