After months of carefully cleaning his tracks, an operator of a Methamphetamine laboratory, popularly called Mkpuru Mmiri, Emeka Nzewi, residing in the Victoria Garden City (VGC) area of Lagos State, was busted in his hotel room.
The dangerous illicit drug, crystal methamphetamine, was produced for distribution across Nigeria and export.
Nzewi operated the meth lab in the boys’ quarter building of his four-bedroom duplex located in K-SA/2 Road 14 of the VGC, where he lived with his family.
Until his arrest on July 30, Nzewi was living at a hotel in Admiralty Way Lekki Phase1 while production was ongoing in his house. His vehicle was often parked in the compound to give the false impression that he was at home.
As of July 29, Nzewi neither slept at his residence nor returned to his house the next day, but having been under surveillance for weeks, by officials of the NDLEA. He was picked up at 2 pm from his hotel and subsequently brought to his house to be present when the search was conducted.
Similarly, the cook, Sunday Ukah was also not residing in the VGC apartment, but he was lodged in a hotel outside the estate where Nzewi had deposited a huge amount of money for his accommodation for up to one month.
“The hotel was the haven that he retired to after each day’s activity at the lab,” the NDLEA revealed during a press briefing in Abuja, on Tuesday.
The duo did not act alone as officials tracked another kingpin, Paul Ozoemenam, operating a Meth Lab in the Nise Community of Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State.
Officials of the NDLEA recovered a total of 258.74 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and various precursor chemicals used for the production of the toxic drug.
“The complete paraphernalia of laboratory equipment such as gas cylinders, giant gas burners, industrial face masks, industrial gloves, tubes and flat-bottomed conical flasks, among others were also found,” the agency said.
Speaking at the press briefing, the Chairman/CEO of the NDLEA, Muhamed Marwa said he was addressing the public about the operation to raise people’s awareness of the danger that meth production constitutes to public health and the modus operandi of the barons involved in the unwholesome activity.
He said, “The owner of the laboratory in VGC, for instance, was producing this highly unstable and toxic drug in a house where he lived with his family. This speaks volumes about his insensitivity to the consequences of exposing his family, which includes a three-month-old baby, to the danger of hazardous chemicals.
“If that is the case, that is an indication that public health was of no concern to him. In this particular case, aside from the laboratory being close to the kitchen of the main house, the waste from the laboratory was channelled into the septic tank and soakaway in the compound, with a high risk of contamination of the water table of the entire neighbourhood.
“On average, the lab produced 50 kilos of methamphetamine every week with plans underway to increase the capacity of production to at least 100kg per week. Where do these drugs end? From our preliminary interrogation, we now know the drugs from this lab were both for export and local consumption.
“We also know there is a supply chain of distributors and buyers for export and the domestic market. When you consider the fact that the price of this dangerous drug was going as high as $500, 000 per kilo in the international market in recent times, you will understand why Nzewi cared less to put the lives of his own family at risk by producing this in the same house where they live.
“Hence, taking these two labs out of operation is a major feat in our continuing effort to curb the meth problem.”
Marwa said the situation, exposed the interconnectivity among syndicates involved in meth production, adding, that the cook was hired by both producers to produce for the VGC lab and that of Anambra.
He urged members of the public to be sensitive to their environment.
“As we step up the offensive against drug traffickers, we want the public to be more vigilant and be aware of the fact that producers of methamphetamine always choose unsuspecting environments with tight security, like the VGC estate, in this case.
“And the reason is not far-fetched: They choose secured estates to prevent law enforcement agents from monitoring their activities. They also locate meth labs in remote unsuspecting communities where residents would not be aware of their activities.
“It is very important to note that the waste from methamphetamine production is dangerous to the ecosystem. The chemicals are toxic and once they seep into the soil, they contaminate the water table from which surrounding wells and boreholes draw their water.
“And citizens who unwittingly consume the water from such sources are exposed to heart and kidney ailments and other organ diseases. Neighbours, too, who inhale gases from the lab, are also susceptible to the same risk.
“What makes it worse is that the production usually takes place in the middle of the night, between 11 pm and 4 am, and therefore, unsuspecting neighbours could have been exposed to the hazards for months or even years,” Marwa said.