Former Lagos State governor, Mohammad Marwa, was recently appointed the chairman of the leading agency in the war against drug, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). From the first day he met top staff of the agency, he has vowed to combat drug abuse frontally.
The fight against drug abuse in Nigeria seems to be a very hard nut to crack. This is because despite past efforts, the menace has consistently been on the increase. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 14.3 million Nigerians between the ages of 15-64 are drug users. This figure has risen to over 15 million Nigerians according to Marwa. A figure which is almost three (3) times above 5% which is the world’s average.
Of the several narcotic substances, the drug that has become more problematic in Nigeria is tramadol due to its easy accessibility. Nigeria is now a major hub for tramadol in the world. The problem has even become more serious when one considers the doses of tramadol found in Nigeria. The normal dose, according to the immediate past Chairman of NDLEA, Col. Muhammad Abdallah, globally is 50mg to 100mg, but what is available in Nigeria is anything from 200mg to 500mg.
12,663 suspected drug dealers were arrested between 2006 and June 2008, with a seizure of over 418.8 metric tonnes of various drugs. In January 2009, the NDLEA publicly burnt 5,605.45 kilograms of drugs seized from traffickers in Badagry, Lagos. The issue of drug trafficking even increased during the country’s border closure.
Also, amidst the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic, the NDLEA arrested 471 drug offenders. NDLEA Lagos Command seized 11,798 kilogrammes (over 11 tons) of various illicit hard drugs and 722.31 liters of same illicit drugs from dealers and joints in the state in 2020.
Despite the laws against the cultivation of cannabis in Nigeria, many people still take part in the illegal cultivation. In fact, the status of Nigeria has been changed from being a transit hub to a production centre as Babagana Monguno, National Security Adviser stated that between 2011 and 2019, approximately 17 manufacturing laboratories of various hard substances were destroyed by security agencies. The NDLEA has also described the South West region of Nigeria as the main center of illicit drug production in the country.
Marwa, who was known for his no- nonsense posture as military administrator of Lagos and Borno states, has promised to throw in everything from his arsenal to curb the use of drugs in Nigeria. He made this known in his inaugural remarks at the NDLEA headquarters last week in Abuja.
Meanwhile, the Civil Society Organisation (CSO) and Concerned Nigerians (CN) have expressed confidence in Marwa’s appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari as the new chairman of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). They both believe he has what it takes to curb the menace of drug abuse in the country.
Prince Deji Adeyanju, the CN convener said considering Marwa’s track records, especially as a Military Governor in Lagos, he did so much there and can perform better in this position. “So, we are optimistic that he will do quite a lot,” he recounted.
Use of hard drugs is at the centre of the ultimate destruction of the social fabric of the nation. It is directly linked to kidnapping, banditry, terrorism and other problems facing the country presently. Mr Marwa gave a firm warning to those involved in the business of hard drugs.
“I would like to warn those who engage in the dastard business of importation, exportation, cultivation, processing, manufacturing, trafficking, sale and consumption of illicit substances to stop forthwith or be prepared to contend with the new NDLEA,” he said.
In his refurbishment of NDLEA, Marwa didn’t leave out the importance of staff welfare in the fight against drugs. This is because the NDLEA staff stand as a middleman between the drug peddler and the consumer and a compromise on their part will make curbing drug abuse an act in futility.
Buttressing on the welfare of the NDLEA staff, he stated “I want to assure you all that your welfare will be given utmost attention. The outstanding issues of stagnation in rank, training, postings and due emoluments, will be addressed as priority.”
He seeks for diligence from the NDLEA staff, while also giving a firm warning to any that goes contrary to that.
“I expect diligence at work, nothing short of it. I will not hesitate to penalize defaulters and hard work will be rewarded too”, he stated.
Marwa also revealed that he will develop a strategy of work to meet the objectives as the agency follows the National Drug Control Master Plan 2021-2025 which will be released soon.
Nevertheless, just like Adeyanju called on NGOs, youth groups, Civil Society Organisation, religious, traditional and community leaders and others to support the NDLEA in the fight against drug abuse, it is essential for parents to guide and listen to the youth. This is because parenting has now become a part-time affair, and research has shown that 90% of drug addicts started drug abuse when they were teenagers.