The newly appointed Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig-Gen. Buba Marwa, upon assuming office on Monday greeted the nation with a worrisome revelation that about 15m Nigerians of all ages are hooked to hard drugs. These statistics, disturbing as they seem, may not ruffle feathers in many quarters because the disclosure is no longer news. The reason is not far-fetched… drug abuse has become a national epidemic in recent years.
Marwa heaped the blame on drug barons and issued a familiar threat to them to quit the illicit trade or face hard times. The choice is theirs to make: between dealing in hard drugs or facing hard times. But because of the cool bucks that come from the trade, these merchants of death would risk facing hard times than quit the lucrative trade that imperils their fellow generations of Nigerians.
However, the new helmsman was optimistic that after the resuscitation and repositioning of the agency to full active life, it would become feared and respected by the criminal elements.
We salute the courage and optimism of the new boss at the agency. But we advise that he should look beyond the hard drug marketers. This is because it takes the patronage of the users and/or buyers for them to be in business.
Appearing before a Senate Roundtable on Drug Abuse Epidemic in Nigeria, in December 2017, the former Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II, blamed the alarming rate of drug abuse amongst the nation’s youths on our leaders. He insisted that their bad examples evident in their lifestyles were fueling the dangerous habits among the youths. He advocated a law that would compel “traditional rulers, governors, ministers, senators and other office holders to go for a drug test”.
There was sound logic in the former monarch’s suggestion that, “when we begin to set this example, the younger ones will understand that if they engage in drug abuse, they will certainly limit their opportunities of becoming leaders”.
Sanusi also hit the bull’s eye when he said, “The political establishment is the fundamental problem and the values on which our politics are established are values that have sunk into the rest of the society”.
It is an incontrovertible fact that bad governance is a forerunner of poverty and despondency that push our youths to seek refuge in drug abuse and other forms of anti-social behaviour and delinquency. However, the nation’s political gladiators and their ilk have the notoriety of transforming the army of unemployed youths into criminal elements with hard substances before and during electioneering campaigns.
Such victims of manipulation eventually get addicted to the substances even after they had accomplished the deadly assignments. It is usually difficult or impossible to wean them from the consumption because such practice has become their modus vivendi.
Besides the few locally produced varieties of dangerous drugs being used by Nigerian youths, most of the drugs openly and surreptitiously in circulation in the country are products of foreign countries, especially those in Asia. The quantum of financial wherewithal and the intricate network needed to fund their purchase and transportation across the continents or in the local circulation can obviously only be done by the wealthy and well-connected members of the society known as the elite.
The alarming increase in youths’ indulgence in drug abuse is a manifestation of institutional failure by the agencies charged with the statutory responsibilities of policing our borders or tracking down the barons and merchants who engage in the importation, distribution and sales of the killer substances.
The NDLEA which was established over three decades ago was intended to stem the ugly tide in Nigeria. But Nigeria still ranks among the leading consumers of hard drugs. With the coming of the agency, it was expected that Nigeria would enjoy a clean bill of health. However, many Nigerians, young and old, including housewives have now embraced all manner of illicit drugs as a way of life.
To succeed in his onerous task, Marwa needs to bring back the golden era of the agency when it was headed by the late Gen. Musa Bamaiyi. He was proactive and daring in battling the circulation of hard drugs within and outside the country. So effective was the NDLEA in those days that the fear of Bamaiyi was regarded as the beginning of wisdom in the circles of drug dealers. The introduction of a more severe punishment like death sentence as practised in no-nonsense countries like Thailand and Indonesia has been advocated in the past as a panacea to rein in the crime and the dangerous habit. However, this may still not be a popular option.
The NDLEA in collaboration with sister agencies like the Customs Service and Immigration should keep tabs on their operatives at the various entry points in the country to ensure that they do not compromise their positions. Drug dealers can part with any amount to secure their nefarious businesses.
Systemic corruption and lack of diligence on the part of these agencies, coupled with the tardy, dubious handling of drug-related cases by the judiciary have in no small measure also contributed to the frightening phenomenon of drug abuse in the country.
We wish Marwa and his team all the best in the herculean task ahead.