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NDLEA and the wicked merchants of death

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The renewed war against illicit drugs by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, under its chairman, Mohamed Buba Marwa, a retired Brigadier General paid off handsomely recently with the announced  single “highest cocaine seizure” in Nigeria’s history and the arrest of drug barons including a foreigner in an unprecedented operation across different locations in Lagos.

 

We totally commend the anti-narcotic agency for this exemplary feat and particularly the operatives who raided a major warehouse in the Ikorodu area of Lagos and recovered 1.8 tonnes (1,855 kilograms) of the illicit drug worth more than  $278, 250,000)  about N195 billion, the arrest of at least four drug barons, including a Jamaican, the warehouse manager and further challenge the personnel not to rest on their oars until the country is fully cleansed of the drug menace for the good of society.

 

According to reports, those apprehended during the drug haul and now awaiting prosecution are: Soji Jibril, 69, an indigene of Ibadan, Oyo state; Emmanuel Chukwu, 65, a native of Ekwulobia, Anambra state; Wasiu Akinade, 53, an indigene of Ibadan, Oyo state; Sunday Oguntelure, 53, who hails from Okitipupa, Ondo state; and Kelvin Smith, 42, from Kingston, Jamaica all of whom allegedly belonged to an international narcotics ring that NDLEA personnel had been investigating since 2018.

 

Besides, the warehouse, located at 6 Olukuola Crescent, Solebo Estate, Ikorodu, which was raided on Sunday, September 18; the barons apprehended from hotels and hideouts around Lagos in two days while the class A narcotics, according to preliminary findings, were hidden in the residential estate, from where the cartel had perfected plans to sell the cocaine to buyers in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world and perhaps peddle some quantity across Nigeria.

 

We strongly consider the recent arrest and drug burst which came on the heels of similar successes by the agency, as empirical evidence that the reforms put in place by the agency’s incumbent chairman and chief executive officer since coming on board last year are yielding fruits with over 18,940 arrests, 2, 904 convictions, and 3.6m kilograms of drugs seized between  January 2021 to July this year which exclude the latest haul. More  than 11,000 drug users were reportedly counselled and treated within the same period.

 

It is gratifying that not only the Ikorodu operation turned out to have been conducted clinically without any skirmish  but  devoid of any bloodshed which is a further testament to the silent evolution and implementation of the agency’s strategies  and overwhelming capabilities even as the statistics further reveal a successful trajectory of devastating blows inflicted on illicit drug traffickers and strong warning to international drug barons and cartels that Nigeria has become very unsafe for the illegal trade.

 

The breakthroughs are also testimonies that these criminals  stand to lose everything including their huge investments in the criminal venture to the anti-narcotics agency should they fail to abandon it and engage in other legitimate and productive businesses while those arrested also risk losing their freedom given the personnel’s renewed commitment to prosecuting the cases to logistical conclusions and ensuring their conviction in addition to forfeiting seized assets acquired with the proceeds of the crime to the Federal Government.

 

Consequently, we challenge the leadership and personnel of the NDLEA to intensify their current offensive against these wicked merchants of death until they wipe out the menace in the  country especially given the established fact that consumption of hard drugs has a very strong nexus with the worsening insecurity in the country which had claimed hundreds of innocent lives and left property worth billions of naira destroyed.

 

As a further demonstration of its unwavering battle against the illicit trade and not leaving any room to chance, top officials of NDLEA, other security agencies and members of the public had taken further step to supervise the burning of the multi billion naira worth heaps of the seized illicit drugs from the Ikorodu warehouse in Badagry. The  agency had similarly on the 4th of August, destroyed 560,068.31414 kilograms of seized assorted illicit drugs while the combined destruction had been recorded as the highest quantity of drugs ever burnt by the agency since its establishment.

 

But we want to emphasize that one of the major lessons that Nigerians should learn from the successive victories posted by the agency in the midst of current aggravated security challenges and socio-economic problems confronting the country is that progress can be attained in any endeavour once there abound a honest, courageous, selfless, focused and purposeful leadership, the type that Marwa had demonstrated since his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari  last year.

 

However before the current victories over evil, it is note worthy that the agency’s boss, who is also a former military administrator of Borno and Lagos state, had  upon assuming office, hit the ground running initiating mechanisms and proactive measures that included, the launching of National Drug Control Master Plan (NDCMP) 2021-2025 which incorporated several components that cater for the health concerns of drug abuse and the strengthening of the Agency’s Drug Demand Reduction Department.

 

The Drug Integrity Test which is predicated on getting help to drug users suffering in silence because they cannot seek the needed health treatment due to social stigma and discrimination which culminated in the unveiling the NDLEA Call Centre also received priority attention. A major  advantage of the  Centre manned by professionals and experts in counselling, psychotherapy, psychology, psychiatry and others, according to the agency  is that it  offers help to drug users among them those suffering from drug use disorder who are afraid of stigmatization to avail themselves of the toll-free lines to seek counseling round the clock and get  help without necessarily being seen or identified by anyone. even as the agency continues its drug supply reduction offensive,

 

The War Against Drug Abuse (WADA), which is an advocacy to by the agency to create awareness and encourage all Nigerians to be actively involved in the task of eradicating abuse of such hard drugs as heroin, cocaine, cannabis as well as psychotropic substances like benzodiazepines and amphetamine in order to save our teeming youth and make the country better has also been lauded. This is imperative considering that over 15 million Nigerians are believed to indulge in the consumption of illicit drugs. The worrisome trend mean that at least one out of seven citizens take hard substances which is an indication that  no community is exempted from drug abuse.

 

It is in the light of the above that we wish to commend the Federal Executive Council for approving the sum of N580.5 million for the purchase of four armoured personnel vehicles as part of measures to curb recent heightened attacks on personnel of the NDLEA following renewed offensive against drug cartels, barons and traffickers to kick the hydra-headed monster out of our society.

 

Beyond the approval, we deeply acknowledge the immense contributions from international partners such as the European Union, EU, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC American Drug Enforcement Administration (US-DEA), Nigerian military as well as President Muhammadu Buhari’s personal interest and motivation for the leadership and entire operatives of the anti-narcotics body which has served as the needed morale booster for the personnel who put their lives on the line daily in the war against drug trafficking and abuse.

 

In similar vein, his recent telephone call to Marwa from New York where he was attending the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 77), to appreciate the agency’s biggest ever drug haul speaks volumes of the tremendous attention given to the war against drug.

 

According to him, “I deeply appreciate the work that you (Marwa) have put into the eradication of the drug menace. It gladdens my heart as I continue to follow the successes achieved under your leadership. You have demonstrated over and again that choosing you to lead this fight against wicked merchants of death whose sole aim is to endanger and truncate the future of our youth is a very good choice. Please keep up the good work.”

 

Truly, available statistics are not friendly to drug barons, cartels and traffickers following the huge losses they have suffered as there is seldom a day that passes without the news that the agency has recorded significant seizure of illicit substances or made arrests of drug traffickers since Marwa’s  assumption of office which is a testament that Nigeria, unlike in the past, is gradually winning the war against drug abuse and trafficking.

This is we charge all citizens and international partners to scale up their moral and material support to NDLEA in its determination to rewriting the nation’s history to eradicate hard drugs.

 

 

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