Drug law enforcement is like a show business. There must be a face and a battle cry. There must be a deliberate effort to rally the people for their support knowing the agency alone cannot fight and win the battle. The immediate past two administrations of the agency lacked these fine elements. Both were colourless and lacklustre, thereby inspiring no confidence. The period will go down in history as one of the darkest age of the agency.
I doubt if up to one thousand out of 200 million Nigerians will recognize the face of retired Col. Abdallah as NDLEA chairman despite his spending five years in the agency as Chairman. He lived like a recluse and to date I wonder what he was hiding and why? You just cannot successfully lead the drug war being faceless and without making the right noise from time to time. Drug law enforcement is like show business and anyone leading the fight must be ready to take off the mask and lead the battle cry for the society to follow.
The appointment of a new Chairman is a welcome relief. May I seize this opportunity to commend President Buhari on the appointment of Retired Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa as the new anti-drug czar. He made a wise decision, which couldn’t have come at a better opportune time than now when illicit drug use is at an epidemic level in Nigeria. To say that 15 million Nigerians are hooked on drugs is to under-estimate the problem. We currently have a drug problem larger in magnitude than the statistics being bandied. In addition to tarnishing Nigeria’s image as a nation, illicit drugs also have negative impact on its security, economy and well-being.
Marwa has the background and the right kind of experience to enable him to be an outstanding and exceptional anti -drug czar. He will not disappoint. In my capacity as the National President of the Network of NGOs on Drug Demand Reduction Programs in Nigeria (NNDDR), I congratulate him and pledge my unflinching support and that of all the NGOs specializing in drug demand reduction program in Nigeria.
While expectations are high, the new Chairman will face monumental challenges with a nation hooked on drugs. Before now, Nigeria was better described as a drug transit nation, but now it has become a consumer nation with its attendant threats to human and national security. Drugs are now sold in all nooks and crannies of the community and they come in various psychedelic names. He will be faced with a highly demoralized work force bogged by such issues as stagnation in rank, postings and unpaid emolument. There are also issues of training and retraining of officers to make them better, effective and more efficient.
He will also face complex challenges in terms of staffing. The number of officers policing drugs is significantly low compared to the size of the problem. Officers in the agency are still faced with accommodation problems and lack of operational vehicles. Many fine officers had been killed in active duty because the agency lacks adequate man power, operational vehicles, protective equipment, serviceable rifles, communication gadgets and proper training. Families of staffs who died in active duty are still being owed death benefits several years after the loss of their breadwinners.
Marwa will be faced with a disconnect between the agency and a less enthusiastic civil society. NGOs in the past were good partners with the agency. They helped in many ways to bring drug issues to the spotlight. Most of the NGOs are now disillusioned due to poor engagements by previous NDLEA administrations whose poor leadership style destroyed NGOs initiative. The ball is now in his court to reinvigorate the NDLEA/ NGOs partnership initiative.
Marwa will be faced with such issues as poor budgetary allocation and dwindling foreign aid. He will be disappointed by the paucity of funds available to execute the works that must be done. Unlike when he was a military officer, he will be faced with bureaucracy and the unfortunate politics of the drug war. Several of our politicians are drug lords and drug users. Once, the agency made futile attempts to extradite a sitting senator but failed. They will attempt to befriend him for the purpose of influencing their drug trade. Where they fail , they will resort to intimidation, arm twisting and harassment.
There are also the rising cases of security threats, which have made policing our borders difficult. The insurgents controlling pockets of lands in the North East are running drug trade in the region hence the prevalence of all kinds of psychotropic drugs in the North East. Insurgency, banditry , cultism, terrorism and violence cannot be divorced from the rising drug trade and drug use across the country. The insurgents and militias are not just hooked on mind controlling drugs, they are trading and profiteering on them. If the Marwa I encountered while he was the Military Administrator of Lagos State is the same creative mind, then he will most certainly rise up to the occasion by finding creative means of dealing with the several challenges he will face. As Military Administrator, he was involved in finding solution to Nigeria’s drug problems. As the new NDLEA chief, he will once again lead on the issue. The drug war needs a face and a firm voice. He must not be faceless and voiceless like his immediate two past predecessors.
I recall with nostalgia how Marwa as the Military Administrator of Lagos State did all he could to encourage our NGO, the Partnership for a Drug Free Nigeria. There was nothing that we asked for that he didn’t give including personally attending some of our events. He eventually earned the PDFN Platinum Award. The PDFN Platinum Award is the highest award bestowed on any individual by the Partnership for a Drug Free Nigeria. He remained the only recipient of the prestigious Award to date.
So far, our best anti-drug czars are those who have worn the uniform at some point. So, this gives Marwa a better appreciation of the military culture as an aspect of drug law enforcement. It also shows he will understand the importance of discipline and training for the officers of the agency. When a disciplined officer like Marwa leads he will inspire discipline, hope and confidence in the officers.
He has a sterling reputation as an officer and a gentleman, and is highly regarded by his contemporaries. You can tell a lot about a man and a leader by how he treats his people and by what those who worked with him have to say about him. I know quite a number of people who worked with him as the Military Administrator of Lagos State and they are all enthusiastic and excited by his recent appointment. They are enthusiastic because they know what his leadership of NDLEA will bring to the country.
At the peak of the June 12 crisis and agitation for democracy in Nigeria , he as the administrator of Lagos State conducted himself as one of our best minds in the use of civil affairs and psychological operations to counter and diffuse tensions.
Retired Gen. Marwa has come a long way from his birth in 1953 in Kaduna to his attending the Nigerian Military School Zaria and later Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna. He is a graduate of Pittsburgh University from where he obtained a Master’s Degree in International Relations and Public Administration, as well as another Master’s Degree from Havard University, both in USA. As a military officer, he held many leadership positions including serving as a Defence Attaché and Military Administrator for Borno and Lagos State respectively.
He is an effective leader and a humble man who inspires hope and confidence. He is the right person to head NDLEA at this time . I have no doubt in my mind that he will make an outstanding and exceptional chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).