In the last few weeks of 2021, investigations showed that some Nigerians took illicit drugs deal to another level, just as the agency responsible for checking the menace, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), equally took its fight against the act to another level with several arrests and seizures. ELEOJO IDACHABA in this piece takes a look at the success or otherwise of the battle.
Reports of arrests by NDLEA showed that not less than five major cartels were burst between January 1 and 20, 2022. For instance, NDLEA in the early days of this year arrested a fake security agent, Babagana Ma’aji, through a controlled delivery of 5.6kg cannabis from Lagos to Plateau state. NDLEA’s director of media and publicity, Mr. Femi Babafemi, disclosed this in a statement in Abuja.
Babafemi said the suspect based in Damaturu, Yobe state, was nabbed following the interception of a commercial bus which usually brings the consignment from Lagos.
He also said operatives of the Command in Plateau arrested a suspected bandit, Abdullahi Ahmad, on January 11, this year. The suspect, he added, was arrested with one Beretta pistol, seven rounds of live ammunition, two empty shells, 12 grammes of cannabis sativa and a pair of handcuffs.
This is in addition to N1, 136,344, suspected to be ransom money as well as an Opel car with registration number, ZAR35LQ.
Similarly, one John Chibueze who is alleged to be the leader of a distribution gang of cocaine in Plateau, he said, was arrested along Zaria road in Jos with quantities of cocaine and tramadol.
Babafemi disclosed further that two vehicles with N 277, 000 which the suspect offered to operatives of the agency as bribe, but rejected were also intercepted.
The statement by Babafemi indicated further that, “In Delta, the bid by 38-year-old Ejike Obiora to smuggle different quantities of cocaine and heroin into a Correctional Centre in Ogwashi-Uku, Aniocha South LGA was foiled on January 8.
“This was when he was discovered to have concealed the drugs in foodstuff meant for an inmate. This is even as 598kg cannabis was recovered during a raid in Owo area of Ondo state while the two owners, Arataye Raimi (41) and Tope Osinnuwa (36) were eventually arrested in follow up operations.”
Giving further breakdown of seizures in 2022 alone, Babafemi said that one Abdullahi Mohammed was arrested in connection with the seizure of 48.5 blocks of cannabis in Potiskum, Yobe state.
Also, he said another fake security agent, Dike Davison, was nabbed at Aliade in Benue state with 50 gramnmes of cannabis and 29 rounds of live ammunition of 7.62mm caliber.
Finally, Babafemi said, “In Abuja, FCT, a buy-and-bust operation on January 14 led to the arrest of one Habib Yusif (41) with a total of 28.2kg cannabis recovered from him.
“While in Osun, the trio of Samuel Joseph, Francis Ujor and Sola Johnson were arrested in Onikoko village Area 5, Ile-Ife with 100 bags of cannabis weighing 1,530 kilograms recovered from them on January 13.”
According to Babafemi, the agency’s chairman, Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa (retd.), commended the personnel of various commands for the remarkable feats even as he assured that their dedication would not go without rewards.
As a prelude to all these, President Muhammadu Buhari had inaugurated the War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) initiated by the agency with a warning that drug wars are deadly.
The president stressed that a drug war was more dangerous than wars against insurgency and banditry because it targeted three generations for destruction.
According to the president, the war against drug abuse and illicit trafficking is a war that must be fought by well-meaning citizens.
“It is therefore my pleasure to declare on behalf of the good people of Nigeria that War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) is not just a slogan, but a call for civil action for all Nigerians to take active part in this war.
“Let me say that this war is more deadly than the insurgency we have in the North-eastern part of the country or the acts of banditry in the North-west or acts of kidnapping that transcends all the geopolitical zones of this country because it is a war that is destroying three generations.
“I’ve seen clips of where grandparents are on drugs, parents are on drugs and by extension, their wards, and their children are on drugs. So, this is a war that is targeting three generations in a stretch.
“I believe strongly that every effort must be put in place to ensure that we deal with the issues of substance abuse and trafficking and manufacture so that we can get to the root cause as ably elucidated by our keynote speaker this afternoon.
“I believe strongly with every bit of conviction that if we are able to deal with the issue of drug abuse, our security challenges would drastically reduce as we walk toward a drug-free Nigeria.”
The president, therefore, implored Nigerians from every strata of life, including traditional and religious leaders, local leadership at every level, to be vigilant and support WADA, just as he charged NDLEA to intensify efforts at ridding the country of criminal elements.
He added that criminal elements had made forests their hideouts from where they launch criminal onslaughts as well as for farming marijuana.
“I am directing the NDLEA to develop a robust risk-communication and community engagement strategy that would not only disseminate the four pillars of the plan to responsible entities, but deal with destroying production sites and laboratories.
“NDLEA should also break the supply chain, discourage drug use and prosecute offenders as well as traffickers, rehabilitate addicts and enforce relevant laws.
“I want to particularly draw the attention of the agency to the fact that the use of many of our forests as criminal hideouts is because large swathes of cannabis plantations are hidden deep within those forests,” the president said.
Need for policy shift
According to Aigbe Blessing, a researcher on illicit drugs while writing about Students for Sensible Drugs Policy (SSDP) noted that the Nigerian government has taken dramatic steps to improve the country’s reputation as an international drug trafficking centre.
“Most of the emphasis has fallen on law enforcement and repression as there has been a sharp increase in arrest rates and the prison population. In spite of such severe measures, a correlative fall in consumption has not been registered. There is a danger that Nigeria is not only repeating the unsuccessful strategies employed by the US, but is also failing to take account of the very different conditions in the local drug scene.
“It follows that the ostensible outcome of drug control which comprises reduced consumption and trafficking has become secondary to the manipulation of drug law enforcement for the extension of state authority and to effect societal and political control.”
She added, “In recognition of this failure, it has become expedient that a new approach to drug use and the war against it is sought. There is a need for a fundamental shift in every state’s policies against drugs. Drug policies should be formed and reformed based on health, compassion, and human rights. Current drug laws that criminalise drug use and addiction need to be relaxed and nations need to shift spending from law enforcement and penalisation to education, treatment and prevention.”
While expressing concerns, Etanibi Alemika of the Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse (CRISA), noted that there has been a growing involvement of Nigerians in the production, distribution, use and abuse of illicit drugs during the past four decades, leading to the enactment of drug control laws by Nigeria’s successive governments.
He, however, added that the drug control laws and policies have not produced the desired results of curbing the production, trafficking and abuse of dangerous drugs and substances.
He said, “The ineffectiveness of the country’s drug laws and policy may be attributed to several factors. Drug policy and laws in Nigeria are formulated and implemented without the benefit of rigorous knowledge and research on the motives and pressures for the production, distribution or sales of dangerous drugs and substances; the motives and pressures for the use and abuse of cocaine, heroin, psychotropic drugs and alcohol.
“Multiple causes of drug abuse, epidemiology of drug abuse and drug-related problems within population, relative efficiency of competing strategies-demand and supply reduction programmes, capacity for the effective enforcement of legal provisions, social and individual costs and harms associated with the misuse of different dangerous drugs and substances, and the international political economy of drug trade and control which mirrors the unequal political and economic power relations between developed and developing nations.”
He opined that the nation‘s drug laws have not been effective because of too much faith in legal repression as a strategy for deterring the production, distribution and abuse of drugs.
“Furthermore the capacity of existing institutions to secure effective enforcement of legal provisions is either overrated or not given due consideration in policy formulation and implementation as Nigeria’s drug laws and policies are influenced more by concern for the punishment of drug producers, distributors and abusers. The prevention of production, distribution and use of dangerous drugs and substances is neglected. For example, the prevention of drug abuse and treatment of drug dependent persons receive inadequate resources from the government.”
Drug abuse, banditry
In the meantime, illicit usage of drugs has been identified as one of the main causes of criminalities, especially banditry, in the country.
The director-general, Kaduna State Bureau for Substance Abuse, Prevention and Treatment (KadBUSA), Dr. Joseph Maigari, said this during a stakeholders’ meeting with civil society groups and non-governmental organisations in Kaduna.
He noted that the prevalence of substance abuse started many years back when Nigeria became a transit point for drug traffickers to Europe, adding that inadequate efforts to address the challenge through the supply side, while leaving the demand side contributed immensely to the huge growth of the challenge.
“There are consequences of substance abuse in terms of banditry and security challenges in the country. It’s actually a pandemic. About 10.9% of people in Kaduna state are involved in drug abuse. It is a huge problem from when Nigeria was a transit country to Europe.
“That was when we should have started planning to address it. Some efforts were made in drug supply reduction space through NDLEA and other security agencies but now it’s clear that it is not the supply side alone because there is the demand side. That is why in Kaduna state we are looking at it from both the demand and supply sides. We have made progress in the demand reduction as Kaduna state was the first to engage in legislative and legal framework.”
He added, “Drug abuse is the next big problem on health; that is why there is need for adequate sensitisation, public enlightenment and education to achieve behavioural change and ensure that young people stay away from substance abuse, which is why Kaduna state government decided to engage all the people involved in the demand side from government and non government bodies.
“Drug abuse, drug addiction are medical diagnoses, we want to work hard on prevention before attacking the other aspects using the HIV/AIDS model.”