The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), has announced that a new illicit drug, khat, has begun circulating in the country. The agency also revealed that it arrested 4,838 suspected drug traffickers, comprising 4,490 males and 348 females, in the first half of the year. The revelations were made in a statement signed by Mr. Mitchell Ofoyeju, NDLEA spokesman.
The statement also declared that drugs weighing 108, 883.52kilogrammes were seized within the same period.
A breakdown of the seizures, according to the statement, put cannabis at the top with 74,942.47kg. Psychotropic substances delivered a haul of 33,425.38kg, ephedrine 201.12kg, methamphetamine 179.74kg, cocaine 54.05kg, heroin 15.11kg and amphetamine 0.0138 grammes.
On the newly introduced Khat, Ofoyeju said about 65.7 kg of the drug was seized in the country between January and June.
But the agency's Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Muhammed Abdallah, said Ofoyeju, has vowed that the NDLEA will arrest the spread of Khat in the country.
He explained that the NDLEA boss has called on the members of the public to be aware of the development, stressing that the agency is prepared to stop all illegal importation, production and exportation of illicit drugs into or out of the country.
Khat, added Ofoyeju, is a stimulant flowering shrub grown mainly in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
The plant, which is known as Catha Edulis, he said, contains two alkaloids, cathinone and cathine, that act as stimulants.
He informed that when Khat leaves are chewed like tobacco, they produce mild euphoria akin to the effect produced by cocaine and amphetamine.
To curb its spread in Nigeria, Mr. Ofoyeju said the NDLEA boss has ordered the sensitization of all the agency's officers at all borders to the threat the drug poses. The agency's spokesman further informed that Mr. Abdallah has ordered the NDLEA special Investigation Assignment Unit to ensure that courier companies do not smuggle the drug into the country. “Officers at all border points, airports and seaports are being sensitised on new trends.
"In addition, operatives at the Special Investigation Assignment Unit are also working very hard to prevent the use of courier companies in smuggling Khat and other narcotics into the country," Mr. Ofoyeju quoted the NDLEA boss as saying.
He added that Mr. Abdullah has urged all stakeholders to unite against drug trafficking cartels and work towards a crime free-society because drug runners are only concerned about their illicit returns, not the society's welfare.