…laments high level of forest devastation
By Jacob Akintunde, Akure
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has urged the Ondo State government to encourage alternative farming which will move cannabis planters to Cocoa farming just as it also destroys over 5,000 hectares of ‘Cannabis’ otherwise known as Indian hemp forest at Ala forest in Akure North local government area of the state .
The armed combatants of the Special Enforcement Team(SET) drawn from the six-geo political zones of the country, numbering over 200 were led in the operation by the Controller of Operations(CN) of the Agency ,Sunday Zirange under the directive of the NDLEA’s Chairman/Chief Executive Officer(CEO) Col.Mustapha Abdallah(Rtd) to the state for the two day operation.
During the operation, fourteen suspects including female were arrested.
Two suspects who abandoned their beans on fire inside a hut when they saw the approaching team were later apprehended in a nearby farm.
Over 100 labourers were engaged by the agency to cut all the cannabis in the presence of journalists and other observers.
The Ala plantation is in the thick forest, about 70 kilometres to Ogbese town, allegedly notorious of cannabis cultivation particularly in the state, with the only one access road impassable.
Speaking with journalists , Zinrange lamented the rate of deforestation in the southwest especially Ondo state, stressing that in the next 10 years if care is not taken, the thick forest in the west would have disappeared.
According to him, “the Northern part is a desert region, with fast encroachment while the south which is supposed to be the hope of the nation is being used for cannabis cultivation and the destruction of economic trees,” he said.
He alleged that some of these people engaged in this illegal business align with some influential people who collaborate with them to cultivate cannabis.
“This development is affecting this country, all hands must be on deck, because the situation will affect the whole world with the issue of global warning as a result of environmental degradation”.
“Last year about 72 tonnes of cannabis were seized in Ondo forest zone, now we decided to be on the plantation site for us to see things for ourselves, you can see, there is no standing trees again, we will bring those arrested to justice.
Zirange lamented the risk involved in the assignment, stressing that in overseas countries,they used technology through helicopters and herbicides to destroy the cannabis farms,but in Nigeria,it is through labourers using cutlasses.
Also speaking, the Ondo State Commandant of NDLEA, Mohammed Mallami Sokoto said the state was blessed with a vast forest which contributed to the impunity of the cannabis cultivators.
He said “apart from Ala forest with its difficult terrain, there are about five or six other forest reserves including Ogbese,Ose,Idanre.They will start cultivation in February and around now, harvesting will commence.
Sokoto said the NDLEA was partnering with the state government to know what is happening in its forests, which is a source of revenue generation.
The state commandant said “we are taking a proactive measure aimed at alternating cash crops and cultivation of economic trees especially Cocoa in order to eradicate cultivation of Cannabis.
He said Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu had supported the farm produce scheme which according to him, is however capital-intensive.
According to him, “we came with a convoy of over 20 vehicles and trekked for over three hours because of the bad road and difficult terrain to access, there are very large hectares of cannibal forests we are taking over within a week”.