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Nigeria’s Drug Crisis Hits N500b Worth Of Seizures Yearly

The Guardian checks revealed that while the local drug scene is becoming more aggressive and expansionist in grabbing new markets, the international drugs cartels are arming their local agents with ever changing distribution patterns and with increasing skill in concealment and in handling the money from their sales.

However, many Nigerians, who have been following the trend, believed that with the weekly publication of arrests and seizures of substances running into several billions of dollars by the agency, it is rather worrisome that the figure is not coming down. Is it that the agency is not winning the war or that more and more Nigerians are braving the odd to peddle drugs?

But an anti-illicit drug advocate and national coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, thinks otherwise.
According to Onwubiko, “NDLEA under General Marwa has attained global acclaim and generally bothered the international community and the good people of Nigeria have acknowledged that the current leadership of NDLEA is about the best in the history of NDLEA.

“Setting up rehabilitation centres, call centres all across Nigeria is key to finding a lasting solution to the unprecedented rate of addictions to drugs by a lot of Nigerians. There has to be a synergy as it were between the NDLEA and other sister agencies like NAFDAC and the private sector to create an enabling environment for the massive setting up of rehab centres that wouldn’t cost families of the addicts so much in the care and rehabilitation of addicts. Schools, religious places of worship, patriots, and media should all provide support to NDLEA because the campaign to minimise addictions is a collection of time tasks.

“Because of profitability. Usually, prohibited businesses are very profitable because there is no perfect competition since only the brave get involved in the business. Hard drugs intake cut across all statuses and classifications.

“Hard drugs are items that fascinate the rich, the poor and the not so rich and so the turnover is very high. Secondly, in the past, NDLEA was not administered professionally like we see it now under the current dispensation, and so due to the existence of many loose ends at the levels of enforcement mechanisms of the law against the crime of hard drugs, you then find that Nigerians, who embraced the criminal enterprise are not giving up. “

Also, Founder/ Executive Director Global Initiative on Substance Abuse (GISA), Dr. Martin Agwogie, said there are two sides to it, the good and the bad side.

According to him, the good side is that such quantities of drugs or substances, which would have been consumed by citizens of Nigeria, have been removed from circulation.

“That is good news. On the other side, it means that people are still profiteering from the illicit drug trade, which means there are still many illicit drugs in circulation.

“It is not about whether NDLEA is winning the war or not but whether Nigeria is winning the fight against drug abuse and illicit trafficking or not. Yes, NDLEA is the lead agency for drug control in Nigeria but it is the responsibility of everyone. Therefore, the question to ask is, are we winning the drug control efforts in our families, in our communities and neighbourhoods?

“The answer to this question will tell you whether or not Nigeria is making progress in her drug control efforts. There is the need to invest more in prevention. When I say prevention, I mean evidence-based prevention beyond sensitisation and one off activities. Until we begin to focus more attention on addressing the risk factors for drug use, the burden will continue to steer at us as a nation.

“Traffickers are not giving up because it is a lucrative business to them, there are ready markets for their supplies. It is a matter of demand and supply. Also, because of some inherent weaknesses in our criminal justice system, some drug traffickers get away with their criminal activities without commensurate penalties. This also emboldened the drug traffickers. However, these should not be a justification for people to be involved in illicit drug dealings because not everyone will get away with it.

“Moreover, everyone suffers, directly or indirectly, from the consequences of drug abuse in the society, including the dealers or traffickers. Some have advocated for stiffer penalties for illicit drug dealings as a solution. Beyond that, we cannot arrest and prosecute our ways out of the drug scourge without complementary strategies. That is the reason we must invest more in the area of prevention. Where the demand is low, it will reduce the margin of profit thereby discouraging the illicit drug trade.”

Meanwhile, Marwa has called for an amendment of the Agency’s Act to further boost the country’s fight against substance abuse, and illicit drug trafficking.

Marwa, who stated this at the NDLEA Special Purpose Committee conference (SPC) in Abuja, disclosed that some of the details of the new bill, which is in its final stage of being passed, will strengthen the hand of the Agency and discourage trafficking of illicit substances because of the stringent punitive measures stipulated for drug offences.

While appreciating the SPC members, who are experts in relevant fields that constitute an advisory group to support the work of the Agency across the country for their contributions to the achievements of NDLEA under his leadership, Marwa said the time is now for well-spirited Nigerians to join the fight against the drug scourge, which though may not be in every family, but affects every community.

He said: “Let me state from the onset that contrary to a recent report that the drug abuse problem is in every household in Nigeria, I’ll like to correct that misrepresentation and state that there are indeed families not afflicted by this menace.

“However, that we can’t say of the communities. It is almost certain that every community has this problem. That said, I would like to assure that the NDLEA Act is presently in its final stage of its amendment at the National Assembly. It’s a private bill sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Drugs and Narcotics, Senator Hezekiah Dimka and it will among other things remove the option of fine in the sentencing of offenders as well as make punishments for drug offences more stringent.”

Marwa added that President Muhammadu Buhari understands the drug problem very well and has as part of his continuous support approved the recruitment of additional 5,000 officers and men to further strengthen the Agency.

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