Brig-General Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), has been in the news recently for good reasons. The anti-narcotics agency under his able watch has made giant strides in waging a relentless war against drug traffickers and even apprehending their barons and their collaborators in some of the security agencies. The recent seizure of 1.8 tons (1,855kilogrammes) of cocaine estimated to worth over $278,250,000 or N194,775,000,000 by the agency in Lagos, regarded as the biggest drug haul in the history of the country and that of the 32-year-old anti-drug agency, has further ingrained Marwa in the national and people’s consciousness. I shall return to the drug seizure matter and other sterling achievements of the agency under him later in the article.
Despite the poor rating of some people in public service due to corruption and nepotism, Nigerians are ever willing to acknowledge and laud those who demonstrated the passion and willingness to do any assignment at any given moment. Marwa happens to be among those patriots who attend national duties with high sense of responsibility and accountability. Marwa’s work ethics is not a child of today, it is even as old as the man himself. Marwa hugged the headlines and came into national consciousness as a military administrator of both Borno and Lagos states during the heydays of military rule in the country. As a fine gentleman officer, he combined military discipline and his personal charisma in everything he does. As a student of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), I was a witness to Marwa’s extra-ordinary leadership qualities in Borno State and much later in Lagos State as a journalist. In Borno State, his tenure led to great transformation of the North-East state. Beyond his numerous achievements in the state, which I cannot bore you with in this article for lack of space, the state under his watch witnessed even development and an atmosphere of peaceful co-existence among the diverse people and the residents. His administration equally did a lot to improve the healthcare delivery system, education and agriculture sectors in the state. Apart from creating the ministry of water resources, he used direct labour to construct many roads in the state as well as the completion of the Maiduguri International Hotel. During the Major Gideon Orka violent military coup of 1990, Marwa in a statewide broadcast urged all citizens and residents to go about their normal duties, saying that the event in Lagos was a purely military affair. I heard the good news in a friend’s house very close to Monday Market on that fateful and fearful day I will not forget in my life. Marwa followed it up with dispatching soldiers and other security agents to critical areas and institutions, including UNIMAID, to ensure law and order and stave off attacks on residents, especially other Nigerians who are not from the state or non-indigenes. His urgent intervention saved the day and annihilated fears of possible attacks.
I also happened to be a witness to Marwa’s miracles in Lagos State as a resident and as a journalist on the crime beat or simply put a crime reporter. It will be recalled that Marwa came to Lagos at a time many Lagosians cannot literally sleep with both eyes closed. They would be half- asleep and half-awake because of the menacing criminals. He inaugurated a crime fighting unit code named, Operation Sweep, made up of police and military personnel. The members of this unit as the name suggested actually swept criminals out of Lagos and effectively reduced the state’s rising crime rate. Marwa revamped the health sector and introduced free malaria treatment for all Lagosians. He opened up many parts of Lagos with massive road infrastructure and development in other sectors which endeared him to many Lagosians and other Nigerians as well. His introduction of tricycles to boost rural transportation, which is now a feature of both urban and rural transportation in all parts of the country, earned him many accolades. The tricycles became known as Keke Marwa. Some streets and housing estates were also named after him in recognition of his good works in the state. In addition, Marwa successfully implemented “Operation 250 Roads,” a programme that improved transportation system in the state.
When he was appointed the Chairman of NDLEA in 2021 by President Muhammadu Buhari, many Nigerians were elated because he was eminently qualified for the job. They also believed that he would do the job very well. Since being in the saddle, Marwa has not disappointed anyone. He has proved that he is a round peg in a round hole. There is no doubt that in Marwa, President Buhari made a good choice. Marwa has proved him right. That can explain why the president lauded him so highly over the recent Lagos drug bust. “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.” Receiving such an endorsement from no less a person than the president of one’s country is no mean achievement. Marwa deserves this encomium and others that may come his way. Marwa is worthy of celebration for his exploits so far in the drug war. He is tackling the illicit drug trafficking with military precision and in consonance with the laws establishing the agency. Although he met an agency that cannot be said to be ready and willing to smoke out the drug traffickers, but he has through the support of the presidency, the legislature, the judiciary and international partners put the agency on the path of giving the drug traffickers a bloody nose as well as no place to hide any more. And in less than 20 months, the rejuvenated NDLEA has seized about 3.6million kilogrammes of illicit drugs, made not less than 19,000 arrests, convicted over 3,000 persons and counselled and rehabilitated 12,326 persons. Since Nigeria has become a major hub of global drug trafficking on account of rising unemployment, the quest for quick money and the failing moral values, the agency needs more institutional support to remain focused to its lofty vision. There is urgent need for stringent legislations against the illicit but booming drug trade. The sanctions must be deterrent enough to prevent others from taking to the obnoxious trade. In a society that people worship money, more sensitization workshops, seminars in schools, communities and worship centres can be used to inform Nigerians about the dangers of the drug business. Creating jobs and lifting many Nigerians out of poverty can also strengthen the anti-drug war as well as bringing to the classrooms over 20 million Nigerian children who are outside the school system.
With Nigeria’s exceptional high prevalence of drug use, put at 14 percent, the drug war must be intensified in all fronts using multi-sectoral approaches. And since there is a direct linkage between drug taking and crime, government must map out workable measures to create more jobs and engage the youth, whose future is markedly threatened by abuse of illicit drugs and other harmful substances. While saying well-done to Marwa for his achievements so far, it is still more work and more work.