By Saikou Jammeh
The Gambia’s anti-narcotics agency has destroyed 2 tonnes of cocaine, valued over US$1billion yesterday, 4th March 2013.
The drug was impounded in the West African country back in 2010. The whereabouts of the illicit drugs bound for Europe had been a subject of speculation for the past two years.
The officials of the anti-narcotics agency say the destruction was delayed due to a lack of equipment.
“This is cocaine, it’s different from cannabis,” says Samba Gajaga, the anti-narcotics chief. “Burning them in the open can impact [negatively] on the environment. So we were doing ground work to get incinerators which the British High Commission has provided us.”
Mr Gajaga was speaking at the sidelines of the publicly-held drug destruction exercise at the National Health Laboratory.
The Gambia’s minister for Presidential Affairs, Dr Njogu Bah, who spoke on behalf of President Yahya Jammeh, said:
“We are celebrating today one of the most successful stories emanating in the West African region relating to the global fight against drug trafficking and abuse.”
Displayed, tested and confirmed positive, the two-tonne cocaine was then reduced to ashes, witnessed by government officials, foreign diplomats, and members of the press.
Whether the displayed drugs was the exact quantity was not independently verified at the destruction site. However, an official of the court in whose possession the drugs had been, confirmed to me that it was weighed in his presence.
Meanwhile, the drugs were discovered in a warehouse in Bonto village, about 50kms and an hour’s drive from the Gambia’s capital, Banjul. The landmark seizure results from a joint operation by a British intelligence agents, and Gambian forces.
Assault rifles and an undisclosed cash amount of money also seized had been reportedly confiscated to the state.
Said to be the biggest in the sub-region, the drug bust had sent shock waves across the globe, and obliged Gambian authorities to admit the country’s profile as a drug hub.
The exercise, described as “a ritual”, was the third in two years. “It was both uncharacteristically festive of a public drug destruction exercise and typically replete with self-congratulatory remarks by Gambian authorities about the country’s commitment to tackling illicit drugs.
Now that drugs has been destroyed, those linked to it – all of them foreign nationals – Europeans, South Americans and West Africans – had been tried and jailed, the questions remains: Who are the local host of this grand scheme of illicit trade, which many believe, would be impossible to exist without local backers?