“Nobody in his right senses will wake up today and say he wants to kidnap 300 children if he is not under the influence of drugs. Now, criminals use ransoms for drugs. Criminality in Nigeria is fueled by drugs. It’s the role of the NDLEA, to stop drug peddling, even though some of these crimes, are fueled by poverty and unemployment.”
– Gen. Buba Marwa, Chairman/CEO, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)
Drug trafficking and addiction to hard drugs are the twin evils that have long assumed the status of a clear and present danger, as a global phenomenon. According to Bayo Onanuga, the then editor of African Concord magazine, Nigeria, which was a mere transit point for drug shipment in the ‘70s up to the ‘ 80s, had transmitted into a consumption centre by May 1991. Said he: “Hard drugs meant for America and Europe now end up in street corners of our urban centres. And Nigerians, especially our youths are getting hooked. The psychiatric hospitals are getting filled up with deranged drug users. Promising youths are getting wasted” he lamented.
In fact, Giorgio Gracomalh, the then Director General of the United Nations Drugs Control Programme (UNDCP) was compelled to raise a similar alarm in January 1999. He stated that: “The problem has assumed such a global nature that all countries must join hands to deal with it”.
Back then it was estimated that international drug trade amounted to $400 billion, accounting for 8% of all international trade while some 140 million people worldwide were hooked on marijuana! Fast forward to 2021. According to Drug Statistics – Worldometer: “With estimates of $100 billion to $110 billion for heroin, $110 billion to $130 billion for cocaine, $75 billion for cannabis and $60 billion for synthetic drugs, the probable global figure for the total illicit drug industry would be approximately $360 billion”! You can read that again.
Narrowing it down to the Nigerian scary situation, a 2012 report by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) stated that Nigeria topped the list with the highest trafficking and drug use in West Africa. Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, emerged as the most active centre for air trafficking of cocaine.
Also, close to 50% of Africa’s drug couriers arrested in Europe in 2011 were citizens of Nigeria, even as the country topped the list of major transit routes of heroin destined for Europe. And in 2014 the agency arrested 8, 843 suspected drug offenders while the total quantity of drugs seized stood at 339, 968 kilograms.
In the light of the above-stated facts, it is understandable why the war against the trade and consumption of illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, tramadol and Indian hemp has to be a frontal one, here in Nigeria. According to the duo of Nwannennaya and Abiodun writing for the Journal of Political Sciences and Public Affairs 2021, “one of the actual threats to the nation’s and human security is the alarming rate of illicit drug trafficking (IDT)”. They also traced the influx of hard drugs to Nigeria’s porous borders.
Unfortunately, chronic use of hard drugs leads to both short- and long-term changes in the brain, which results in mental health issues, like paranoia, depression, anxiety, aggression, hallucinations. Battling it therefore, has informed the choice of highly experienced, determined and committed patriots to lead the frontal attack, rein in the rampaging monster, to bring it down to its begging knees. There comes in General Buba Marwa (rtd), the current Chairman, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA.
The former military governor of Lagos and Borno states, who earned the tag of the “action governor” by his astounding achievements while in office hit the ground running when he assumed office back in January, 2021. Said he: “Together, by the grace of God, we will resuscitate and reposition NDLEA to full active life, to be effective, respected and feared by concerned criminals. Nigeria is the only country we have, we cannot fold our arms. We can, will and must eliminate the drug scourge”.
Furthermore, he explained that his plan to overhaul the agency was in agreement with the recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA). Incidentally, he had worked as the chairman of PACEDA between 2018 and December 2020.
It is worthy of note that barely three months later, by mid-March 2021, Marwa disclosed before the House of Representatives Committee on Hard Drugs and Narcotics that his agency had intercepted and destroyed illicit drugs worth over N60billion within six weeks! But that was not all. Not long ago the agency seized 230 tons of drugs in Edo state. There was also the arrest of 2,175 drug traffickers and the seizure of 2,050,766.33 kilogrammes of assorted illicit drugs. Others include the filing o f about 2,000 drug cases in court with 329 convictions and 1,549 pending cases. The cash and drug seizures are valued at over N85 billion.
In fact, as he disclosed on his visit to the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, while for the whole of 2019, MMIA Command only recovered 34.109kgs of cocaine and 21.72kgs of heroine, with less than three months in office as the NDLEA chairman in 2021, the command seized 63. 217kgs of cocaine and 950kgs of heroine! The questions on the lips of many concerned Nigerians is, how did he do it?
The answers are not far-fetched. It all has to do with a leader who not only has a vision for his onerous national assignment but one who was adequately prepared for it. Said he: “When I took over NDLEA, I saw a handicapped agency. There were no training courses. The staff needed to be trained and upgraded, but there was no money to do that. The training institutions at the agency were dilapidated, and there was no equipment to fight drug barons in the country. In addition, all of our staff were owed either travelling, training or death benefits” as he told the House Committee on Drugs and Narcotics.
But as the wise ones say, “great leaders do not give excuses for failure. They find the reasons to succeed“. So, much like Lee Kuan Yew (of blessed memory), the first prime minister of Singapore who breathed life to a comatose country and likewise, Paul Kegame of Rwanda who has transformed it from the ashes of genocide to Africa’s technological hub, Marwa took up the gauntlet and is doing the needful. What leadership lessons can we glean from the steps taken so far?
Marwa knows that tackling drug trafficking would require the 7 C mantras of courage, character, commitment, confidence, charisma, capacity building and collective action. Knowing full well that he needed a crop of staff that are well motivated and understand the nitty-gritty of what it all entails, he met with them and gave his words of taking their welfare most seriously. And he matched wishful words with positive action. He offered both money and awards to ‘ginger’ them into action, against all odds! That is leadership for you.
Though NDLEA is doing its part, it cannot do it all alone. What Nigerians need to know is that victims of drug trafficking and addiction come from some homes, cutting across a wide spectrum of the social strata-both rich and poor. There is the urgent need for sustained mass public enlightenment even in the local languages. Governments and NGOSs have to reach out to students in secondary schools as and tertiary institutions to drive home the message of its curtailment.
It is gratifying therefore, to note that Marwa will be the Special Guest of Honour at the celebration of Ogidi Day New Yam Festival, 2021 in Kogi state where he will speak to the youths and parents on the dangers of illicit drug abuse, its nefarious trade and efforts NDLEA is making to stem the evil tide.
Kudos to Marwa and his able team at NDLEA.