Five Key Things About Fentanyl And America’s Opioids Crisis

Tablets believed to be laced with fentanyl are displayed at the Drug Enforcement Administration Northeast Regional Laboratory on October 8, 2019, in New York. Don Emmert / AFP

 

 

Jury selection has begun in a landmark federal case on Ohio on whether drug companies can be held responsible for the opioids epidemic that is raging across America.

The case is seen as a test for the entire pharmaceuticals industry, which stands accused of fueling the crisis by aggressively promoting painkillers that can become dangerously addictive.

Perhaps predictably, the companies are negotiating to possibly avoid trial, thereby avoiding a precedent-setting verdict.

Fentanyl is the primary synthetic opioid available in the United States, a class of drug that was responsible for almost 32,000 overdose deaths last year.

Here are five things to know in order to understand the crisis:

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl was first developed in 1959 and introduced to the US market in the 1960s as an intravenous anesthetic.

It is used to manage severe pain — for example, among cancer patients or those receiving end-of-life care.

It is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

But it is also produced illegally and trafficked into the United States — primarily from China and Mexico — in the form of powder or tablets, and sometimes gets mixed with heroin and cocaine.

Fentanyl can be lethal in a dose of as little as two milligrams, equivalent to a few grains of sand.

How many deaths?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported more than 400,000 deaths from opioid overdoses from 1999 to 2018. On average, about 130 Americans die each day.

While the crisis first erupted in the 1990s, the number of deaths exploded starting 2013, when fentanyl use began to surge.

Last year, the number of fatal overdoses fell for the first time in 20 years in the United States, but deaths due to the use of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids mounted, totaling 32,000.

– Where does it come from? –
Powdered fentanyl can be bought on the dark web or even business trading sites like Weiku.com, according to Roger Bate, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who published a report on the drug earlier this year.

A kilo sourced from China can be purchased in the United States for as little as $1700, which is then used to create up to a million pills that, when sold for $10 to $20, each generate millions in revenue, according to the DEA.

Mexican gangs also play a large role in producing and distributing the drug, with precursor chemicals first smuggled into Mexico via the southwestern United States.

Some illicit fentanyl products are also brought into the United States via Canada, which until 2017 did not allow authorities to open the contents of mail weighing less than 30 grams.

Who’s to blame?

Experts agree that in part, the crisis stems from the prescription use of painkillers gone wrong. Doctors seeking to manage their patients’ pain overprescribed medications, and some users became addicted.

One of those medications is OxyContin, which is made by Purdue Pharma. The US firm got clearance to offer the drug for a wider range of problems, and use skyrocketed.

Purdue is most widely blamed for fueling the epidemic, and is one of the defendants in the complex Ohio case. It has been seeking a settlement since filing for bankruptcy.

It and other companies like Johnson & Johnson are now facing an avalanche of legal action led by state attorneys general or local authorities.

The CDC puts the “economic burden” of the opioids crisis at a whopping $78.5 billion a year. That includes the costs of health care, lost productivity and the prison system.

A study published this week by the Society of Actuaries put the total cost for 2015-2018 at $631 billion.

What is the US government doing?

The administration of US President Donald Trump designated the opioids epidemic a “public health emergency” in October 2017. That freed up public funds to battle the crisis and improve treatment.

Beyond the obvious federal efforts to combat drug trafficking, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in April 2018 launched the HEAL Initiative — Helping to End Addiction Long-Term.

That project is aimed at pinpointing scientific solutions to the issues of effective pain management. In fiscal 2019, $945 million was devoted to the initiative.

Most US states have been aggressive in their efforts to prosecute drug companies over the crisis.

Fierce Battles In Mexico As Arrest Of El Chapo’s Son Goes Wrong

 

Heavily armed gunmen waged an all-out battle against Mexican security forces Thursday as soldiers arrested — then reportedly released — a son of jailed drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in his home state, Sinaloa.

Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said soldiers on a routine afternoon patrol came under fire from a residence in the state capital, Culiacan.

He said they responded by taking the house and detaining four people inside, including Ovidio Guzman, one of several sons of “El Chapo” who have partly taken over the Sinaloa cartel since he was extradited to the United States in 2017.

Cartel gunmen then “surrounded the house, outnumbering the soldiers,” and began a massive assault on various parts of the city, Durazo said.

That triggered an hours-long battle that left blazing vehicles strewn across the street and sent terrified residents running for shelter.

“In order to protect the greater good, the people of Culiacan’s safety and well-being, the (federal government’s) security cabinet decided to suspend said actions,” Durazo said in a video message.

READ ALSO: Mexico Says Son Of Drug Kingpin ‘El Chapo’ Arrested

According to Mexican media reports, that included freeing Ovidio Guzman.

Neither Durazo nor President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s office immediately responded to requests for further information, and details on the day’s incidents remained murky.

Durazo said the security cabinet would travel to Culiacan to personally oversee the next steps. Officials were due to give a press conference in the western city at 6:45 am (1245 GMT) Friday.

Images carried on Mexican television showed army and police personnel under assault by men armed with heavy weapons.

Some panicked drivers abandoned their cars in the middle of the street to take cover from the deafening gunfire.

Gunmen blocked roads and highways into the evening, bringing the city of 750,000 people to a standstill, AFP journalists said.

Sources in the Sinaloa state government speaking on condition of anonymity said police officers had been wounded.

They also said an unknown number of inmates had escaped from the Aguaruto prison in Culiacan amid the chaos.

The state government said it was “working to restore calm and order in the face of the high-impact incidents that have occurred in recent hours in various points around Culiacan.”

It called on residents to “remain calm, stay off the streets and be very attentive to official advisories on the evolving situation.”

Dire security situation

“El Chapo,” 62, was sentenced to life in prison in July for trafficking hundreds of tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States over the course of a quarter-century.

However, his cartel remains one of the most powerful in Mexico.

Guzman’s extradition unleashed an initial period of instability in the group, as Ovidio and his brothers waged war with cartel co-founder Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada for control, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake.

But the situation has since stabilized into a reluctant truce.

Guzman, whose nickname means “Shorty,” was re-arrested in 2016 after a brazen prison escape — the second of his career.

He is considered the most powerful drug lord since Colombia’s Pablo Escobar, who was killed in a police shootout in 1993.

After being convicted in a New York court, “El Chapo” is now serving a life sentence in the notorious ADX federal maximum security prison in Colorado.

Ovidio and his brothers have tried to fill their father’s shoes, but anti-narcotics experts portray them as flashy party boys who have little ability to run the business side of the cartel.

Reports that Ovidio had been arrested and then freed triggered harsh criticism of Obrador’s security strategy.

The leftist leader, who took office in December 2018, has struggled to rein in the brutal violence racking Mexico.

Earlier this week, 28 people were killed in two separate gun battles in the restive states of Michoacan and Guerrero.

Mexico has registered more than 250,000 murders since the government controversially deployed the army to fight drug cartels in 2006.

Many experts blame the “drug war” for spiraling violence, as fragmented cartels battle each other and the army.

Smugglers Save Police Officers As High Speed Chase Goes Wrong

This handout picture released by the Spanish Guardia Civil on October 4, 2019 shows a police high-speed chase with drug-smugglers, off the coast of Mijas, Malaga, southern Spain.

 

Three Spanish police officers who were thrown into the sea when their boat crashed early Friday during a high-speed chase were pulled to safety by the drug-smugglers they were chasing, police said.

The unexpected rescue happened after a police vessel began pursuing a speedboat “with four people on board that was suspected of transporting drugs” in waters off the southern coast of Spain, a police statement said.

During the chase, the two vessels collided, causing three police officers to fall into the sea as their boat “span out of control”.

READ ALSO: Iraq Death Toll Rises To 44 As Chaotic Protests Spike

Using a megaphone, a police helicopter that was hovering overhead called on those on board the speedboat to help and they pulled the three agents to safety unharmed.

The gesture did not spare them, however, when police found three tonnes of hashish in the water nearby.

“They were arrested for drug trafficking,” a police statement said, indicating that more than 80 bundles of hash had been recovered from the sea.

16 Arrested For Drug Offences At Jigawa APC Secretariat

File photo

 

 

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has arrested 16 suspected illicit drug dealers and users at the premises of the All Progressives Congress (APC) headquarters in Dutse, the Jigawa state capital.

NDLEA’s Deputy Controller in charge of Operation and Intelligence, Mr Oko Michael, confirmed the arrest to reporters on Monday.

He explained that the raid, which was carried out by NDLEA operatives on Sunday evening, followed several complaints of the activities of drug users at the party’s office.

According to Michael, the suspects were arrested at the premises and inside the APC’s state secretariat over the weekend.

He added that three of the suspects would be charged to court on Tuesday to serve as a deterrent to others with similar motives.

The NDLEA deputy controller disclosed that among those to be arraigned was a woman who has a kiosk at the premises of the party’s secretariat where many substances were found in her possession.

He declared that even though some suspected drug users fled into offices during the raid, the operatives were able to arrest some suspects in the middle of their illicit businesses.

In his reaction, the spokesperson for the APC in Jigawa, Mr Nasiru Jahun, confirmed that the arrest was in order.

He, however, refuted that the NDLEA operation was conducted inside the APC office, rather around the building which was patronised by all members of the society and not only APC supporters.

“Even though we supported NDLEA in flushing out illicit drug users across the state, there is no clear indication that those arrested were members of the APC, although they were arrested near our Headquarters,” Jahun said.

He noted that the APC secretariat is not a sacred place and the NDLEA can perform their constitutional duty, even inside a mosque or church.

Critical Condition: Liberia’s Hospitals Battle Deadly Shortages

 

A young woman lies in intensive care at Liberia’s Phebe Hospital.

Her mother comes running in with the drugs she needs, but the doctor shakes his head. It is too late.

“When patients come, we are obliged to send (family members) out to get drugs. Sometimes by the time they get back (the) patients are dead,” laments Dr. Jefferson Sibley, the hospital’s medical director.

“People are dying in front of our eyes, and we cannot do anything.”

Battered by years of civil war and then in 2014-16 by the worst Ebola epidemic in history, Liberia’s health sector is on its knees.

The crumbling infrastructure lacks almost everything — medicine, beds, equipment, ambulances, even a reliable electricity supply.

Phebe, in central Bong county, is the second largest hospital in Liberia, with 200 beds and seven doctors on its staff.

Despite chronic shortages, it still manages to treat at least 2,500 patients every month.

“We are supposed to get supplies from the ministry of health and the National Drug Services (NDS) but we haven’t received supplies for almost a year,” Sibley told AFP.

“We can’t do anything about it.”

Malaria was the cause of death of the woman in the intensive care unit.

She was 25.

‘Only the mercy of God’

According to the World Health Organization, total health expenditure per person per year is about $100 (87 euros) in Liberia, among the lowest in the world.

There is fewer than one regional or district hospital per 100,000 people in the country of about 4.7 million.

In 2010, accordiong to the latest available data, there were eight hospital beds per 10,000 people.

In Jenepeleta, a village 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the hospital in Phebe, Regina Kollie, 45, is trying to lower the fever of the youngest of her five children, a four-year-old girl.

Like many in the region, Regina sought help in traditional medicine and gathered leaves with which to wash her daughter, following the advice of a healer.

The treatment is not working and the child’s fever has raged for days. But going to the hospital is not an option.

“I don’t have the money to take my daughter to Phebe. The ambulance used to help us in these cases, but we don’t see it any more,” Regina says, weeping.

“The two ambulances we had are broken down,” Sibley confirmed, noting the vehicles had been “instrumental when it comes to saving lives”.

The ambulances “used to go for pregnant women, children and other people who are seriously ill in the villages… and bring them to us,” he said.

But now if there is an emergency case, “only the mercy of God can help.”

Surgery by storm lantern

“We have so many problems, but the key problem is that no funding is coming to the hospital,” said Sibley.

“We find ourselves indebted to vendors. People we take fuel from, people we take drugs from, all of them refuse to supply us because we owe them lots of money. The hospital owes $300,000 (265,000 euros) to vendors.”

The hospital’s electricity is frequently cut off, plunging it into darkness at night and forcing the lone surgeon to carry out operations by the light of storm lanterns.

A shortage of medicines is also crippling Liberia’s largest national health facility, the John F. Kennedy Hospital in Monrovia, says its medical director Jerry Brown.

“There are some drugs you can’t find in local pharmacies and government regulations prohibit us from procuring drugs currently from pharmaceutical companies outside the country,” the chief doctor told AFP.

“Our next source of drugs is the National Drug Services,” but it provides only enough to treat the most vulnerable, including children.

The hospital was negotiating with the ministries of health and finance for authorisation to buy directly from manufacturers, Brown said.

Health Minister Wilhelmina Jallah said the problem stemmed from the previous government, under which hospitals ran up big debts by obtaining drugs and fuel on credit.

“We have inherited all these debts, and the vendors no longer want to give us credits,” she said. “We have to pay some of these debts so that we can open the credit lines.”

In a sign of progress, eight container-loads of drugs had arrived, and these will help to ease shortages, she said.

AFP

Cocaine Production Hit New Record In 2017 – UN Report

FILE PHOTO USED TO DEPICT THE STORY: This photo released by the Honduran Technical Agency for Criminal Investigation (Agencia Tecnica de Investigacion Criminal, ATIC) shows ATIC members counting packets of cocaine in San Pedro Sula, 180km north of Tegucigalpa, on September 14, 2018. 

 

Global cocaine production reached an all-time high in 2017, breaking the previous year’s record by 25 percent, the UN drugs and crime agency said Wednesday in its annual report, as production soars in post-conflict Colombia.

New remote fields and criminal gangs boosted production in the world’s top supplier, despite efforts to steer rural communities away from coca cultivation following a peace deal with FARC rebels.

“Of course it’s bad news every time. It’s bad news for the producing countries… What is happening in Columbia is worrisome,” said Angela Me, chief of research of the Vienna-based United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The report said the jump in production “was mainly driven by increases in cocaine manufacture in Colombia, which produced an estimated 70 percent of the world’s cocaine”.

In the decade to 2017, there was a 50 percent increase in manufacture, reaching a record 1,976 tons two years ago, according to the report, which bases its figures on national monitoring systems.

Over the same 10-year period, the amount of cocaine seized worldwide rose by 74 percent.

In 2017, authorities across the globe intercepted a record quantity of the drug: in all 1,275 tons were seized, up 13 percent year-on-year.

“This suggests that law enforcement efforts have become more effective and that strengthened international cooperation may be helping to increase interception rates,” the report said.

Almost 90 percent of seizures were in the Americas, with Colombia alone intercepting 38 percent of the global total in 2017.

Cocaine production in some central areas of Colombia dropped following the 2016 peace deal with the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, as farmers were offered alternatives to growing coca bush.

But the report said Colombia has since seen more coca cultivation, with new fields — often far away from major cities — being planted and criminal groups moving into areas previously controlled by the rebels.

– Opioid crisis worsening –

The report gave 2018 figures for global opium production, which had soared to a record in 2017.

It said drought in Afghanistan had helped spur a drop in output by 25 percent to some 7,790 tons in 2018, adding that previous years’ overproduction had likely also knocked prices.

UNODC also sharply hiked its estimates of how many people suffer from drug use disorders and need treatment, after it ran surveys in populous India and Nigeria.

Globally some 35 million people were affected in 2017, some 4.5 million people more than previously estimated, UNODC said.

“A lot more people need treatment than we previously thought… Six out of seven don’t receive the treatment they need,” Me said, adding the organisation could revise its numbers again were it given access to data from China.

North America’s opioid crisis also reached new heights in 2017 with more than 47,000 opioid overdose deaths in the United States, the report said.

UNODC estimates that there were 53.4 million opioid users worldwide in 2017, up 56 percent from the 2016 estimate due to the surveys from India and Nigeria.

While fentanyl and its analogues remained the key problem in North America, tramadol is besetting West, Central and North Africa.

Global seizures of the synthetic opioid surged from less than 10 kilogrammes in 2010 to almost nine tons in 2013 and a record 125 tons in 2017.

Cannabis remains the most widely used drug worldwide with an estimated 188 million people using it, the report said.

AFP

Saudi Arabia: We Must Protect The Innocent And Neutralise Frame Ups – Shehu Sani

 

Senator Shehu Sani has called for protection of innocent Nigerians and intensified efforts to neutralise frame ups in nations like Saudi Arabia where capital punishments exits for crimes like drugs smuggling.

Sani who in  tweet on Friday was reacting to the recent execution of a Nigerian in Saudi Arabia, noted that smuggling drugs to any country is condemnable.

The lawmaker said the act destroys the image of the nation and must not be condoned by anyone.

He however, noted that the nations owes it a duty to provide legal and diplomatic services to its citizens abroad as to protect the innocent and neutralize frame ups.

Meanwhile, Senator Sani has said that the insecurity challenge crippling the northeastern region is reinforced by silence and cowardice.

The Senator representing Kaduna Central made this assertion via social media.

READ ALSO: Policeman, Three Suspected Kidnappers Killed In Kaduna

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Sani said,  the cowardice of elites from the region who fail to speak up for the people is a major contributing factor to the insecurity challenges being faced.

“The collapse of security in the North is among other things reinforced by the silence or cowardice of those elites from the region who should speak truth to power now in their domain;the blatant refusal to hold Government to account because the President is from here, and the cancer and culture of blind loyalty founded on sectional, ethnic and religious sentiments in the face of tragedies,” Sani said.

He said the people must free themselves from following blindly and begin to hold the authorities to account.

“Our people must free themselves from the cancer and culture of blind loyalty founded on sectional, ethnic and religious sentiments and start holding Government to account to end their tragedies. Power respond or bows to an awakened people driven by the force of their conscience.”

Ozubulu Massacre: Fear Of New Narco-State Arise In Nigeria

 

In the early hours of a humid November morning, a 16-car convoy rolled into Obinugwu village in southeast Nigeria and stopped outside the iron gates of a non-descript house.

More than 50 drug enforcement officials crept through the compound and surrounded the methamphetamine lab hidden by overgrown jungle behind the property.

The bust happened just before daybreak. Dozens were arrested, including the suspected kingpin at his mansion in the nearby city of Owerri.

“It took one year of surveillance,” a National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) officer, who was involved in the raid, told AFP. “They were all sleeping. We took them by surprise.”

Inside the lab there was 78 kilograms (171 pounds) of meth — a drug as notorious for its exhilarating highs as its life-destroying, addictive lows.

But the haul, worth tens of thousands of dollars, was not for domestic consumption.

Instead, it was probably destined for South Africa and Asia, investigators said.

Drug trafficking is nothing new to Nigeria, which has long been a transit point for cocaine and heroin going to Europe and North America.

The difference is that now Nigerians are producing the drugs.

With vast quantities of chemicals entering the country, porous borders and corrupt law enforcement, Nigeria is an ideal place to produce the drug.

Since the country’s first meth lab was discovered in 2011, authorities have found 14 more producing mass quantities of the stimulant, while seizures of the drug have jumped from 177 kilos in 2012 to 1,363 kilos in 2016.

“It (meth production) is on the increase, significantly on the increase. Meth today is a serious threat to Nigeria,” said Sunday Zirangey, NDLEA Special Enforcement Team commander.

“If this continues, Nigeria may turn into a narco-state.”

Glen Prichard, Nigeria project coordinator with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, agreed.

“Nigeria is potentially following the same footsteps as Mexico that led to instability, organised crime and an infiltrated government,” he added.

– Church massacre –


Reliable data on meth production in Nigeria is hard to come by and seizures are small compared with global giants Mexico and Myanmar.

But evidence on the ground points to a much larger industry.

Nigeria’s estimated need for the stimulant ephedrine, which is used as a medical decongestant, is 771 kilos, according to a US State Department report on international narcotics.

Yet Nigeria imports over eight tons a year, with the difference suspected of either being used to produce meth or trafficked elsewhere.

Despite the risks of arrest and even execution for traffickers in Asia, the profits are irresistible in a country where the minimum wage is just 18,000 naira ($50, 44 euros) a month.

A kilo of meth sells for $3,500 on the streets of Lagos but by the time it reaches South Africa it is worth $12,000 and $150,000 in Japan — and the stakes are rising.

Last year, the fight for control of the lucrative South African market more than 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles) away came to St Philip’s Parish in Ozubulu, a village in the southeast Nigerian state of Anambra.

Thirteen people were shot dead in an apparent reprisal attack between Nigerian drug barons operating in Johannesburg.

Piles of trash line the dirt road leading to Ozubulu, where an endless stream of people hawk everything from adulterated fuel to plastic flip-flops.

But among the grinding poverty are huge villas with grand columns and intricate wrought iron gates — glaring anomalies in a region with epileptic power and disintegrating roads.

In August last year, unknown gunmen interrupted the 6:00 am Sunday mass in Ozubulu, hoping to kill Aloysius Nnamdi Ikegwuonu, a Johannesburg drugs kingpin known as “The Bishop”.

He wasn’t there but his father and a one-year-old child were among the victims. Details of the shooting remain clouded in secrecy.

“What we had is gunshots, sporadic and reckless shootings. That’s what I can say,” said parish priest Father Jude Onwuaso standing by the victims’ marble graves wearing a sky-blue cassock.

Ozubulu has made headlines for drugs before. In 2015, the NDLEA busted a meth lab belonging to Ikejiaku Sylvester Chukwunwendu, also known as “Blessed Benita”.

He was charged with meth production and trafficking in the village.

“He’s one of the biggest kingpins we’ve got,” said state prosecutor Lambert Nor, who said some of Chukwunwendu’s couriers had been executed in China for drug trafficking.

– Ideal conditions –
As the popular US television series “Breaking Bad” showed, meth can be made by almost everyone in their own kitchen if they have the right ingredients and background knowledge in chemistry.

Cocaine and heroin, on the other hand, are bigger-ticket enterprises. They require land dedicated to plantations and a specific climate to grow the crop.

But Nigerians were paying thousands of dollars a week to Mexicans, Colombians and Bolivians to teach them a new form of production that pumps out bigger, purer batches of meth.

Two years ago, Nigerian authorities arrested four Mexicans from Sinaloa, the epicentre of one of the world’s biggest drug trafficking cartels and birthplace of the infamous drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

“When you found labs before you always had Mexicans and Bolivians behind it but now the Nigerians are on their own and they do even better,” said Kayode Raji, NDLEA assistant commander in Imo State.

Experts fear that as production increases, meth will find a domestic market like in South Africa, where “tik” — as it’s known on the street — has been described as an “epidemic” and is the most abused drug in the Western Cape province.

But there is no easy way to stop the rise of meth in Nigeria.

“It will become uncontrollable unless decisive measures are taken,” said Nor, warning: “Otherwise what we have in Mexico will be a small thing compared to Nigeria.”

AFP

NAFDAC Destroys Harmful Drugs, Items Worth N464m In Gombe

PCN Seals 397 Drug Stores In Abia

 

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has destroyed fake and unwholesome products with a value of about N464 million.

According to a statement from the agency on Saturday, the goods were destroyed at a dump along Bajoga Road in the capital city of Gombe State.

The drugs include antibiotics, anti-hypertensive, antiretroviral, cancer drugs, anti-malaria, and herbal remedies.

Other items destroyed are controlled drugs such as codeine-containing cough syrup and tramadol, as well as tomato paste, non-alcoholic beverages, maize flour, and insecticides.

The statement read, “The counterfeit, fake and unwholesome products destroyed were seized from companies that engaged in sharp practices by gallant and committed NAFDAC officers during surveillance and enforcement activities.

“Other products were voluntarily handed over to the NAFDAC by compliant companies, sister agencies, and associations.”

The agency assured Nigerians that it would continue to do everything possible to ensure that only safe and right quality medicines, wholesome foods and other regulated products were distributed and consumed in the country.

NAFDAC appealed to political, traditional and religious leaders to sensitise their members, subjects, and congregation on the dangers of drugs and substance abuse.

The agency warned smugglers of codeine-containing cough syrups, tramadol, substances of abuse and fake products to desist henceforth or face the wrath of the law, saying it has intensified surveillance and enforcement activities at all ports of entry.

It called for the establishment of Drug Abuse Control Committee comprising of NAFDAC officials and that of other relevant agencies by various state governments.

NAFDAC also urged the Gombe State government to provide office accommodation and vehicles for its use at each of the three senatorial districts for effective coverage.

The State Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo, who was represented at the site by the Commissioner of Animal Husbandry, Barka Sammy, assured the agency of continued support to ensure that the people consume only good quality and safe drugs.

He also directed the state media corporation to cover NAFDAC regulatory activities, towards sensitising the public on substandard products.

Pakistan Candidate Gets Life Term In Drug Case Days Before Poll

A Pakistani policeman stands guard beside a stage where Shabaz Sharif, the younger brother of ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the head of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), is to address his campaign rally in Pindi Gheb, in the district of Attock, in the Punjab province, on July 19, 2018, ahead of Pakistan’s election.
AAMIR QURESHI / AFP

 

A candidate for the party of Pakistan’s ousted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been jailed for life by an anti-narcotics court, just days before a general election.

Hanif Abbasi, seen as a strong candidate for the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) in Wednesday’s poll, was sentenced in a rare late-night session Saturday.

The six-year-old case was related to the supply of ephedrine to a drug smuggler.

Critics have long accused Pakistan’s powerful military, including its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, of meddling in politics and judicial affairs, a charge it denies.

Nawaz Sharif himself has accused the generals of targeting his party, including intimidating his candidates to switch allegiances — particularly in Punjab province.

Earlier Saturday an Islamabad High Court judge, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, publicly accused the ISI of manipulating judicial decisions.

“ISI is fully involved in manipulating judicial process. ISI people get their choice of benches formed in the courts, cases are marked,” he told lawyers in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

The political involvement of the military and ISI is rarely discussed openly due to fear of repercussions. Rights defenders have long accused the ISI of kidnapping and torturing rights activists, journalists and dissenting voices.

Journalists in Pakistan say they have come under unprecedented pressure from the authorities before the election.

Nearly 106 million Pakistanis, including more than 19 million new voters, will be eligible to cast their ballots on Wednesday.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which took power in 2013, hopes for a new mandate under leader Shahbaz Sharif, a brother of the ousted Nawaz.

Its biggest challenger is the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, led by former national cricket captain Imran Khan.

The Pakistan Peoples Party of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari — son of murdered premier Benazir Bhutto — could become kingmaker by forming a coalition with one of its rivals.

Oyo House Of Assembly Identifies 500 Indian Hemp Joints

ERIKA SANTELICES / AFP

The Oyo State House of Assembly has identified about 500 hard drugs joints and 25 notorious gang leaders in some parts of Ibadan, the state capital.

The Chairman of the state House Committee on Security and Strategy, Honourable Gbenga Oyekola made this known on Thursday, while giving a report on recent violent attacks in some areas of the state, specifically one that took place on October 22, 2017 during a youth carnival.

Rendering the report, Oyekola noted that some residents shielded the gang leaders and members from arrest while also hindering the prosecution of those arrested.

He also noted that hoodlums hindered development projects in the area, specifically the establishment of a World Bank borehole project within the area.

The Assembly, therefore, beckoned on the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to deploy more of its officers to clamp down on the over 500 Indian hemp joints, while urging the Ibadan South West Local Government to see to the siting of a well-equipped police station within the area.

In addition, the Micheal Adeyemo-led Assembly urged the police to arrest all extortionists and operators of illegal road blocks with a view to guarding against molestation of drivers and commuters plying the area.

In addition, the Assembly urged the Governor Abiola Ajimobi led government to approve the deployment of two “Operation Burst” patrol vehicles and more officers to regularly patrol the axis.

It also called on the Bureau of Physical Planning and Development Control to come out with new layout plan that will decongest the area and eradicate slums.

Speaking further, Adeyemo appealed to politicians to desist from engaging unemployed youths for campaigns and intimidation of political opponents.

He said as a matter of importance, that the Nigerian Police, Oyo State Command, should enforce the ban on public-procession, carnivals and other social functions without permission, in the disputed areas and across the state.

Spanish Police Seizes Over Two Tons Of Cocaine From Ship

Spanish police seized more than two tons of cocaine from a ship with a Venezuelan flag in the Atlantic Ocean and arrested the seven crew members, Spain’s interior ministry said on Monday.

The operation, carried out alongside the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the UK’s National Crime Agency and Portuguese police, took place earlier this month, on May 4.

The seven people on board were Venezuelan nationals, the ministry said, adding that a gun had also been seized alongside 2,400 kg of cocaine. The vessel, a small, rusted fishing boat according to images distributed by police, has since been towed to Spain’s Canary Islands.

Separately, a shipment of 5.5 tons of cocaine destined for Spain was intercepted off the coast of Ecuador, and 24 people were arrested in that operation, the interior ministry also said on Monday.

“Today is an important day, a day of congratulations for the national police along with Spanish Customs who managed to detain a Venezuelan fishing ship with 2,400 kilograms of cocaine. I just want to mark the important job that the Spanish police has done, in this case with a previous labour of information in coordination with the U.S.,” Spanish Government’s Canary Islands Delegate, Mercedes Roldos, said.

“DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), with the Portuguese police and the British police, which have made the successful arrest of this fishing ship from Venezuela, the detention of seven people and the seizure of a very significant amount of cocaine.”