The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) on Saturday said it discovered a super laboratory for the illicit production of methamphetamine located at Asaba, Delta.
This was contained in a statement issued and signed by the agency’s spokesperson, Mr Mitchell Ofoyeju in Lagos.
According to the statement, those arrested (names withheld), included four Nigerians believed to be joint owners of the said laboratory and four Mexicans, who are methamphetamine production experts, hired as technical partners.
“NDLEA has discovered a super methamphetamine laboratory and dislodged a major drug trafficking organisations in the country.
”Officials of the Special Enforcement Team (SET) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) made a significant breakthrough with the discovery of a super laboratory for the illicit production of methamphetamine.
”This super methamphetamine laboratory similar to the ones found in Mexico is the first to be discovered in the country,” the statement said.
The statement quoted the NDLEA Chairman, Mr Muhammad Abdallah as saying that the laboratory had the capacity of producing between 3,000kg and 4,000kg of methamphetamine per production cycle.
“A significant feature of this laboratory is that, the production process is more technical and sophisticated because it uses the synthesis method of methamphetamine production.
“All the principal actors linked to this illicit act were apprehended in a simultaneous raid on members of the drug syndicate in Lagos, Obosi in Anambra and at the laboratory in Asaba-Delta,” he said.
Abdallah described the operation that led to the arrest of the suspects as a technically undercover assignment, adding that it also led to the dismantling of a drug trafficking organisation.
“In a technical undercover operation, four Mexicans were arrested in active production inside the super laboratory.
“The cartel first brought two Mexican methamphetamine experts to Nigeria.
“But because of the size of the laboratory, coupled with the volume of work, two additional Mexicans were added.
“Our investigation revealed that a successful test production was done at the laboratory in February 2016.
“The laboratory was raided while the second production cycle was ongoing.
“Items recovered at the laboratory include 1.5kg of finished methamphetamine and 750 litres of liquid methamphetamine.
“Other items found in the laboratory include industrial pressure pots, gas cylinders, gas burners, facial masks and numerous chemicals.
“Also recovered in this operation are Toyota Tundra, Mercedes Benz Jeep ML and a Toyota Corolla car,” he said.
The Agency warned that unless drastic measures were taken against the trend; the rise in super laboratories would put Nigeria on the global spotlight in methamphetamine production.
“This is because the laboratory operates at an industrial scale with a high yield of 3,000kg to 4,000kgs of methamphetamine per production cycle.
“Nigeria methamphetamine is now competing with others in Asia and South Africa markets.
“The super laboratory does not need ephedrine because it uses the synthesis method.
“Drug cartels are now shifting from simple method of methamphetamine production to a more complex process.
“The discovery calls for celebration, because the operation demonstrates the capacity and preparedness of the agency to track down drug cartels, irrespective of their covert mode of operation.
“The threat posed by this laboratory is disturbing because mass production will make the drug easily available, thereby increasing the rate of drug abuse,” he said.
According to the statement, more citizens will equally be targeted by drug cartels that are searching for drug smugglers outside the country with the tendency to increase the number of Nigerians in foreign prisons, thereby affecting the image of our country.
It said that methamphetamine laboratories posed serious threat to humanity because of the toxic nature of chemicals used, adding that methamphetamine dump had the capacity of polluting the environment.
“This is because for every one pound of methamphetamine produced, about three to six pounds of toxic waste is created which can contaminate the water table within 500 meters radius from the laboratory,” it added.
It stated that the laboratory contained highly poisonous solvents and gases some of which are pyrophoric in nature, capable of causing explosion, carcinogenic, capable of causing cancer adding that some were highly combustible and corrosive.
According to the agency, the estimated cost of cleaning this laboratory is about N35 million.
“More funds are also needed to carry out public enlightenment to create awareness and provide information to help people make informed decisions.
The agency, which called for protective measures to safeguard the lives of its officers and those of innocent Nigerians, advised members of the public to be vigilant and report suspicious factories to the NDLEA.
“A methamphetamine laboratory can be identified by their secret operations.
It can be detected by irritation caused by chemicals, smell of chemicals and coloured water on sewage,” it added.
The agency also cautioned the people to avoid houses used for methamphetamine production, adding that chemical containers must not be used for domestic purposes.
NDLEA also reiterated its commitment to work with the relevant agencies like the Ministry of Health and Environment and Environmental Protection Agency in enhancing public health and safety of the people.