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NDLEA proposes life jail for drug barons, politicians

…N100bn worth of drugs seized in 10 months

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has proposed a bill to the National Assembly, seeking a life jail term and stringent punitive measures for persons caught dealing in illicit drugs.

Buba Marwa, chairman, NDLEA stated this on Thursday at the weekly briefing organised by the Presidential Media Team, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja

Marwa also vowed to go after politicians involved in illicit drug use, especially among political thugs.

Speaking about the amendment of the NDLEA Act, to boost its operations, Marwa said the agency was seeking a minimum of 15 years, maximum of 25 years and life sentences for anyone caught in its net.

He revealed that so far, the agency has recovered over N100 billion worth of drugs from barons, adding that the amount has been remitted into the federation account.

According to him, between January 25, 2021 and date, more than 2.7 million kilograms of assorted illicit drugs have been seized.

Marwa also revealed that 1 in 7 Nigerians use illicit drugs in Nigeria, while 1 in 4 are female and 14.4 million Nigerians are currently under the influence of illicit drugs.

Read Also: NDLEA arrests 30 drug peddlers between May and June 2021

He pegged the number of drug-related offences filed in court at over 5000, involving 9,355 arrested traffickers, including six drug barons.

As at the last count, NDLEA has rehabilitated 5,579 drug users, with 20 percent of drug users seriously addicted.

Marwa listed the challenges facing the NDLEA to include absence of conducive accommodation like dedicated barracks for staff and their family, poor welfare scheme among others.

He said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has made efforts to compensate about 188 officers who were killed in the line of duty.

He disclosed that since his assumption of office, the agency has invigorated the process of amending the NDLEA Act, to provide a more robust legal framework to deal with current drug trafficking and abuse challenges.

“As a matter of necessity, we have also had to scale up our workforce by resuming the suspended 2019 recruitment and training of 5, 000 operatives, with more to join in the months ahead. Once the process is completed, the agency’s workforce will have doubled by 200 percent by mid-2022.

“It is also pertinent to know that there has also been a paradigm shift in our operational philosophy, as the NDLEA has made a transition to an intelligence-driven anti-narcotic organisation.

The NDLEA boss revealed that beyond the arrest of peddlers of illicit drugs who are at the lowest rungs of the trafficking ladder; the agency now go after the brains behind the syndicates with the objective of dismantling illicit drug organisations.

“The National Drug Use Survey of 2019 by UNODC gave a troubling portrait of drug abuse in Nigeria. With the country having a drug use prevalence of 14. 4, which is almost three times the global average, we can no longer live in denial that Nigeria has a thriving illicit drug culture. A strong response from the NDLEA was inexorable. Consequently, we responded with some measures.

He lamented that the war against drugs has not achieved its desired objectives, because it has been weak.

“As part of the broader operation, the agency also shifted gear in its tactics to aggressively pursue the brains behind drug trafficking networks using a combination of laws, (including the NDLEA Act, the Money Laundering Act and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, MLAT, an international legal tool) to target assets amassed through drug trafficking activities. In the long run, this will serve as a strong deterrence for drug pushers, kingpins and enablers, at home and abroad. And so far, NDLEA has scored big victories and have been making remarkable contributions to the Consolidated Account.

“War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) campaign which was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 26, 2021, is an advocacy campaign designed to win public support and elicit their involvement in the effort to rid society of the menace of illicit drug use and trafficking, but WADA is a part of the vehicle that facilitates the implementation of the National Drug Control Master Plan NDCMP 2021-25.

He noted that measures and reforms undertaken by the leadership of the agency, and the efforts and sacrifices being made by the employees are rewarded with results that are as significant as to shore up our belief that we are on track to fulfilling our mandate and also help to reinforce our resolution to prosecute the renewed war against illicit drugs to a logical conclusion.

“As of October 15, the agency has recorded the following: 9, 355 arrested traffickers, including six drug barons, Over 5,000 drug offences cases filed in court, over N100 billion worth of drugs and cash recovered, more than 2.7 million kilograms of assorted illicit drugs were seized in 10 months, 5,579 drug users were counseled and rehabilitated by NDLEA, a figure that gives a fair balance between our drug control and drug demand efforts.

“I have to at this point also highlight some of the spectacular seizures recorded by the agency since January 2021. These include, seizure of 230 tons of cannabis in Edo State in February and a recent seizure of over 100 tons of psychotropic substances in raids across the country in the past two weeks, seizure of 451, 807 Captagon tablets, weighing 71,119 kg in September at Apapa Seaport, Lagos. This was the first-ever recorded seizure of the drug in the West and Central African regions.

“Interception of 1,994, 400 capsules of Tramadol in February at the Apapa Port, another 144, 400 bottles of Codeine syrup in March and this October, 32.9 kg of Cocaine, which in street value is worth over N9 billion. As at this moment, our operatives are still searching the ship that brought in the illicit consignment, while we’re intensifying efforts to track those behind the shipment.

“Interception of 43.11 kg of cocaine in February at Tin Can Seaport and another 22, 590 kg of Codeine syrup at the Port in September, interception of 4, 996, 200 capsules of Tramadol, weighing 2,498 kg in May at the Onne Port and another interception of 100,000 (100ml) bottles of Codeine cough syrups weighing 15, 325kg at the same port in June, at the airports.

“We have recorded a series of interceptions and seizures of cocaine and heroin, but Murtala Mohammed International Airport remains the epicentre of the spectacular seizures, including what stands today as the biggest single seizure from an individual in 15 years, which is 26.840kg of cocaine smuggled from Brazil in January, 24.o5 kg of Heroin in April, 27.95 kg of Cocaine in May, and 26.15kg of Heroin in May.

Speaking on the ongoing battle against terrorism, Marwa confirmed that a good number of bandits and kidnappers caught were found to be heavy users of drugs after their hideout was ransacked by security operatives.

According to him, most of the victims of kidnapping also recounted how their captors engage in heavy smoking of cannabis or taking tramadol.

On suggestions that government should not also ignore the health and economic implications of using cannabis, the NDLEA chairman debunked such claims, insisting that no scientific proof had shown that cannabis had any healing effect.

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