By Ifeanyi OKOLIE
The NDLEA in the first two years of its current master plan which is 2008 and 2009, have seized 452, 353.08kg of illicit drugs in the country while 14,941 suspected drug traffickers were apprehended. A breakdown of those nabbed shows that males are more with 14,284 and females 657.
The major components of the master plan include control of illicit drug, drug demand reduction, adequacy and efficacy of penal sanctions and control of licit drugs. Stakeholders scored the anti-narcotic Agency high in the component of illicit drug control. This was based on the statistics of arrests and seizures made within the period under review.
Also, the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) for the implementation of the National Drug Control Master Plan (NDCMP), comprising the Armed forces, Paramilitary Agencies, Ministries and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), have commended the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for its aggressive anti-drug campaign efforts leading to the de-listing of Nigeria from the drug Majors List by United States.
The IMC, which met in Lagos recently to review implementation strategies and progress of the 2008 to 2011 Master plan also called for stiffer penalty for drug offenders as well as increased funding for anti-drug programmes. The committee reiterated the fact that the Agency is crucial and critical to national security, economic growth, public perception and prosperity of the country.
Reacting to the review by the IMC, Chairman of the NDLEA, Ahmadu Giade, said that drug control is a shared responsibility and called on stakeholders to actively participate in the fight against illicit drugs. “No Agency and country can fight and win the war against drugs in isolation. We must work together and join forces in ensuring a drug free society,” Giade stated.
The committee however expressed worry over the efficacy of penal sanctions in the country. According to the Committee, the statistics of convictions for drug offenders within the period under review appears commendable but the punishments meted to offenders by the courts are inadequate. “Punishments meted to drug offenders are inadequate, not proportionate and deterrent enough to prospective drug offenders. If the trend persists, drug trafficking will continue to be attractive to the vulnerable population and this portend grave danger for the future of the country” the Committee stated.
It also called for increased funding to intensify drug control efforts in the country. Stakeholders were unanimous that anti-drug enlightenment, research and ICT infrastructure are top priority areas for increased funding. It equally stressed that inadequate funding may undermine the smooth implementation of the entire Master plan. The general public was also enjoined to be actively involved in the anti-drug crusade.
The Committee stated that it was working assiduously towards effective review of the current plan which will terminate in 2011. It will be recalled that the first Master plan was published in 1999 in response to the dynamic nature of the illicit drug cultivation, trafficking and abuse. Part of the objectives of the plan includes adoption of strategies aimed at reducing the illicit drug problem in the country as well as support international efforts at drug control and global security.