Marijuana is the cause of renewed outbreaks of violence in Nigeria's oil-rich Delta State, a leading drug cop told the Nigerian newspaper the Vanguard last week. In a December 8 interview with the Vanguard, the Delta State commander of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Aju Okopi-amen said, "the singular rise in drug addiction could be responsible for the resurgent ethnic hostilities and youth restiveness in the Niger Delta region."
And the drug in question is none other than marijuana, he added. "Cannabis alias Indian hemp is by far the most problematic indigenous drug issue the Delta State Command has had to contend with," he said. "It produces human suffering of immense proportion. It has wrecked homes, killed many of our invaluable youths through mental illness, and caused youth restiveness that is not easily curable."
Wow, that must be some pot they're growing! And growing it they are, according to Okopi-amen, who said the state ranked among Nigeria's top three marijuana producers. His men had seized almost 18 tons of Delta weed in the past six months, he said, as well as "3.3kg of psychotropic substances, 882 pinches of heroin and 283 pinches of cocaine." And the marijuana growing thwarts the country's development, he added. "The people dissipate their energy on the cultivation of this terrible plant that could have been redirected to growing economic crops through which the nation's dependence on oil, as foreign exchange would be changed."
[Editor's Note: Nigerian marijuana is an "economic crop" in the truest sense. It is grown for domestic consumption and exported, mainly to Western Europe, and is increasingly substituted for licit crops precisely because it is more profitable, according to the International Narcotics Control Board's latest annual report.]
It would be extremely convenient for the Nigerian government if marijuana were at the root of its social problems in the Delta. But teenage Ijaw tribesmen, who have launched an armed rebellion in the region against ethnic rivals, Nigerian security forces, and international oil companies since March, have not mentioned marijuana as either a grievance or a precipitant of violence. Instead, they accuse the oil companies and the Nigerian government of pumping oil riches from their land and giving them nothing in return but polluted landscapes.