Marwa’s offensive against drug peddlers, users

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is the body empowered by the federal government to regulate hard drugs in the country. With daily reports of seizure of drugs and arrest of culprits across the states, PAUL OKAH takes a look at the onslaught on drug peddlers and users under the chairman, Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa (retd.).

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) was established by Decree Number 48 of 1989 and charged with eliminating the growing, processing, manufacturing, selling, exporting and trafficking of hard drugs in Nigeria.

With presence at international airports, seaports and border crossings, the agency tries to eradicate cannabis by destroying plantings and arresting leaders of narcotics and money laundering organisations. Though the issue of abuse of cannabis, tramadol, codeine, morphine, cough syrups and drugs in different forms has been in existence over the years, the agency has had its fair share of success in combating the menace under different chairmen and directors in different states.

Multiple arrests

On July 4, a statement by the agency’s spokesman, Femi Babafemi, indicated that the agency arrested a mother of three, Anita Ogbonna, identified as a Nigerian based in Brazil with 100 pellets of cocaine concealed in her private part and handbag at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on her arrival from Sao Paulo, Brazil via Doha in Qatar on Friday.

The statement read in part, “Upon a proper search, 12 wraps of cocaine inserted in her private part were extracted, while another 88 pellets stuffed in socks were discovered hidden in her handbag. She said one Emeka, alias KC, also based in Brazil gave her the drug to deliver in Nigeria for a fee of $3,000.

“She said she pushed the wraps of cocaine into her private part after her attempts to swallow the pellets failed. The suspect, who owns a shop where she sells African foodstuffs in Brazil, further claimed she had to drop her three young children with a Kenyan lady, who is her neighbour in Brazil, before she embarked on the quick-money journey.

“In a related development, Narcotic officers attached to a courier company in Lagos have intercepted 500grams of ketamine concealed in the walls of a wooden box filled with bitter kola that originated from Douala, Cameroon and heading to the United States of America, while another 500 grammes of methamphetamine hidden in automobile parts going to Australia were also seized at the firm.

“A follow-up operation led to the arrest of a drug dealer, Livinus Nnadi, at Bauchi Motor Park on Jun 26,e 2021, while on the same day, a blue Sharon minibus with registration number FKG 539 GR, going to Bauchi from Jos was also intercepted and 7.9kg of pentazocine injection recovered from it.

“Similarly, NDLEA Kwara command recovered 67.2 kg of Tramadol heading to Benin Republic at a checkpoint close to Ilesha in Osun state, while a 53-year-old drug trafficker, Zakiru Abdullahi, has been arrested on Ilorin-Jebba highway on Thursday, July 1, with 260 kilogrammes of pentazocine injection meant for Kaduna.”

Nigerians’ concerns

Recently, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report revealed that an estimated 275 million people used drugs and over 36 million suffered from drug use disorders in 2020, while drug use alone killed almost half a million people in 2019.

Speaking with Blueprint Weekend, a teacher resident of Mpape, a satellite town in the FCT, Yakubu Danladi, said drug abuse appears to be the pre-occupation of the youth in the area and other parts of the FCT.

He said: “State and federal governments have a lot to do in curbing drug abuse in Nigeria. I don’t know if it is particularly worse in Mpape. Despite the consistent raids by NDLEA and security agencies, the situation has not ebbed, but I still urge relevant agencies to intensify campaigns against drug abuse and its effects among the youth.”

Psychologist’s commendation

On June 26, addressing newsmen in Enugu, a Professor of Clinical Psychology in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Prof. Michael Ezenwa, who is also the South-east zonal leader of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP) and the president, Nigerian Psychological Association, commended the federal government for renewed commitment and reinvigoration of fight against drug abuse and trafficking in the country.

He said for the past six months that Marwa came on board, there had been increased enforcement and rehabilitation activities of the agency. According to him, there has been recent up-scale of NDLEA presence everywhere following the massive promotion of its staff, about 7,000 staff “which has repositioned the agency to deal with hard drug and psycho-active substance use by citizens being the remote underlying cause of criminality and violence in the country.”

“The results of the daily seizure of large consignment of drugs at national and at the state command levels are there in the public domain. Since the federal government brought in Brig-Gen. Marwa, the game has changed and the country through the government is holding up its hand.

“I urge the federal and state governments to give more encouragement to professionals – clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors. If you see the evidence-based information about drug use in our country you get worried. So, we need the government to employ clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors in government offices and establish drug reduction units to provide prevention services. Prevention services are cheaper, timely and save resources.”

Marwa seeks collaboration

On June 21, during a media briefing in Abuja to flag off activities to mark the International World Drug Abuse, Marwa said drug abuse was an enabler of all forms of criminality in the country, and a hydra-headed monster that must be crushed for Nigeria to move forward as a nation.

According to him, fighting war against drug abuse and trafficking in a country like Nigeria is a big problem which the NDLEA cannot solve alone.

“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.’ We must avail ourselves of every opportunity to drive the message home to Nigerians about the importance of having a drug-free country.

“At the same time, it is equally important to make our message unmistakably clear to those involved in the trafficking of illicit substances and also the cartels, barons and traffickers, that it is time for them to quit or face a tough consequence.

“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.

“The agency recently promoted 3, 506 officers who had been stagnated in the past years, some for upward of 10, 15 and even 20 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,” he said.

On his part, the country representative, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Oliver Stolpe, called on individuals, communities and various organisations all over the world to join the global observance, saying it was important to raise awareness of the major problem that illicit drugs represented for society, urging the public to share facts on drugs to help save lives.

He said, “Do your part and combat misinformation by sharing the real facts on drugs – from health risks and solutions to tackle the world drug problem, to evidence-based prevention, treatment and care. Every year, UNODC issues the World Drug Report, full of key statistics and factual data obtained through official sources, a science-based approach and research.

“UNODC will continue to provide facts and practical solutions to address the current world drug problem, and remains committed to attaining a vision of health for all based on science. By working together, we can tackle the world drug problem.”