The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.). has described Nigeria’s drug war as deadlier than the fight against insurgency and banditry and other threats to the stability of the country.
Buhari said this on Saturday while launching the War Against Drug Abuse initiative by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in commemoration of the United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking themed, “Share Facts on Drugs. Save Lives.”
As the Special Guest of Honour at the launch, the President urged the NDLEA to exert more effort to clear out criminal elements habiting the vast forests of the South-South and South-West; from where they plan and execute their criminal attacks and also grow marijuana.
Buhari was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.
He said, “I am directing the NDLEA to develop a robust risk-communication and community engagement strategy that will not only disseminate the four pillars of the plan to responsible entities but also deal with destroying production sites and laboratories, break the supply chain, discourage drug use and prosecute offenders as well as traffickers, rehabilitate addicts and enforcement of relevant laws.
“I want to particularly draw the attention of the agency to the fact that the use of many of our forests as criminal hideouts is because large swathes of cannabis plantations are hidden deep within those forests, especially in the South-West and the South-South.
“You may, therefore, need to drive these criminal elements from such hideouts because they use it for the growth of these plants and also as a repository for criminal elements to conclude and plan their adventures on our people.
“On this United Nations anti-drug day, I call on all families, schools, civil society organisations, professional associations, religious organisations, the academia, community leaders and individuals to work for the common good to rid their communities of drug use and trafficking.
In his remarks, Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa, said over N90bn worth of cash and drugs have been seized since he assumed office 5 m0nths ago.
Marwa revealed that more than 2,180 traffickers have been arrested, including five drug lords governing different cartels across the country
He added that the agency has intercepted and seized a whopping 2.05 million kilograms of drugs across the country, and 2,100 drug offenders prosecuted with 500 jailed by courts.
The NDLEA Boss said “While the statistics are impressive, we wouldn’t deceive ourselves that we have succeeded in cleaning the Aegean stable in five months.
Marwa broke the disturbing statistics that Nigeria currently ranks the highest in users of cannabis globally, adding that confessions of kidnapped victims who later regained freedom have shown that illicit substances are a prime enabler of the spate of insecurity troubling the country.
He said, “It is not difficult to conclude that drugs have been catalysts of terrorism, kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery and various violent conflicts that are currently Nigeria’s albatross.
“The enormity of the danger of drug abuse calls for an urgent need to nip the problem in the bud. This is the reason we have redoubled our efforts in the past five months with the Maxim of Offensive Action.”
“So, it wasn’t surprising when research began to give us bleak statistics. The National Drug Survey 2019, for example, indicated that cannabis is the most commonly abused substance by an estimated 10.6 million Nigerians, some of whom started smoking as early as 19 years of age.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was represented by the Chairman, House Committee on Drugs and Narcotics, Francis Agwu, urged the President to okay the employment of 10,000 personnel for the NDLEA which he lamented was currently “understaffed”, “underfunded” and “ill-equipped”.
Senate President Ahmed Lawan, who was also represented by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Narcotics Drugs, Senator Ezekiah Dimka, emphasized the need for individual and collective participation to fight drug abuse.
Also speaking at the event, The United Nations General Assembly, Antonio Guterres, lamented that the world drug problem remains an urgent challenge that threatens to exacerbate damage impact and to hinder a healthy recovery.
Guterres was represented by the Country Representative, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Oliver Stolpe, who charged law enforcement agents to hunt the criminals at the upper level of the drug trafficking chain who reap the highest profit and wreak the greatest havoc.