By Kayode Akinmade
If you have been watching the raid on drug barons, couriers and syndicates in recent weeks, you cannot have missed the decidedly resonant indicators of a new direction in Nigeria’s anti-drug war.
Early last month, during a week-long raid, operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) arrested 31 suspects in Ondo State for being in possession of 276 kg of assorted illicit drugs. On April 20, the agency’s operatives hunted down two Abuja-based partners who allegedly specialised in selling drugged cookies to school children and other inhabitants of the Federal Capital Territory.
A statement by the agency’s media director, Mr Femi Babafemi, indicated that the suspected drug dealers were part of a syndicate involved in the production of cookies with Arizona, a highly psychoactive variant of cannabis; alcohol and Rohypnol, among other ingredients.
Four days later, it was the turn of daredevil narcotics couriers who used the statue of Mary, mother of Jesus, to conceal their illicit drugs in Lagos, to be taken out of business: the statue, as well as auto spare parts scheduled to be dispatched to Canada and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were intercepted in a rather long haul involving 140 grammes of methamphetamine, 500 grammes of heroin, 3.1 kilogrammes of cannabis concealed within spices, and a kilogramme of the same drug concealed within local herbs. Couriers are always wise in their own eyes…
Some more data may be necessary. Between January and April 2021, NDLEA arrested 109 suspected drug traffickers in various parts of Kwara State, seizing 48 grammes of cocaine, some 331.261 kilogrammes of assorted drugs and five grammes of swinol from suspects. It emerged that Kwara actually has the highest prevalence rate of 13.0 per cent among states in the North Central. This week witnessed the interception of a container bearing 4,996,200 capsules of tramadol weighing 2,498.2 kilogrammes at the Onne port, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. That was on Tuesday. Previously, on Sunday, May 16, there was a successful operation in Nyibango, Jimeta, Yola, Adamawa State, during which a 42-year-old was arrested with 13 sacks of cannabis sativa weighing 166kg, just as a 35-year-old suspect was nabbed with16.1kg of skunk at Ngurore, Yola South area of the state. On the same day, a team of NDLEA operatives arrested one James Godspower with 36.5kg of cannabis sativa at Faloye, Ogbese, in Akure North area of Ondo State. The seizures are not fortuitous: they are the direct result of Brigadier-General Buba Marwa’s (Retd) appointment as NDLEA boss. To say the very least, his appointment has been hallmarked by an upsurge in the arrest and detection of drug merchants. Hitherto, many a courier moved rather too freely across the country’s borders and even at airports. But no more: seizures of banned drugs such as cocaine, heroin, cannabis, etc, have become routine, and detention cells are teeming with felons.
In the past, Nigeria was just a transit point for hard drugs. But very unfortunately, it is now a consuming nation, one of the worst in Sub-Saharan Africa. Surely, without the emplacement of drastic measures to curb the menace, the country’s future will simply be ruined. It is beyond disturbing that the youth who constitute the largest percentage of Africa’s largest population are resorting to drugs to navigate the business of existence: poison is available even in candies. In this regard, the NDLEA’s efforts are certainly worthy of applause. Apart from arresting drug traffickers, it is also heightening efforts in the area of public sensitization on the corrosive effects of hard drugs. With the level of insecurity in the country, the upsurge in drug abuse cannot be overlooked. Most of those who are into crime do so as a result of involvement in drugs. Nobody in his right senses would go out into the streets and start gunning people down at will. But precisely that is what Nigeria witnesses on a daily basis. With their brains buried in drugs, bandits, kidnappers, killer herdsmen and Boko Haram terrorists shed blood with reckless abandon.
Happily, though, NDLEA is taking the campaign to the doorsteps of state governments, various NGOs, and other relevant publics. The objective is to try as much as possible to discourage the younger generation from drugs. Many lives have been destroyed as a result of drugs. Many are in psychiatric wards. Many have died. So many have lost their jobs and many have lost their homes. In that regard, it’s great news that Nigerians are seeing a renewed vigour in combating the drug epidemic. It is a welcome development. Nigerians can indeed declare without any prevarication that for the first time in a long while, the country has the right candidate manning such a strategic position as the NDLEA chairman’s office. But the NDLEA’s success story really cannot be any surprise given Marwa’s antecedents as a no-nonsense and supremely effective military administrator. As Lagos Milad, Marwa was able to reduce crime to the barest minimum. He had come into Alausa at a time when the mega city was steeped in crime, a time when Lagos and crime seemed to be inseparable and most residents could barely sleep with two eyes closed.
What did Marwa do? He introduced “Operation Sweep” and within the spate of a few months, he had dealt a huge blow to the bad guys. The work was so great that when he was removed from office, Lagosians could be heard everywhere claomuring for him to govern the state in civilian garb. Such was the level of confidence that the consummate administrator enjoyed among the people. Happily, he is demonstrating his sterling credentials at the NDLEA at the moment. And irrespective of the challenges facing the country in terms of insecurity, the Federal Government definitely got it right this time around. Nigerians are increasingly appreciative of Marwa’s strides, knowing that a country given to drugs necessarily has its future in jeopardy.
Illicit drug trade produces emergency billionaires who sadly become role models for many among the up and coming generations, discouraging honest and legitimate work. Nigeria must not be allowed to become yet another Mexico featuring deadly gun battles among drug lords. General Marwa is moving in the right direction and deserves plaudits. Interestingly, he has been using the operatives he met on the ground at the NDLEA, proving that leadership is key in any organisation. Strategically, Marwa and his team are maintaining an effective digital presence, deploying technology in tracking down the purveyors of illicit drugs. But they cannot do the job alone: public support is crucial. And with the growing support among Nigerians, the future promises to be exciting.
Akinmade, former Commissioner of Information, Ondo State contributes this piece through [email protected]