The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has identified and destroyed five cannabis farms measuring 4.386 hectares in Edo State.
The agency also seized a blue Renault car laden with 234 blocks of compressed cannabis weighing 140 kilogrammes, intended for shipment to Kaduna State.
The Edo State Commander of the NDLEA, Mr Buba Wakawa, said on Thursday that the vehicle, marked BC 143 MKA, was seized at Otuo village in the Owan West Local Government Area, following an intelligence report.
Wakawa noted that preliminary investigation revealed that a suspected member of a cannabis smuggling syndicate had attempted to smuggle the compressed blocks of cannabis to the northern state before it was intercepted by the NDLEA operatives.
According to him, the farms destroyed were discovered in Ikhin and Ogbogui forests, in the Owan East and Ovia South-West Local Government Areas of the state.
He added that two persons, identified as Orhiowobho Isaac and Bayode Ohiomokhe, who were suspected to be cannabis farmers, were arrested.
Wakawa stated, “Two of the farms are located in Ikhin forest in Owan East Local Government Area, while two others were detected in Ogbogui Forest in the Ovia South-West Local Government Area of the state.
“In addition, two cannabis farmers were also apprehended in connection with the illegal cultivation at Ikhin Forest and they will soon be charged to court.”
But the suspects blamed their involvement in the cultivation of the banned weed on hardship and the need to make ends meet.
One of them, Isaac, who was arrested in a hut inside a cannabis farm, said that he needed the proceeds from the sale of cannabis to take care of his medical expenses and family.
The 41-year-old man with two wives and five children explained, “I attended Usse Primary School, but could not go further in my education, following the death of my father.
“I was introduced to cannabis cultivation by a friend because of the expensive medical expenses required to fix my deteriorating health condition as well as my family upkeep. This is my first time of cultivating cannabis.”
Ohiomokhe, a father of four, stated that he was a cassava farmer before he was introduced to cannabis cultivation in 2017.
The suspect said, “I have suffered unduly in a bid to make ends meet. I dropped out of junior secondary school in 2003 due to lack of financial support. I was a commercial motorcyclist, but after a serious accident, I began the subsistent farming of cassava and corn.
“Last year, I was introduced to cannabis cultivation because of the high profit involved. This is my second attempt at cultivating cannabis and I feel very bad for being arrested by NDLEA officers in my cannabis farm.”
However, Wakawa said efforts were ongoing to arrest other suspected members of drug trafficking cartels in the state, promising that the fight against drug trafficking would continue until the battle was completely won.