Energizing the Drug War – The Sun Nigeria
The increase in drug trafficking in recent times has underscored the fact that the drug war must be further escalated before it takes on epidemic proportions. And since his appointment as President / Director General of the National Drug Control Agency (NDLEA), Brigadier. General Buba Marwa (retired) left no one in doubt about his patriotic determination to reposition the anti-narcotics agency in line with global best practices and add more verve to the war on drug trafficking and abuse. So far, his tenure as boss of the drug agency has witnessed the unprecedented arrest of numerous drug couriers and the seizure of a jackpot of narcotics with a value of over $ 90. billion naira.
To date, the agency has reportedly arrested more than 5,000 drug traffickers and five major drug lords controlling various cartels across the country and seized over two million kilograms of assorted illicit drugs. He has also filed around 5,000 drug cases in court. Of these, the agency has obtained more than 500 convictions while no less than 3,205 cases are pending before the courts. About 2,772 have been counseled, rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.
Marwa also attracted international support, including the donation of operational equipment and technical assistance by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the European Union (EU), the United States ( United States), United Kingdom (United Kingdom), French government and others. In addition, NDLEA under Marwa has been able to foster partnership with drug enforcement agencies in foreign jurisdictions, including the recent agreement with The Gambia’s Drug Law Enforcement Agency (DLEAG).
Despite the laudable achievements, the task before the anti-drug agency is still enormous given the growing number of Nigerians involved in the infamous trade despite the inherent risks. The recent media report that a total of 14.3 million Nigerians between the ages of 15 and 64 engage in some form of drug addiction is quite worrying. Drug use is widespread among Nigerians aged 25 to 39, according to the report. It is also sad that one in four drug addicts in Nigeria is female. The trend must be curbed.
The report further states that the most commonly used drug in Nigeria is cannabis, with around 10.6 million Nigerians using it. Therefore, those calling for the legalization of cannabis cultivation out of commercial interest should watch it. About 4.6 million Nigerians are believed to have consumed opioids such as codeine tramadol or morphine. It is estimated that 376,000 Nigerians are engaged in high-risk drug use.
The immensity of the drug abuse challenge must have prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to describe the danger posed by illicit drugs as more deadly than the insurgency, banditry and other threats facing the country. We nevertheless agree with him. As the incidence of drug trafficking continues to increase, we call on the agency to step up the fight and apprehend more drug lords.
The arrest of more drug lords and the destruction of the supply chain both inside and out will go a long way in winning the war on drug trafficking and addiction. We need stricter laws against drug trafficking and abuse. Having such laws in place will significantly reduce the threat. The vital role of educating the public on the dangers of drug abuse and trafficking cannot be underestimated in this regard. There is a need to involve more opinion leaders, religious and community leaders, market women’s associations and youth clubs in awareness campaigns against drug abuse. Despite the death penalty for drug trafficking in some countries like Indonesia and others, it is surprising that our people, including young people, still take the risk probably because of the considerable money involved.
Since unemployment, poverty and social discontent are some of the driving forces behind drug trafficking, federal and state governments need to come up with realistic measures to tackle the factors that fuel drug trafficking and abuse. The government should also not overlook the link between drug addiction and growing insecurity in the country. This has made it more imperative for the government to pay serious attention to the war on drugs.
It is also commendable that Marwa has taken far-reaching steps to strengthen the NDLEA under his leadership. Recently, he relaunched and strengthened the agency’s Assets and Financial Investigations Directorate to tackle all assets and funds related to drug trafficking. He put in place a trained strike force to strengthen the agency’s execution capacity as well as the appointment of a provost marshal to ensure discipline and work ethics within the agency.
Marwa promoted 3,506 officers and men of the agency to boost morale. He, through President Buhari’s intervention, paid around 200 million naira in burial costs to the families of 188 deceased agency officers. The creation of 14 NDLEA area commands across the country will improve operational efficiency and career development for officers. While we commend the President and Marwa in their determination to strengthen the war on drugs, we urge them to do more.