By Cosmas Omegoh
The Federal Ministry of Information has agreed to partner with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in its sustained fight against illicit drugs in the country.
The Ministry of Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this said that his ministry would work with NDLEA to give maximum traction to its activities, especially in the area of advocacy.
Mohammed it was gathered expressed hope that the promise to collaborate with NDLEA would not only help in fighting the drug war, but also to sustain the gains the agency has made in recent times.
The NDLEA under the watch of the former military administrator of Lagos State, Brig.-Gen Buba Marwa, had recently seized large quantity of drugs, money, as well as obtaining various convictions of drug offenders in courts.
While on a recent advocacy visit to the minister’s office in Abuja, Marwa revealed that “despite our constraints, we have in less than three months in the saddle, been able to seize drugs and cash worth over N75 billion, with the arrest of 2,175 drug traffickers and the seizure of 2,050,766.33 kilogrammes of assorted illicit drugs, as well as the filing of about 2,000 drug cases in court with 329 convictions and 1,549 pending cases in court.”
Marwa expressed happiness that “the figures were less than what could have been on the streets destroying the lives of innocent youths, our women and men.”
He appealed to the minister for support in fighting the drug war, saying: “With the support of your office and those of your agencies, we’ll be able to save millions of Nigerians from being afflicted with the menace of drug abuse.”
Happy with Marwa’s efforts, Mohammed commended the General for his string of achievements, very impressive achievements, in the less than three months that he assumed office.
“These achievements,” he said, “I am reliably informed, include restoring the visibility of the NDLEA for local and international partnership; boosting the morale and confidence of staffers; attracting international support and ‘offensive action’ against drug cartels that has led to the arrest of 2,175 drug traffickers, seizure of 2,050,765.33 kilogrammes of illicit drugs as well as cash and drug seizures worth N75 billion.”
He noted that the war against illicit drugs and tackling drug trafficking is one of the most important tasks in the country today.
According to him, this is because drug trafficking, money laundering by traffickers and the use of illicit drugs are closely linked to the nation’s security, wellbeing of the citizens, the moral fabric of the society and even governance.
The minister acknowledged that it was common knowledge that drug money could be used to finance insurgency and terrorism, insisting that a successful fight against drug trafficking would, therefore, help to deny or reduce funding for insurgency.
“The kind of vicious banditry and kidnapping for ransom that our country has witnessed in recent times cannot be totally separated from illicit-drug use and their effects on users who take to crime.
“Drug trafficking proceeds are sometimes invested into legitimate businesses, making hard working and honest people look indolent,” he pointed out.
On the effect of drugs trafficking on the moral fabric of the society, the minister regretted that “this society rarely questions the source or sources of people’s wealth. That’s why drug traffickers end up becoming role models in the society, with devastating consequences for our young ones.”
He, therefore, said: “This is why I want to once against commend Gen. Marwa for raising the bar in the fight against drug cartels and the use of illicit drugs with the new maxim, ‘offensive action.’”
He recalled that his ministry had launched a number of national campaigns to help fight various societal ills.
“I will also encourage the NDLEA to work with the National Orientation Agency (NOA), which has set up integrity clubs in secondary schools nationwide, to reach the young ones with its campaign against drug use,” he advised.
While thanking the minister for hosting him and his NDLEA team, Marwa acknowledged the excellent work the minister and his agencies had been doing to promote the good work of the Federal Government and the country as a whole.
He also acknowledged the minister’s competence and versatility on issues of governance and information management, recalling that they have never been in doubt given his track records as the Chief of Staff in Lagos, and being the first person to occupy such office under Nigeria’s democratic setting.
He recalled his role as the then National Publicity Secretary of Action Congress of Nigeria and ultimately the All Progressives Congress, a party which for the first time defeated an incumbent government in a democratic election.
Marwa said that no doubt, the minister’s current role is central to all key activities of government and the agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, especially with key information dissemination media outlets like the NTA, NAN, FRCN, VON and more under his supervision.
He recalled that Nigeria is faced with a major drug crisis which is in no small way fuelling most of the security challenges being faced in the Northeast, Northwest, North-central zones and indeed across the country.
To buttress his claim, he revealed that “recently, through intelligence-based operations, we were able to arrest some drug traffickers: one a Nigerien, and another a Chadian in Niger and Taraba states respectively, who supplied illicit drugs to insurgents and bandits
“As much as we’re disrupting their drug supply chain through law enforcement,” he said, adding that “we also need to work hard on our drug-demand reduction through advocacy programmes, which are mostly publicity driven.”
He said it was on that basis that “this visit, therefore, is to leverage on the Hon. minister’s position to drive our advocacy programmes at little or no cost because it’s an open secret that NDLEA has over the years been left behind in terms of funding among other law enforcement agencies including those established years after us.”