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The killing of NDLEA operatives in Ondo

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THE Ondo State command of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) recently lost four of its men in an attack on one of its checkpoints in the state. According to reports, some unknown gunmen opened fire on the personnel manning the checkpoint at Ifon, headquarters of Ose Local Government Area of the state. The deceased NDLEA officials were said to have been at a checkpoint on Ikaro road in Ifon when the hoodlums reportedly attacked them, killed them, stole their rifles and set their patrol van ablaze. The hoodlums were said to have arrived on a motorcycle and opened fire on the operatives. Luckily, however, the fifth operative managed to escape.

The killers were suspected cannabis dealers in the area where the illegal business of cannabis cultivation thrives as a major economic activity. The killing of the NDLEA officials is obviously not a common occurrence and this may have resulted from the desperation of the cannabis growers in that area regarding the hindrance which the operations of the NDLEA constituted to them. As expected, it is a law and order issue and as long as cannabis remains a banned substance, its free and unregulated cultivation must be sanctioned by law regardless of the private interests of the investors in the business. Perhaps the killing of the NDLEA officials was caused by their refusal to negotiate terms with the powerful interests behind the illegal trade.

Their subsequent mindless killing is in the pattern of the regular intense enmity between smugglers and officials of the Nigerian Custom Service (NCS) which regularly occasions deaths on both sides at border towns. The agencies no doubt interfere with the illegal livelihood of these felons and they are always ready to fight back. It used to be a benign and subtle confrontation, but it would seem that the stakes are higher now with the cannabis farmers preferring its cultivation to regular farming of food crops because of the increasingly huge returns they make from it. To say the least, they are ready to kill in order to remain in their illegal business.

There is no doubt that the operatives of the NDLEA need more training in order to function effectively and with fewer casualties. A situation where two motorcycle riders disarm and kill four operatives, make away with their rifles and set their patrol van ablaze does not bear any testimonial to good training and courage. Obviously, the NDLEA needs to up its game seeing that it now has to contend with fiercer and more desperate opposition from drug barons who are reputed to be dangerous and dauntless all over the world. Taking on these felons requires grit and courage. As a matter of fact, any security agency dealing with them has to be much more ruthless and swifter than they are.

As the Ondo State police command has said, we expect synergy between it and the NDLEA in investigating the case and apprehending the perpetrators of  the dastardly act. But it is not enough to apprehend the killers. A comprehensive onslaught and offensive against the illegal business is necessary. It has developed a strong resistance to statutory agencies and drastic steps need to be taken to curb it. The operations of cannabis farmers need to be curtailed, together with the value chain attached to the industry. It is a tough call to which the NDLEA has to respond in terms of equipment, training and operational style.

The post The killing of NDLEA operatives in Ondo appeared first on Tribune Online.

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