THE National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) on Thursday arrested 14 suspected growers of cannabis also known as Indian hemp, while about 5,000 hectares of land used in planting the Cannabis were destroyed in Ala forest in Akure North local government area of the state.
The suspects which included nine men and five women were arrested in their huts inside the cannabis farm while some of the growers took to their heels.
The operation which was carried out by armed combatants of the Special Enforcement Team (SET) from the six states of the south-west was led by the Controller of Operation, of the Agency, Sunday Zirange, during the two-day operation.
Speaking to reporters, after the operation, Zirange who lamented the rate of deforestation in the south-west especially Ondo state, stressed the need for the state government to establish synergy with relevant agencies to curb the cultivation of the weeds in the state.
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 explained that some of the people who engaged in the illegal business aligned with some influential people in the state who have been protecting them from the law enforcement agents.
“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 warming 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.
Also speaking, the Ondo State Commandant of NDLEA, Mohammed Mallami Sokoto noted that the state was blessed with a vast forest but said the growers have been using the advantage adversely to grow Indian hemp.
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 has established synergy with the state government to know what is happening in its forests, and 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.