,…Plans To Remove Option Of Fine
In New Amendment Bill Before NASS
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, or NDLEA, has introduced a bill in the National Assembly that seeks harsher penalties for any Nigerian caught dealing in illegal substances.
NDLEA is seeking a minimum of 15 years, a maximum of 25 years, and life sentences for anyone caught in its net in the proposed amendment to strengthen its activities.
Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa, Chairman, Chief Executive, NDLEA, disclosed this on Thursday as a guest at the Presidential Media Team’s weekly briefings, where he affirmed that politicians were also participating in illicit drug trades.
He put the value of drugs and cash seized from barons at over N100 billion, noting that the money had been deposited in the federation’s account.
According to Marwa, more than 2.7 million kg of various illicit narcotics have been collected since January 25, 2021.
Marwa further revealed that one in every seven Nigerians uses illicit drugs, with one in every four being female, and 14.4 million Nigerians currently using illicit drugs.
He estimated that almost 5000 drug-related charges had been brought in court, involving 9,355 traffickers detained, including six drug barons.
NDLEA has rehabilitated 5,579 drug users as of the most recent count, with 20% of drug users being significantly dependent.
The NDLEA faces a number of issues, according to Marwa, including a lack of suitable lodging, such as specialized barracks for staff and their families, as well as a bad welfare plan.
He claimed that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration had taken attempts to pay the 188 officers slain in the line of duty.
He said, “To complete the overhaul process, we have invigorated the process of amending the NDLEA Act, to provide a more robust legal framework to deal with current drug trafficking and abuse challenges. As a matter of necessity, we have also had to scale up our workforce by resuming the suspended 2019 recruitment and training of 5, 000 operatives, with more to join in the months ahead. Once the process is completed, the agency’s workforce will have doubled by 200% by mid-2022.
“It is also pertinent to know that there has also been a paradigm shift in our operational philosophy. NDLEA has made a transition to an intelligence-driven anti-narcotic organisation. Our strategies now go beyond the arrest of peddlers of illicit drugs who are at the lowest rungs of the trafficking ladder; now we go after the brains behind the syndicates with the objective of dismantling illicit drug organisations.
“The National Drug Use Survey of 2019 by UNODC gave a troubling portrait of drug abuse in Nigeria. With the country having a drug use prevalence of 14. 4, which is almost three times the global average, we could no longer live in denial that Nigeria has a thriving illicit drug culture. A strong response from the NDLEA was inexorable. Consequently, we responded with some measures. The following are the major ones:
Operation Offensive Action: This is a non-stop, result-oriented DRUG SUPPLY REDUCTION activity calculated to (a) mop up existing illicit drugs in the country (b) stem the influx of narcotic drugs into the country and (c) disrupt, disconnect and dismantle the trafficking pipeline and thus remove Nigeria from the global drug network. Since its launch in January, Operation “Offensive Action” has been in full swing and the continuous onslaught against drug traffickers by NDLEA operatives yields weekly results across Nigeria.
“Weaponization of asset forfeiture against arrested, jailed or indicted drug barons: As part of the broader operation, the Agency also shifted gear in its tactics to aggressively pursue the brains behind drug trafficking networks using a combination of laws, (including the NDLEA Act, the Money Laundering Act and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, MLAT, an international legal tool) to target assets amassed through drug trafficking activities. In the long run, this will serve as a strong deterrence for drug pushers, kingpins and enablers, at home and abroad. And so far, NDLEA has scored big victories and have been making remarkable contributions to the Consolidated Account.
“War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) campaign: This was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 26, 2021. It is an advocacy campaign designed to win public support and elicit their involvement in the effort to rid society of the menace of illicit drug use and trafficking. WADA is a part of the vehicle that facilitates the implementation of the National Drug Control Master Plan NDCMP 2021-25. Three months after it was flagged off, we reached out to states and met with governors, religious leaders, traditional rulers, social groups amongst others. The effort has won support for NDLEA activities at the grassroots. In the months ahead, we hope to saturate the Nigerian society with a message that will get the populace to see itself as a stakeholder in the effort to curb the trafficking of illicit substances.
“The measures and reforms undertaken by the leadership of the Agency, and the efforts and sacrifices being made by the employees are rewarded with results that are as significant as to shore up our belief that we are on track to fulfilling our mandate and also help to reinforce our resolution to prosecute the renewed war against illicit drugs to a logical conclusion.
“As of October 15, the Agency has recorded the following: 9, 355 arrested traffickers, including six drug barons, Over 5,000 drug offences cases filed in court, over N100 billion worth of drugs and cash recovered, more than 2.7 million kilograms of assorted illicit drugs were seized in 10 months, 5,579 drug users were counselled and rehabilitated by NDLEA, a figure that gives a fair balance between our drug control and drug demand efforts.
“I have to at this point also highlight some of the spectacular seizures recorded by the Agency since January 2021. These include, seizure of 230 tons of cannabis in Edo State in February and a recent seizure of over 100 tons of psychotropic substances in raids across the country in the past two weeks, seizure of 451, 807 Captagon tablets, weighing 71,119 kg in September at Apapa Seaport, Lagos. This was the first-ever recorded seizure of the drug in the West and Central African regions.
“Interception of 1,994, 400 capsules of Tramadol in February at the Apapa Port, another 144, 400 bottles of Codeine syrup in March and this October, 32.9 kg of Cocaine, which in street value is worth over N9billion. As at this moment, our operatives are still searching the ship that brought in the illicit consignment, while we’re intensifying efforts to track those behind the shipment.
” Interception of 43.11 kg of cocaine in February at Tin Can Seaport and another 22, 590 kg of Codeine syrup at the Port in September, interception of 4, 996, 200 capsules of Tramadol, weighing 2,498 kg in May at the Onne Port and another interception of 100,000 (100ml) bottles of Codeine cough syrups weighing 15, 325kg at the same port in June, at the airports, we have recorded a series of interceptions and seizures of cocaine and heroin, but Murtala Mohammed International Airport remains the epicentre of the spectacular seizures, including what stands today as the biggest single seizure from an individual in 15 years, which is 26.840kg of cocaine smuggled from Brazil in January, 24.o5 kg of Heroin in April, 27.95 kg of Cocaine in May, and 26.15kg of Heroin in May.
“Let me state at this point that, by the end of this year we would have dealt sufficient decisive blows to the cannabis cartels in the country, going by the rate we’re going into the forests to destroy hundreds of hectares of their plantations in our ongoing operations”.
Speaking on the ongoing battle aginst terrorism, Marwa confirmed that a good number of bandits and kidnappers caught were found to be heavy users of drugs after their hide out were ransacked by security operatives.
According to him, most of the victims of kidnapping also recounted how their captors engage in heavy smoking of cannabis or taking tramadol.
He told State House Correspondents that a proposal for intending couples to undergo drug test prior to marriage has been welcomed by stakeholders, especially imams and pastors.
On suggestions that government should not also ignore the health and economic implications of using cannabis, the NDLEA Boss debunked such claims, insisting that no scientific proof had shown that cannabis had any healing effect.