From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has said the option of fine for drug pedlars and users in Nigeria was making nonsense of the war against the menace.
It advocated stringent punitive measures (a minimum of 15 years, maximum of 25 years and life sentences) for any Nigerian caught dealing in illicit drugs.
The agency Chairman, Buba Marwa, who said this, yesterday, during a ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential Communications team at the Presidential Villa, said the agency was proposing an amendment to its Act to the National Assembly, to curb the high prevalence of drug abuse in the country as well as serve as deterrent to perpetrators, which he said has attained an alarming rate.
While recalling a recent judgment in favour of the agency in which a drug dealer, his manager and three other workers on his cannabis farms were sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment by a Federal High Court in Benin, Edo State, Marwa regretted that judge gave the convicts who were in possession of 183.5 kilogrammes of cannabis sativa, charged with conspiracy and cultivation of 22 hectares of cannabis farms, an option of N700,000 fine on all counts.
The NDLEA boss disclosed that the agency has seized illicit drugs and cash worth over N100 billion which has been remitted into the federation account.
He said since January 25, 2021, more than 2.7 million kilogrammes of assorted illicit drugs have been seized.
Marwa also revealed that one in seven Nigerians use illicit drugs while one in four are female and 14.4 million Nigerians are currently under the influence of illicit drugs.
He further disclosed over 5,000 cases, involving 9,355 arrested traffickers, including six drug barons have been filed in court.
Marwa said so far, NDLEA has rehabilitated 5,579 drug users, with 20 percent of seriously addicted.
He listed the challenges facing the NDLEA to include absence of conducive accommodation like dedicatedbarracks 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.
The NDLEA chief while advocating for parents to test their prospective sons-in-law, for drugs before giving out their daughters in marriage like they would test to ensure they are HIV/AIDS free, reiterated that the agency will never support the legalisation of cannabis no matter its economic gains, disclosing that about 10.6 million Nigerians are currently using canabis.
Marwa also disclosed drug traffickers now consult diabolic powers for ‘lucky days’ to move drugs without detection but they still fall into the hands of the agency’s personnel who are now highly motivated to work.
He said he has signed various partnerships with local and foreign players to curtail the flow of illicit drugs and substances.
The NDLEA boss credited President Buhari as being the brain behind its recent successes in the war against illicit drugs and substances.
According to him, the political will and determination of the president has galvanised the officers and men of the agency to do more in serving their fatherland.
He said the Act establishing the agency is being reviewed and there are plans to recruit more personnel to enhance efficiency.
“To complete the overhaul process, we have 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.”