KORE OGIDAN, who posed as a buyer, writes about the underhand marijuana business in the Shitta area of Surulere, Lagos
It was 8am. The rains already turned a makeshift market in the Shitta area of Surulere, Lagos, to a soggy terrain. Some men slept carelessly on conjoined benches at corners in the open space
One of them, who though not fully awake, managed a glance at our correspondent who entered the marketplace with a male partner in tow. After listening to her concocted story about wanting to buy the stuff, he told our correspondent that his colleagues were lost in a deep sleep after the heavy dose of marijuana they all took the night before. Apart from the market arena, there were other young men scattered in several parts of the environs.
The sale of marijuana or cannabis (also called Indian hemp, ganja and weed in Nigeria) in the area is sustained by dealers and buyers alike from nearby streets and neighbourhoods. The buyers and dealers identify one another with funny monikers while their real names are shielded away from outsiders. They communicate in Pidgin English and the majority of the players are obviously indigenes of other states in the country who settled in Lagos in search of the proverbial greener pastures.
SUNDAY PUNCH observed that some of the buyers, apparently set for their work places, were well dressed. Some young women also came quickly into the arena to buy weed. They seemed known to the sellers who exchanged pleasantries with them and promptly handed them the stuff wrapped in newspapers.
The teenage female buyers tucked the substance inside the carriers they brought as an old, drunken man lolling in a plastic chair used his right, pale leg to extinguish the fire in a stub of marijuana.
The black spot called Shitta, located at the back of the Teslim Balogun Stadium area of Surulere, is surrounded by many high-rise buildings, with its entrance lined by a big Central Mosque, taxi park, tailor shops, kiosks and minimarts. It links Masha road and Akerele Street in the middle.
The buildings are aged and the area is a slum-like dwelling with dirt on all sides and murky waters in blocked drains.
The community is a long stretch of seemingly unending buildings, roads and networking lanes linking many other parts of Surulere. Like an octopus with several arms, Shitta has a multiple entry and exit points.
The marijuana business
The WebMD describes marijuana as an herb containing chemicals called cannabinoids affecting the central nervous system, which includes the brain and nerves. It notes that some people take marijuana extract by mouth or as a spray applied under the tongue for pain and symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
It identifies its medicinal benefits to include treatment of nausea, vomiting, glaucoma, appetite increase, mucous membranes reduction, leprosy, fever, epilepsy, dandruff, depression, anxiety, sleep, hemorrhoids, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, bladder infections, cough, nerve pain, cancer pain, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis among others
One of the marijuana dealers in Shitta, identified only as Seyi, who sells a marijuana variant known as skunk, said he had been in the trade for three years with an impressive clientele.
He said, “The business is lucrative, though it is hidden. I make about N20,000 daily. We have over 50 dealers in the area and each has his own clients ranging from female and male university students, corporate workers to artisans.”
Another dealer, who gave his name only as Ibro, said he got into the business two years ago. He told SUNDAY PUNCH that as a rule, some of them wouldn’t sell the substance to underage persons.
He added, “Street urchins, commercial motorcycle (okada) riders, commercial bus and taxi drivers are my customers.”
Ibro also said some of the university students, who buy from him, usually do so on the way from their homes to their hostels.
None of the duo admitted cultivating the weed and didn’t also disclose how they get the substance. A dealer, Seyi, however, disclosed to SUNDAY PUNCH that he bought the leaves from a wholesaler identified as Uncle, living in the Mushin area of Lagos. He claimed not to have met the man physically, saying they only talked on the phone.
Seyi said, “I have his mobile. When I run out of stock, I call him. He sends someone to deliver the substance to me at a popular junction in Surulere.”
Ibro too refused to disclose the source of his product, saying a reliable dealer in the state supplied him. “Someone brings the stuff to me. That is all I can say. I cannot disclose how I get my supplies. I don’t grow it. It is not easy to grow marijuana in this country. I employ myself and distribute it my way,” he stated.
The network of another dealer known as Mr G is different from those of his colleagues. Mr G, who claimed to have been in the business for 16 years, said he imported it from a West African country. He said he smuggled the leaves into town by road. “I hide them in sacks of food, clothes and anything else to conceal the packages,” he added.