When the acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential election of Nigeria, Moshood Abiola purchased approximately five acres of land in the Sabo area of Abeokuta to build one of the best hotels in the country during the late 1970s, he never anticipated that the location would become a haven for drug users.
Several years later, Mayas Hotel has been converted into a drug den where cannabis and other hard drugs are being traded and consumed openly without fear of police arrest.
This is despite its proximity to Sabo and Lafenwa police stations.
In an undercover investigation, DAILY POST reporter went to the drug den to unravel how the drug business goes unhindered.
Mayas is one of the notorious places in Abeokuta known for selling hard drugs and is a home for drug addicts. The hotel is said to have operated in the late 70s and early 80s.
However, drug users took over the place in the late 90s.The larger part of the expanse land has been converted into a sawmill and sheds were erected in almost every corner of the property.
An abandoned roofless one-storey building, used as the defunct Mayas Hotel, was sighted inside the premises.
At a corner, another abandoned bungalow, which has become home to many ‘homeless’ drug users, was also spotted.
Although many of the drug users are youths, a larger percentage of them are teenagers.
While the teenagers sell and also use hard drugs, every other age group, including ladies buy from them.
14-year-old Ibrahim Adeoye is one of the teenagers at the Mayas drug den selling hard drugs like Colorado, Codeine, skunk among others, to addicts.
The teenager started living inside Mayas at the age of 12 after losing his mother. He claimed he was born into a polygamous family and had to run away from home over unbearable maltreatment by his stepmother.
He was introduced to ‘Olota’, a popular drug kingpin in Mayas by one of his friends called Basit. He told our reporter that he started selling hard drugs a week after getting to the drug den.
The teenager, who spoke with DAILY POST in Yoruba, seems like one who has never attended a school, although he claimed to have almost completed his primary school education before his mother passed on.
“I have been living here for two years after I lost my mother and my stepmother was maltreating me. It was my friend who introduced me to Olota, and since then I have been one of his boys.
“I am one of the sellers here. I sell drugs worth N300,000 here in two days. I am one of the major sellers here and my boss trusts me, he knows that I will not run away with his money.
“I also smoke; this has become part of me because I have been doing it for two years. I am not sure I can stop smoking because it makes me feel on top of the world. I stopped going to school when I was in primary five after my mother’s death,” he said.
He was not the only teenager selling drugs at Mayas when this reporter visited the place.
Many of the drug sellers at the market were boys between the ages of 13 and 17 years. They were all seen with polythene nylon containing different hard drugs as they whistled to attract the attention of their customers.
Some others hung small bags on their necks, with lighters or matches in their hands.
Even though the police raided the drug den in 2021 and recovered N2,722,750 in addition to hard drugs worth several millions of naira, this reporter discovered that drug sellers still operate the place, while smokers appear unconcerned.
DAILY POST further observed that the distance between Mayas and the popular abattoir in the area commonly called “Odo-Eran” is just about a three-minute walk, as it was observed that activities happening in the slab could be seen from the Mayas ground, just as the people in the slab can also see what is happening in the drug market.
Our reporter visited the ‘drug market’ for seven days (four of the days during the daytime while the three others were during evening hours).
To get to the drug market, every buyer and visitor walks through a not too big market of butchers and plank sellers. Mixed with these traders are some of the drug sellers keeping an eye on their known and new clients so as to quickly approach them before walking into the drug section of the larger market.
During one of the visits, our reporter discovered that out of the 37 drug users sitting under different sheds at the drug den, 21 of them were teenagers.
From observation, there are sheds at strategic places around the drug market. It was gathered that the sheds are owned by different drug lords who have their representatives sell through their different stands.
Apart from the sheds meant for storing drugs, it was also observed that there were benches at different locations for smokers who intended to spend more time in the environment. It was also observed that on the other side of the drug market, there were women selling food and drinks to make the merriment of the market complete.
Section 41 of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act empowers any officer of the Police, Customs, or NDLEA to enter and search any land or building and to arrest anyone found to illegally possess, sell, or abuse, import, or export cocaine, heroin, or similar dangerous drugs.
The Act also establishes that any person who, without lawful authority, imports or exports, grows any of these related drugs shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life, while those smoking, inhaling, or injecting them shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not less than 15 years but not exceeding 25 years.
Despite this law, our correspondent discovered that the drug dealers run their businesses without any fear or restraint, even though a Divisional Police Station is located just a little above one kilometre away from the drug den.
During this undercover investigation, this journalist who dressed like the smokers in order to mix properly, was told by two of the smokers that police do visit the place to take money from the major drug sellers and not to arrest either the drug pushers or smokers.
One of the smokers simply identified as Habeeb told our reporter that, “officers do visit the drug den not to arrest anyone but to meet ‘senior men”, those he referred to as “Agba awo”.
“How we became smokers”
Rasheed Folarin, aged 35, has been going to the drug den called Mayas since 1999 when he was 12 years old, but started smoking at 22 after divorcing his first wife.
Fola as commonly referred to by other smokers revealed that he used to follow his late friend, Bayo to the drug den in those days.
To Mr Folarin, smoking weed and other hard drugs make him temporarily forget his problems. He explained that he derives pleasure and takes solace on the existence of the drug den.
He said, “I started coming to this place when I was 12 with my late friend who was a smoker. During those times, I didn’t smoke despite having a lot of friends that engaged in it. But I started smoking after I divorced my wife. The first time I smoked was a day I will never forget; I was on top of the world. When I discovered how good the weed was, I decided to continue.
“I can smoke anything but I will never take Cocaine. Whenever I smoke, I forget about my worries and problems for the time being.
“I am not sure I can leave this thing because it is something I have been doing for over 13 years. It has become part of me and I have become part of it.”
Another smoker, Ismail Orisade, said he learnt how to smoke at the drug den when he was in secondary school. He explained that his friends brought him to the den when they were in Senior Secondary ll (SS ll).
He said, “I started smoking when I was in secondary school; my friends brought me here in 2010 and taught me how to inhale and exhale smoke. It was an unforgettable day in my life. I almost ran mad after taking it.
“Since that day, I have become addicted to it. Without it, I cannot eat or defecate; I have to take it first. I cannot stop because I like how it reacts in my body.”
In an interview with the state Commandant of the NDLEA, Ibiba Odili, he said the state has not had a survey showing the drug users rate and as a result could not tell what the illicit drug statistics of the state is as at the time of filing this report.
She relied on a survey conducted by the UN in 2018 saying, “I will start with the result of a national drug use survey which was published in 2018 in collaboration with the office of the United Nations on drug and crimes and the federal government of Nigeria that examined the pattern and extent of drug use in Nigeria. One of the key findings of the survey is that the southwest region of Nigeria has the largest number of drug abusers which stands at 22.4 as against the next region which is the south-south which has 15.6.
“But, Ogun state is a significant part of the southwest. And that answers your question. We are referring to that survey because that was the last survey that was conducted, we have not had any other survey and even Ogun has not conducted its survey, but from the report, it shows that Ogun has a significant number of drug users.”
Asked of the agency’s efforts to tame the negative trend, Mrs Odili said all hands are on deck to stop the usage of hard drugs in Ogun State.
“We are working with relevant agencies and even the public to ensure that the use of illicit drugs is turned into a thing of the past.
“We may not reveal our tactics but we are getting results. But we won’t stop until our society is ridded of drug abusers.”
35 million people worldwide suffer from drug use disorders
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime World Drug Report, published in June 2021, around 275 million people used drugs worldwide in the last year, while over 36 million people suffered from drug use disorders.
As the 2018 National Drug Use Survey revealed, in Nigeria at that time, there were around 14.3 million drug users, of whom close to three million suffered from a drug use disorder.
According to the World Drug Report, cannabis potency has increased by up to four times in some parts of the world in the last 24 years, while the percentage of adolescents who perceive the drug as harmful has decreased by up to 40 per cent, despite evidence that cannabis use is associated with a variety of health and other harms, particularly among regular long-term users- a worrisome trend, considering that there are 11 million cannabis users in Nigeria, a third of whom seem to be regular users with a need for drug counselling.
In 2017, an estimated 271 million people, or 5.5 per cent of the world’s population aged 15–64, used drugs in the previous year.
While this is similar to the 2016 estimate, a longer-term perspective shows that the number of drug users is now 30 per cent higher than it was in 2009.
Although this increase was due in part to a 10 per cent increase in the global population aged 15–64, data now shows a higher prevalence of opioid use in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, as well as cannabis use in North America, South America, and Asia when compared to 2009.
The UNODC Executive Director, Ghada Waly, admitted in the 2020 World Drug Report that, “vulnerable and marginalised groups, youth, women and the poor pay the price for the world drug problem,” especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Drug hideouts continue to grow simultaneously with the increasing rate of poverty and homelessness in Nigeria.
A psychiatrist, Anthony Ogbemudia, however, explained that drug abusers are susceptible to being wild and aggressive, stressing that teenagers taking drugs are vulnerable to being used to perpetrate evils in society.
Mr Ogbemudia, who is the Chaplain and Head of the Department of Health Education and Drug Abuse Prevention Department, Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Aro, Abeokuta, Ogun State, noted that drug abusers can become mentally unstable if their condition remains unchecked.
He said, “It affects their academic performance in school. Their grades will start dropping because they won’t stay in class till the end because they cannot concentrate when they are on hard drugs.
“If you see a quiet, easy-going person, when they start doing drugs, they become aggressive. It causes a lot of risky behaviours. This includes contracting all sorts of diseases through unprotected sex. It can also lead to drunk driving and road traffic accidents.
“Socially, they get involved in crimes. Most of the rapes that you hear about are perpetrated by young people that are under the effect of drugs.
“They can steal to keep their habit going because doing drugs involves spending a lot of money.
“Health-wise, it affects their vital organs such as the heart, lungs, etc. A drug such as Colorado affects the central nervous system that controls the body, kidney failure, etc., and if care is not taken, it can easily kill most of them.
“Some of them get involved in armed robbery and ritual killings. Hard drugs can cause a mental breakdown, and once there is a complete mental breakdown, you can only manage them.”
Residents cry for help
Meanwhile, residents of the Sabo area of Abeokuta North Local Government of the state have appealed to the state government and security agencies to help weed out the teenagers selling drugs at the den.
The residents lamented that the teenagers engaged in fights and cult-related activities that often threatened the peaceful coexistence of the Hausa and Yoruba communities in the area.
The residents complained that many of the teenagers selling drugs at the den are homeless and now terrorise the community.
A community leader in Sabo, Yusuf Kamorudeen stressed that several efforts to send the boys away from the place have proved abortive as they always regrouped and returned to the place.
He said, “We are tired of having these boys in our community. After they have smoked what is beyond their brain, they will start misbehaving and disturbing the peace of the community.
“We are closer to where they take their hard drugs. So, we are always the first point of contact when they start their fights. As young as they are, many of them belong to one cult group or another.
“They keep bringing their cult issues to this place. I remember there was a time one of these cult guys was killed around the railway side. This threatens our community and we can’t do anything about it.”
Another resident, Abass Babalola, urged the government to come to their aid and ensure the boys leave the facility.
Mr Babalola claimed that many have been robbed on their way from work while plying roads close to the drug dens.
“There are many members of the communities that have been robbed while passing through the road that connects us with them.
“Many of us don’t pass this road at night even when we know it is the fastest route.
“From 9:00 pm, commercial motorcyclists will not take you through the road; they would rather take the longer route. We want the government to come to our aid and help us send them away from this community.”
Family opens up on plans for Mayas
Meanwhile, the secretary of the Abiola’s family, Rahmon Abiola said plans were underway to convert the place to a Niger Delta University because it is closer to the Ogun River.
He, however, said the family will involve the NDLEA and the police in making sure drug abusers were sent away from the property.
He said, “if you go to Mayas Hotel, there is a sawmill that enters the length and breadth of the land. So, there is activity going on there every day. It’s the biggest sawmill in Abeokuta.
“I was at the place some time ago and there is a plan going on; there is a university coming there from Niger Delta because it is very close to the Ogun River.”
When asked if the family is aware of the quantum of drug business going on in the property, the family secretary retorted, “All these stories you’re saying, I don’t know about it, But I can assure you that I will consult with the NDLEA man in Abeokuta and the Commissioner of Police. If those smokers are there, I will make sure they are sent away; we are not drug dealers.
“We have a name to protect. We are not keeping any drug place. Although when I went there, it’s butchers and sawmillers that I saw there.
“However, a university is coming there and whatever that is left, we will convert it into an estate.”