The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has recorded unprecedented achievements in the war against hard drugs since the appointment of its current chairman and chief executive officer, Brigadier-General Muhammad Buba Marwa. What are the feats?
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) under its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Brigadier-General Muhammad Buba Marwa (retd), has been winning the war against drug barons’ resolve to make Nigeria a transit hub for global hard drugs.
A survey by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) in 2018 stated that Lagos and Oyo states had the highest prevalence of drug abuse among youths in the southwestern part of Nigeria.
The Vienna, Austria-based UNODC in June this year, reported that in 2020, 270 million people used psychoactive drugs that have been universally banned. Out of this number, according to the report, 35 million people are suffering from disorders associated with the use and abuse of such drugs. And as a result UNODC then set aside June 26 every year to sensitise the world to the harmful effects of drug abuse and illicit trafficking.
Here in Nigeria, the NDLEA said 14.3 million Nigerians live under the influence of illicit drugs such as cannabis, opiates, cocaine, heroin, tramadol, codeine, and other unbelievable concoctions that are common among indigent unemployed youths.
NDLEA Director of Publicity, Femi Babafemi said: “The UNODC report shows an alarming trend. Our country has one of the highest drug prevalence in West Africa. The drug use prevalence in Nigeria, for ages 15 to 64, is approximately 14.4 which is almost three times the global drug use prevalence of 5.5 percent.”
However, the recent appointment of Marwa by President Muhammadu Buhari in January 2021 has brought a paradigm shift in the war against drugs, and this invariably has raised the profile of the country’s drug control agency.
With his pedigree as a highly efficient military manager, a former administrator as well as former chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA) between 2018 and December 2020, Marwa began launching non-stop actions against drug cartels across the country with the new maxim “offensive action”.
The NDLEA boss has successfully transformed the workforce he inherited into an elite drug-fighting force that is operating at its maximum capacity nationwide through the seven-member harmonisation committee that addressed all existing welfare and career stagnation issues.
Marwa said: “One of my early findings is that the morale of the officers and men has dropped to the lowest ebb. This made the personnel poorly motivated. We need highly motivated personnel to win this war, which we must win by the grace of God.”
He has also addressed the issue of stagnation, raised the bar by instituting a bi-monthly assessment and cash-backed award for Best Performing Command to motivate officers and men.
He also took a bold step to create additional directorates to reposition and enhance the performance of the agency with a new battle plan.
Marwa has drawn unprecedented goodwill for the agency through advocacy visits to governors and other stakeholders in capital cities, town halls, special-purpose committee, selling to them the new philosophy of the war against drugs, telling them that the time is ripe to take a definite stand against the trade and trafficking drugs.
The NDLEA chair has successfully steered the agency to global visibility and opened a vista of international support from the Economic Union (EU), the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France as well as from UNODC.
Commendations from some of the countries were backed up with donations of materials, including operational equipment like speedboat, motorcycles, armoured shields, helmets, and walkie-talkies.
Interestingly, after a relative lull, the NDLEA is now fully recharged to confront the drug menace, and Nigerians are now constantly updated on news about arrested drug traffickers, stories of intercepted consignments of illicit substances, as well as reports on commendations from governments of other countries about Nigeria’s efforts to curb and combat drug trafficking and drug abuse.
For the first time after a long while, the world now rates Nigeria as a leader in the fight against drugs in the West Africa region.
Beyond this, Marwa has within this period repositioned and strengthened the agency’s Directorate of Assets and Financial Investigation (DAFI), which is currently investigating several Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and Financially Exposed Persons (FEPs) over suspected drug dealings.
A particular case is the ongoing investigation of a high-profile money laundering scheme involving over N30 billion whose perpetrators are suspected to be exporters of controlled drugs to the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Some cash and assets already seized from drug traffickers and barons within this period, include one hundred and fifty-nine million, four hundred and sixty thousand naira (N159, 460,000.00) from a suspect who was arrested at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA)), Lagos.
The suspect is standing trial on the charge of exportation of 6.45 kilogrammes of Cocaine alongside his accomplice now at large. The sum of thirty-one million naira (N31, 000,000) belonging to a suspect who was arrested with Cocaine at the MMIA; and eleven million naira (N11, 000,000) realised from the sale of the assets of a United States-based Nigerian arrested and jailed for drug trafficking in UK.
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In the same vein, within this period, there was an interim forfeiture of assets worth millions of naira belonging to a baron who was the head of a drug cartel that trafficked illicit drugs to Asia, Canada, US, Ghana, South Africa, Namibia and Nigeria. The seizure and forfeiture of his assets in no small way dealt a deadly blow to his drug cartel.
The Agency apart from declaring war against illicit drugs has arrested drugs like Cocaine and Metavitamin, Canabis Sativa, Tramadol, Coffmixtures with Codeine, rophynol, Colorado, Methamphetamine Cookies with Cocaine drugged candies laced with Arizona, Ketamine injection, Diazepam tablets and pentazocine injection, among others.
Regional Operations Manager, West Africa, United Kingdom Border Force, Kris Hawksfield said: “The result NDLEA is recording is far above anyone organisation under our project across the globe.” Need I say more?
In this year alone, the agency said it has arrested 9,181 drug peddlers, seized 7,776,000 kilogrammes of drugs and hauled in N100 billion in drugs and cash. Also, 3,232 cases are in court while 1,630 convictions have been achieved. The agency also claims it has rehabilitated 4,269 abusers.
The most important achievement during this period was the payment of N200 million accumulated “burial expenses” of 188 officers killed while on active duty, promotions and the payment of entitlements for upwards of 10 to 15 years.
These steps taken by the NDLEA chief served as a morale booster for the Agency personnel who have taken on the fight against drug barons and their cartels, leading to the feat so far achieved by it.