Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Edo State have discovered a cannabis village in Okpuje forest in Owan West Local Government Area of the state.

The cannabis village, which consisted of four large warehouses, had 233,778kg of the dry weeds, with an estimated street value of over N1.4 billion.

Seven suspected drug barons, who were running the cannabis trafficking syndicate, were also arrested.

Edo Commander of NDLEA, Buba Wakawa, made the disclosure Saturday in Benin, stressing that the seizure was the largest single concentration of cannabis discovered by the command.

He gave the breakdown of the drugs as 318 bags of 80kg each, weighing 25,440kg; 15,853 bags of 13kg weighing 206,089kg.

Wakawa revealed that while the total quantity seized was 2,249kg, others weighing 231,529kg were destroyed at the farm.

He ascribed the success of the operation to the enabling environment created by the new Chairman of NDLEA, Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa.

NDLEA’s commander said: “We took delivery of two new Hilux operational vehicles presented to the command last week. This is the first assignment of the vehicles and it turned out to be the best for the command. We are grateful to the Chairman of NDLEA. This is a clear warning that there is no room for drug barons in Edo State.”

Wakawa also stated that the seizures represented a large chunk of the previous cannabis planting season.

He said: “The suspected drug barons planted, watered, harvested and processed the cannabis, only for us to dispossess them of their labour, because their action is criminal.

“The warehouses are located in the heart of the forest, yet we were able to uncover them, based on intelligence gathering.

“Ukpuje that is notorious for cannabis cultivation and trafficking, as well as attacks on law enforcement officers, stood still, as a combined team of NDLEA and combatant military personnel overran the drug trafficking syndicates, due to our superior firepower.”

The commander of NDLEA also revealed that the suspected drug barons included the Chairman of the vigilance group in Okpuje, Emmanuel Oki, 62; Chief Odi Sabato, 42; Bright Inemi Edegbe, 53, Others are Gowon Ehimigbai, 53 years, Enodi Ode, 37; Ayo Oni, 30; and Akhime Benjamin, 43.

He hailed the Commander of 4 Brigade, Nigerian Army in Benin, Brig.-Gen. M. A. Sadik, for the logistics and personnel assistance that led to the successful clampdown on the cannabis syndicates in the area.

Wakawa described the synergy between the Nigerian army and NDLEA in Edo state as an unbeatable force against hard drugs and related crimes in the society.

The commander added that the suspects would be thoroughly investigated and the case to be charged to court soon.