The menace of drug abuse and trafficking present a grave danger to the nation. There is a nexus between drug trafficking on one hand and organised crimes such as terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering.
It has been a major dent on the nation’s image.
Unfortunately, Nigeria is afflicted by all of them and can ill afford a further slide into drug trafficking.
Fortunately the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) under the leadership of retired Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa has made efforts to rid the country of narcotics through seizures, arrests, and securing convictions.
NDLEA said that between January 2021 and September 2022 it has seized several luxury cars, mansions, and frozen no fewer than 600 bank accounts with links to drug traffickers.
Also seized were N420 billion worth of illicit drugs, proceeds of crime within the 21-month period.
Marwa while defending the agency’s 2023 budget before the House of Representatives said the syndicates were going after officers of the agency with some of them already killed or injured.
Marwa said that drug barons were killing the agency’s operatives in vengeance following sustained onslaught against their operations, adding that the attacks had not deterred his agency from pursuing its mandates.
“In 2022 the agency made history by recording the largest seizure ever of pure cocaine weighing over 2.1 metric tonnes, which is worth $315 million or over N230 billion.
“We have received a court order and have already destroyed it. This was a unique operation because we arrested five barons located in different parts of Lagos who were involved.
“So far we have arrested and are prosecuting 28 barons with seizures worth billions of naira. One of the barons had 103 bank accounts with a balance of over N20 billion which we have frozen,” he said.
Experts say that Nigeria is fast transiting from being a minor transit point in the transnational illicit drugs trade to a major hub. This is a threat to national security.
In its 2022 World Drug Report, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said approximately 284 million people aged 15 and 64 years used drugs worldwide in 2020, a 26 per cent increase over the previous decade.
UNODC said drug use prevalence in Nigeria in the 21-month period stood at 14.4 per cent, while prevalence stands around 15 per cent, almost three times higher than the global average.
It also stated that among every four drug users in Nigeria, one is a woman, although previously perceived as an urban problem drug abuse now thrives in the nation’s rural areas.
The Federal Government has recognised drug trafficking as a threat to the nation’s stability and cohesion and has promised to decisively deal with the situation.
Speaking in Abuja while inaugurating the War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) in 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari identified drug trafficking and abuse as more threatening to the stability of the nation than banditry and insurgency.
Buhari was represented at the event by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha.
“It is more deadly than even the security challenges that we are having in this country. I believe strongly that every effort must be put in place to ensure that we deal with the issues of substance abuse, trafficking and manufacture.
“This is necessary so that we can get to the root cause of the mirage of insecurity problems that are confronting this nation.
“I believe strongly, with every bit of conviction, that if we are able to deal with the issues of drug abuse, substantially, our security challenges will drastically reduce as we walk towards a drug free, Nigeria”, Buhari said.
Echoing Buhari’s optimism is his vice, Yomi Osinbajo who, while admitting the enormity of the challenge posed to national security by drug trafficking, assured that the federal government was equal to the task of taming the monster.
He spoke during that 2022 United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking which had as its theme: “Addressing Drug Challenges in Health and Humanitarian Crises.”
He said that young people, usually the most vulnerable to drug abuse, also form the majority of armed combatants in conflict areas, and terrorism in the country
The Vice-President sounded upbeat saying: “We are winning this war. The days of the scourge of drug abuse and dependency are clearly numbered”.
This, he said, would be achieved through greater investment in counter drug abuse and trafficking mechanisms.
The path to combating drug trafficking in the world is laced with challenges and Nigeria is no exception. This is because drug syndicates are rich and their operations are well funded and sophisticated.
These syndicates can be brutal and go to any length, including bribing, killing and blackmail to conduct their illicit transactions.
A UN report says General-Secretary, Antonio Guterres, attests to the fact that drug trafficking and use remain a major challenge to the international community.
It quoted him as saying that drug trafficking and organised crime fuel and perpetuate circles of violence and conflicts, including armed groups and terrorism.
The President, Vanguard Against Drug Abuse (VGADA) Hope Omeiza said solving the problem required the efforts of every stakeholder which will inspire relevant policies and mobilisation of human and material resources.
“There is the need to formulate a more robust anti-money laundering laws and combating the financing of terrorism framework.
“Cyber security is increasingly becoming a global challenge with terrorists and drug traffickers are utilsing new methods of communication and operations, thereby threatening national security.
“There is need to engage political, religious and opinion leaders in vulnerable communities, as a proactive strategy to deny terrorists from radicalizing youths by enticing them with drugs and drug money,” he said.