Nigeria’s anti-drug agency, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have announced on Monday, the arrest of four Mexicans who were allegedly helping to build a “Super-laboratory” capable of producing billions of dollar’s worth of methamphetamine (an extremely addictive stimulant drug in the same class as cocaine and other powerful street drugs) in Asaba, Delta State.
A statement by the agency’s spokesperson, Ofoyeju Mitchell, disclosed that the methamphetamine laboratory is similar to those found in Mexico. It was the first lab of its kind to be discovered in Nigeria, West Africa and possibly on African continent, the agency said.
“The Nigerians invited the Mexicans in to leverage their expertise in these industrial-scale, high-yield productions.”
The warehouse in southern Delta state could produce 4,000 kilograms (8,800 pounds) a week of the synthetic drug, which sells for $6,000 a kilogram in Nigeria but as much as $300,000 a kilogram in the Asian markets favored by Nigerian drug dealers, Ofoyeju told The Associated Press. Most goes to Singapore and Malaysia.
The lab completed a first successful production in February 2016 and the agents raided it as the Mexicans were producing a second run. Only 1.5 kilograms of meth was recovered with 750 liters (200 gallons) of liquid methamphetamine.
Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said its embassy in Nigeria was working with local authorities to confirm the suspects’ identities and nationalities and determine their legal status.
The raid came after an undercover operation that also netted the arrests of four Nigerians last Wednesday. The eight arrests happened in simultaneous raids in two southern towns and the commercial capital, Lagos.
Separately, Nigeria’s drug enforcement agency announced the weekend arrest of suspected drug baron Tochukwu Harris Ubah in connection with the seizure at Lagos port of 576 kilograms (1,270 pounds) of crystal meth and ephedrine — used in small-scale production. It was bound for Durban, South Africa.
The Nigerian suspects are believed to be joint owners of the laboratory, with the Mexicans hired as methamphetamine production experts. The Nigerian suspects’ names are Chibi Aruh, William Ejike Agusi, Umolu Kosisochukwu, and Umolu Chukwuemeka. The Mexican suspects are Cervantos Madrid Jose Bruno, Rivas Ruiz Pastiano, Castillo Barraza Cristobal, and Partida Gonzalez Pedro.
The first crystal meth labs in West Africa were discovered in Nigeria in 2011, and 10, smaller than industrial scale, have since been dismantled. The West African Drug Commission has warned that drug lords are corrupting politicians and law enforcers, and even running for office themselves.
The NDLEA chairman, Colonel Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah, noted that the lab in Asaba posed a serious threat as mass production of methamphetamine could increase the rate of abuse of the drug. He added,
“More citizens will equally be targeted by drug cartels that are searching for drug mules to smuggle drugs outside the country. This has the tendency to increase the number of Nigerians in foreign prisons thereby affecting the image of our country.”
The agency drew attention to the grave danger to humans posed by pollution linked to methamphetamine production, adding that the drug used toxic chemicals. Colonel Abdallah also said:
“Methamphetamine dump pollutes the environment. This is because, for every one pound of methamphetamine produced, about three to six pounds of toxic waste is created. This can contaminate the water table within 500 meters radius from the laboratory. Even plants close to the dump were found to be dead. The laboratory contains highly poisonous solvents and gasses.”
He also explained that some of the materials used in the drug’s production are capable of an explosion while other are linked to cancer.
The NDLEA stated that funds would be required to enable the agency to detect laboratories producing illicit drugs, to acquire protective kits for its agents, and to decontaminate production sites. Colonel Abdallah estimated the cost of cleaning up the laboratory in Asaba at N35 million.
The NDLEA urged members of the public to report suspicious factories to the agency. It explained that a methamphetamine laboratory could be identified by its secretive operations or detected by the irritation and smell caused by chemicals as well as colored water appearing in sewage. The agency warned that any houses used for methamphetamine production should be avoided while chemical containers must not be put to domestic use.