The National Drug law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has discovered a super laboratory for the illicit production of methamphetamine in Asaba, Delta State; that is capable of churning out drugs worth at least $2 billion.
The laboratory, which was detected by the Special Enforcement Team (SET) of the NDLEA and is said to harbour a production process that is very technical and sophisticated, is the first super laboratory discovered in the country. Similar to the ones found in Mexico, in terms of size, it has a capacity to produce between 3,000kg to 4,000kg of methamphetamine per production cycle. In Asia, the street value of 1 kg of methamphetamine can be as high as $600,000.
The suspects behind the laboratory have been arrested and were paraded at a press briefing held at the Agency’s National Headquarters in Lagos, on Saturday.
Those arrested include four Nigerians believed to be joint owners of the laboratory and four Mexicans, who are methamphetamine production experts hired and brought into the country as technical partners. The suspects include: Chief Chibi Aruh, William Ejike Agusi, Umolu Kosisochukwu and Umolu Chuwkuemeka.
The technical experts from Mexico are: Cervantos Madrid Jose Bruno, Rivas Ruiz Pastiano, Castillo Barraza Cristobal, and Partida Gonzalez.
At the press briefing, Chairman of the NDLEA, Col. Muhammad Mustapha, noted that the discovery of a super-laboratory should be a cause of fresh worries, in the nation’s fight against illegal narcotics.
“It is worrisome because the rise of super-laboratories will put Nigerian on the global spotlight in methamphetamine production,” he said.
“This is because the laboratory operates at an industrial scale with a high yield of 3,000kg to 4,000kg of methamphetamine per production cycle. The process of production here is different from that employed in the laboratories earlier discovered in Lagos and Anambra states. While the smaller laboratories adopted the cooking method, this super laboratory uses the synthesis method.”
The NDLEA chief also noted that methamphetamine laboratories pose a serious threat to humanity, because of the toxic nature of chemicals used.
“For every one pound of methamphetamine produced, about three to six pounds of toxic waste is created,” he said. “This can contaminate the water table within 500 metres radius from the laboratory. Even the plants close to the dump were found to be dead.”
At the Asaba methamphetamine factory, the NDLEA reported that they recovered highly poisonous solvents and gases, some which are highly combustible, corrosive, and capable of irritating or causing damage to the respiratory system and the human skin.
Methamphetamine, also called meth, is an extremely addictive stimulant drug that is chemically similar to amphetamine. It takes the form of a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder. It is taken orally, smoked, snorted, or dissolved in water or alcohol and injected.
Smoking or injecting the drug delivers it very quickly to the brain, where it produces an immediate, intense euphoria. Because the pleasure also fades quickly, users often take repeated doses, in a “binge and crash” pattern.
People who use methamphetamine long-term may experience anxiety, confusion, insomnia, and mood disturbances and display violent behaviour. They may also show symptoms of psychosis, such as paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects crawling under the skin).