By Henry Umoru
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, yesterday raised the alarm that drug barons are funding terrorists.
According to him, this explains why Boko Haram insurgents, bandits and kidnappers with arms and ammunition undertake criminal activities in the country.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja when the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Brigadier General Buba Marwa, retd, paid him a visit, Lawan called for the restructuring of NDLEA to further empower it to rise to the occasion of clamping down on the criminal activities of drug traffickers operating in the country.
Lawan, who assured that the National Assembly will support the agency in the aspect of amending the NDLEA Act to enable the agency achieve its core mandate, said: “The National Assembly members are almost on a daily interaction with our constituents and we know the very debilitating impact of drug abuse in our various communities.
“You have rightly said almost every community in this country suffers from drug addiction. So, we are very mindful of what is happening.
“I believe this agency needs restructuring. Now that you have taken over, we should restructure the agency, not piece meal touches, because we need to get it right.
“My personal opinion is that NDLEA should be in the league of EFCC, ICPC, and, therefore, the kind of support that those two agencies receive, you should receive, in addition to many other things that you should be supported with.
“So, the National Assembly will definitely work with you, we will partner with you, and ensure we do our best to give you the kind of support that will enable you to properly discharge your mandate.
“Having said this, let me say that Nigeria is in one way or the other a transit route for drugs. Peddlers pass their drugs through Nigeria — cannabis, heroin and possibly even cocaine.
“We believe that this has to stop, because the proceeds of such activities fund terrorism, banditry; you wonder how the bandits have RPGs and these massive arms they have.
“Definitely, these are some acquisition provided by some barons, not the bandits themselves. So, we need to ensure that this transit role that Nigerians play is addressed properly. We have to approach this through multi-sectoral efforts — the Customs, Immigration Service, our Security Agencies, and in fact, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, and our seaports.
“Of course, this is not going to be easy, but we have to be steadfast and we should do whatever is possible within the limited resources we have to make you better.”
‘Need for multi-dimensional effort’
Speaking on the drug addiction rate in Nigeria, Lawan underscored the need for multi-dimensional efforts across the various agencies of governments aimed at tackling underlying causes such as illiteracy, unemployment and poverty, responsible for the exposure of youths to criminal tendencies.
The Senate president, who also advocated the inclusion of drug education in the curriculum for schools and institutions of learning in Nigeria, said: “We also believe that the drug addiction level in Nigeria is so bad that we are loosing our youths to it.
“Like you have mentioned, the terrorists, insurgents, bandits and almost all the criminals have recourse to taking drugs to enhance their courage in order to undertake their illicit activities.
“So, there is then the need for us to step up our work on preventing our youths from taking the drugs, and that requires a lot of multi-dimensional efforts, because some may be due to lack of employment, illiteracy and poverty generally.
“These are some of the root causes. Somebody out of frustration is recruited to join. This is also something the National Assembly has been trying hard to ensure the economy of Nigeria provides for everyone – that we have an all inclusive economy bringing up those who are down.
“I want to urge you to get across to other agencies of government – Immigration Service, Customs, airports authority, DSS – and the decay that you might have found is probably because the agency has not been able to have a better structure that will enable it fight drug trafficking and even addiction of the 21st century.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman of the NDLEA, Buba Marwa, noted that the Ninth Senate under the leadership of Senator Ahmad Lawan has “displayed great interest, competence, support and effort” on the review of the NDLEA Act.
He said: “This is a very important step to correct some of the lapses in an Act that was promulgated way back in 1989.”
According to Marwa, the visit was intended to call for urgent intervention from the Senate President.
Warning that Nigeria is in a state of siege at present, Marwa the drug addiction scourge was largely responsible for acts of criminality in all parts of the country.
He lamented: “Yes, you have insurgency, banditry and kidnapping, but if you go to Ogoni to speak to somebody about insurgency, he might not be concerned.
“If you go to some other parts of the country and speak of kidnapping in some areas, it’s not a major concern. If you go to some other areas and speak of banditry, it may not be of major concern.
“But when you enter the realm of drug abuse, every part of Nigeria has people with drug abuse.
“Drug addiction is actually the number one problem we are facing, it is everywhere.” First of all, it destroys our kids, women, our youths, and the family system. Secondly, it is behind the criminality everywhere now.
“You have to be crazy to commit some of these crimes, and what fuels it is drug abuse.”