By Kemi Yesufu
Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA),Gen. Muhammad Buba Marwa (retd) has traced the dangerous spike in violent crimes in the country to the significant increase in the abuse of hard drugs.
Speaking at an advocacy meeting with the House of Representatives Committee on Narcotics Drugs, Marwa said many families and communities have been negatively affected by the drug abuse scourge.
Citing a survey led by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Center for Research and Information on Substance Abuse with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which indicates that 14.3 million reported the use of psychoactive drug substances he stressed the need for preventing more people from being introduced to drug use.
“The problem of drug abuse can be found everywhere. Every community has its problems in regard to drug abuse. Here is a problem that is creating so much distress and disturbance. More importantly the abuse of drugs is fueling the criminality going on. Every day, when you open the paper or switch on the TV, you will see one form of criminality or the other.
“Nobody in his right sense will wake up and say, ‘today I want to kidnap 300 school children’, unless he is under the influence of hard drugs”.
The recently appointed NDLEA helmsman said that the agency had seized N16 billion worth of hard drugs in six weeks of his leading the agency. However, he called for the support of the committee to reposition the agency, as it was confronting a mirage of problems which impede its efficiency and effectiveness.
Marwa told the committee that NDLEA is under-staffed even as its personnel need to be trained regularly. Other challenges include outdated equipment, lack of equipment to aid intelligence gathering and modern arms for confronting drug barons, who often are armed and ready to square-up to NDLEA officers.
In his response, chairman of the committee, Rep Francis Attah-Agbo concurred that Nigeria must properly deal with the production and abuse of narcotic drugs to witness a drastic drop in the cases of violent crimes. He reiterated the commitment of the committee to helping NDLEA become a modern institution which has all what it takes to fight drug abuse.
Attah- Agbo said the committee will build on its earlier interventions targeted at ending perennial problems the agency has struggled with.
He disclosed that the House had passed for second reading a bill to amend the Police Trust Fund to the Policing Trust Fund in order for the NDLEA to have guaranteed funding for its operations.
He said: “Let me say that we quite appreciate the problems confronting the NDLEA. We know that the NDLEA is under-staffed, poorly funded and poorly equipped. It was against this background that when we came on board as members of the 9th assembly and members of this committee, we met and agreed that it is not acceptable for the NDLEA not to have a national headquarters or transit house.
“We therefore sat with the then NDLEA chairman for a pre-budget meeting and in the 2020 budget we approved money for the transit house, that problem was solved. We also approved money for the construction or purchase of the NDLEA headquarters.
“Having realised that even with the interventions by the committee, the other many problems of the NDLEA were far from being solved, we advised that part of the money allocated for the purchase of the agency’s headquarters be channeled for the purchase of arms and ammunition and other working aids”.