The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has narrated how its operatives routed a cluster of cannabis syndicates operating in the Opuje forests in Edo State.

According to the NDLEA, the special operation saw the agency’s operatives destroy and set ablaze massive warehouses and tents storing over 317,417 kilogrammes (317.4 metric tonnes) of the psychoactive substance.

The operatives of the anti-drug agency also arrested 37-year-old Omoruan Theophilus, a police impersonator who parades himself as a police inspector to convey the drugs from the forests to the cities.

The operation, which came barely hours after the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (rtd.), vowed to make life tough for drug barons and cartels in the new year if they failed to back out of the illicit trade, also saw the arrest of three others – Aigberuan Jacob, 42; Ekeinde Anthony Zaza, 53, and Naomi Patience Ohiewere, 42 – in connection with the drugs.

The NDLEA, in a statement issued on Saturday by Femi Babafemi, its Director of Media and Advocacy, said the Opuje community, located in Owan West Local Government Area of Edo State, is notorious for cannabis cultivation.

There, the agency said, the cartels invest huge resources, cut down economic trees of the forest reserves and cultivate cannabis on a large scale, running into hundreds of hectares. After harvest, they build warehouses inside the forest reserves and employ the services of armed youths to protect the warehouses.

Narrating the hurdles the operatives faced, NDLEA said they were ambushed by armed youths on their way out after the operation.

“Accessing the forest on Wednesday, January 18, took hours of trekking by hundreds of NDLEA operatives who were ambushed with bonfire by armed youths on their way out of the community the following day,” NDLEA said.

“They were, however, able to successfully leave the area without any casualty except the heavy investment losses inflicted on the cartels,” it said.