The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has revealed how traffickers of illicit drugs have been circulating cocaine, heroin, cannabis and other psychotropic substances in Borno amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
NDLEA State Commander Mr Joseph Icha told newsmen in Maiduguri on Monday that traffickers of illicit drugs no longer stay at identified dark spots where the operatives of the agency often raid them.
‘We observed that the traffickers of drugs used the opportunity of loopholes during the total lockdown to start a massive movement of drugs across the state,’ he disclosed.
He said the illegal business was often conducted with drugs hidden amid food items and sacks of grains moving into different parts of the country. He cited a case of cannabis hidden and covered with maize in dozens of bags. He said those involved in retail sales have also devised means of getting them across to their buyers since they could no longer come to the selling spots regularly raided by NDLEA operatives.
‘We discovered they now call their buyers and meet them either in their houses or nearby where they deliver the illegal products,’ he said, adding that the agency has not relented despite the change in pattern by the traffickers. He said some of them have been arrested recently.
The Command, according to Icha, seized 10.765 tons of illicit drugs worth over N1 billion within the last 11 months.
‘We have seized 10.765 tons of drugs in different locations in Borno valued in excess of N1 billion. We also seized houses different kinds of cars, buses and cash traced to the proceeds of sales of illicit drugs and sealed up residential apartment use by drug traders estimated for about N150 million,’ the commander disclosed.
He said 388 persons were arrested within the period with 379 of the suspects being males and eight female. He said 12 of the 15 persons kept in the agency’s counselling facility in the state for rehabilitation have been discharged.
‘We do follow up those discharged to ensure they don’t go back to the act again but following our counselling,’ he said. He disclosed that the Command organised awareness outreach at the various Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in Maiduguri, the state capital, on how they can cope with the pressures and impact of their displacement by Boko Haram without resorting to the use of illicit drugs or drug abuse.
He said cocaine and heroin were becoming increasingly available in the state unlike in the past when Cannabis Sativa, Diazopham and other psychotropic drugs were more common. He attributed the development to increased social pressures, the impact of the violence, poverty, lack of resources to live a decent life and uncertainty about the future, among other factors.
Borno has a 31.4 per cent unemployment rate, the highest number in the North-East, according to a 2018 third quarter Labour Force Survey by the National Bureau of Statistics.