By: Kingsley Omonobi – Abuja
**Vows NDLEA will burn down any drug production farm/site found in any state
**Warns, Traditional Rulers found conniving with drug barons will be arrested, prosecuted.
The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Gen Buba Marwa (rtd), has disclosed that the Agency has recorded substantial loss of its operatives/personnel in the fight against illicit drugs trafficking and trade with over 100 widows and Next of Kin’s awaiting Federal government’s intervention in the payment of death benefits for their late breadwinners.
Speaking at the unveiling of a week-long of activities to commemorate the United Nations International Day Against Drug and Illicit Drug Trafficking, in Abuja, Marwa however stated that the situation has been brought to the knowledge of President Muhammadu Buhari adding that “Mr. President has approved the payment of all benefits to the widows and NOKs. This approval will go a long way in further motivating officers of the agency”.
Commenting on a recent suggestion that the growth of Cannabis be legalized in the country as it is a money spinning venture as ascribed to a South West Governor, Marwa said, “The fact of the issue is one between saving lives and making money. From the drug survey of the United Nations Department on Drugs UNODC, 10.6million Nigerians use drugs and it will be 20million in 2030. We are the highest users of cannabis in the world and the consequences are there for everyone to see”.
“The World Health Organization says usage of cannabis has health issues. With Nigeria having the highest prevalence ratio, this is not the time to be talking about legalizing the illicit drug. Ondo State is the greatest producer if this substance and NDLEA will continue burn down any farm or production site where we find this drug in accordance with the law. It is dangerous to our health and it has dire consequences”
On the activities of some traditional rulers conniving with, or providing cover for illicit drugs traffickers and producers, Marwa said, “Traditional Rulers are not exempted from the law. On one or two occasions, when seized drugs from palaces, we arrested the traditional rulers and they are facing the music. So nobody is exempted but we are partnering with majority of the traditional rulers and state governments through advocacy visits to tackle the menace”.
The Chairman dismissed insinuations that some personnel of NDLEA were re-selling seized drugs to drug barons and others insisting that “NDLEA Staff do not sell drugs which are seized. They are our exhibits which we use in court for prosecution. We have exhibit keepers who are trusted and well selected. We have not had NDLEA staff apprehended for selling drugs”.
Earlier, he said the 26th of June is earmarked by the United Nations as International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking with this year’s day appropriately themed “Share Facts On Drugs, Save Lives.”
“The theme is very significant considering the unquantifiable and enormous danger posed by substance abuse. Abuse of narcotics has incapacitated the workforce of organizations and ruined communities and societies. It has brought about family disintegration, decimated the capacities of our youths and given rise to all types of crimes such as insurgency, terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, rape and violent extremism which have befallen nations including our dear country Nigeria with attendant health consequences on the users.
“The dynamism of the drug problem has made it imperative for us to continue to deepen our knowledge and understanding of this deleterious conundrum. In this regard, sharing facts about drug abuse and illicit trafficking in narcotics, as captured by this year’s theme, will go a long way in shedding some light on hitherto hidden factors that aid predisposition to substance abuse, especially the question of new psychoactive substances.
“Drug abuse as an enabler of all forms of criminality is a hydra-headed monster that must be crushed if we must move forward as a nation. The solution lies in having hyper-efficient anti-drug machinery, which is what the NDLEA stands for.
Since my assumption of office as Chairman/CEO in January this year, we set machinery in motion to reposition the Agency. I am glad to report to you today that after five months, we are making a definite headway in repositioning the NDLEA for efficiency and effectiveness.
“We have succeeded in boosting the morale and confidence of officers and men of the NDLEA through practical steps taken to address welfare and career stagnation issues. To this end, we instituted, among other measures, a bi-monthly assessment and cash-backed award for Best Performing Commands to motivate officers and men on the field.
“Recently, the agency promoted 3, 506 officers who have stagnated in the past years, some for upward of 10, 15 and even 20 years on one rank. One person actually stayed 21 years on one rank.
“Major administrative steps were taken to restore the visibility of the Agency for local and international partnerships. And in five months, we have made appreciable progress. So far, the image of the Agency has tremendously improved, so much so that today, people are now aware of the existence of the NDLEA unlike before.
“Our interaction with the public has been enhanced and people come freely to volunteer information to us. By the same token, we have been able to attract international support that has yielded donations of operational equipment, technical assistance, training and pledges of support by the UNODC, EU, US, UK, French, Indian and German governments and others.
“Expectedly, our painstaking and strategic operational efforts have translated into encouraging results. The Agency’s offensive action against drug cartels across the country launched some five months ago, has yielded over 2,180 arrests of drug traffickers and the seizure of over 2 million kilograms of assorted illicit drugs. We have filed at least 2,100 drug cases in court, recording over 500 convictions with 1,549 cases pending in court.
“These results have given us big insights into the magnitude of the drug problem. The work ahead is enormous. NDLEA cannot win the drug war without the help of citizens. We need the cooperation of all and sundry. We all owe Nigeria the duty of ensuring that drug abuse and trafficking do not thrive in this country. For us all, it is an urgent assignment, because if we must end youth radicalization, violent extremism, cultism, banditry, wanton kidnapping, insurgency and the like, drug abuse and trafficking must be dealt a decisive blow.
“To win the drug war, NDLEA must synergize with other law enforcement and sister agencies and stakeholders for maximum impact. The simplest contribution that we ask of every patriotic citizen is what is captured by the theme of this year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking: “Share Facts on Drugs, Save Lives.”