Workers of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) may be having a very bad time right now.
In the last six months, the workers had written several petitions to President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing the Chairman and CEO of the agency, retired Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah of neglecting the plights of the workers.
But investigations by THISDAY have revealed that most of what the workers are accusing the present management of preceded it and had been there for years. Prior to Abdallahâ€™s assumption of office, the agency has been complaining about poor federal allocation, which it receives from government, and this has not improved over the years.
Spokesman of the agency, Jona Achema expressed similar views when he spoke with THISDAY. He explained that the new management has neither recruited nor reappointed senior staff of the organisation but has continued to work with what it inherited from the predecessor.
THISDAY investigations also confirmed that majority of the workers are demoralised and therefore cannot be committed to their jobs and because the workers complain of poor welfare, they could easily be used as conduit for drug trafficking, as they would be unable to resists the money the traffickers would dangle before them.
Now that drug use has become common in all parts of the country, with investigations showing that it is damaging the minds of the youths, there is no greater time that the country needs the efforts of NDLEA than now to curb the menace of illicit drugs, which destroying a section of the society.
The workers said under the current management, statistics of arrests and seizures have drastically gone down. They alleged that there is serious pressure already as NDLEA facility across the country cannot accommodate the large number of drug dependent persons needing rehabilitation.
According to the World Drug Report 2013, Nigeria is an important player in the global criminal drug business. There is evidence of a vibrant cannabis cultivation business which appears to be fueling a youthful domestic market and a possible export market with profit being assimilated unnoticed into the Nigerian economy.
NDLEA also acknowledged that there is evidence of cocaine trafficking to the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe and heroin to the United States, but Nigeria is used as routes of passage since neither coca plant nor opium poppy is cultivated domestically.
Recently, a group of NDLEA workers petitioned President Buhari and pleaded with him to save the agency from decadence. They said his intervention would save the country from the â€œtragic woes of irredeemable drug abuse and trafficking.â€
In the petition signed by the Deputy Superintendent for Narcotics, Musa Ahmed Yusuf on behalf of NDLEA officers, the workers alleged that the Abdallah led management, diverted over N528 million from the monthly allocation of the agency through inappropriate foreign travels that did not add any value to NDLEA.
The workers also complained bitterly about their poor emoluments and said compared to other parastatals, NDLEAâ€™s salary structure is the lowest in comparison with sister agencies. According to them, many of the workers allowances, including medicals are not paid and that the workers work in deplorable offices and there is no provision made to provide for the families of the officers who lost their lives in active service.
â€œThe greatest disservice to any workforce is lack of promotion. NDLEA today is a house of indiscipline as irregular promotion exercise coupled with the questionable special promotion has made junior officers senior to their superiors. Most officers have been stagnated in one rank for over 10 years without any justifiable reason. Officers that were due for promotion in 2009 were made to write promotion examination in 2013 and the promotion released in 2014,â€ the petition said.
The petition noted that the officers who have been cheated by the system have become helpless, especially those with a few years more in service.
They noted that under the current administration over 60 officers have died in a short space of two years â€œout of frustration and extreme despair.â€
â€œNDLEA has witnessed a high rate of voluntary retirement by officers under Abdallah’s dictatorship. Officers are deeply frustrated with his leadership over lack of promotion, poor welfare package, and horrible working conditions,â€ the workers alleged.
The workers also beamed light on corruption in the agency and alleged that under the current administration, corruption has exacerbated due to poor welfare of workers and the failure of the management to provide money for the officers to run their commands.
â€œCommanders are left without money to run the commands. They cannot protest because such moves are interpreted as mutiny. Almost all the state command offices across the country are in dire need of repairs,â€ the workers said.
The petition also noted that this period may be the best for drug traffickers because there is laxity in the anti-drug fight due to low morale of the workers of the agency.
â€œIn the history of the NDLEA, drug barons have not had a better time than now. In fact, they are having a field day producing and selling drugs to the detriment of the country. This nonchalant attitude towards bringing drug barons to book is gradually affecting the cordial working relationship between the agency and international collaborators like the United States Government, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Unlike in the past, these collaborators were conspicuously missing at the 2017 World Drug Day commemoration in Abuja.
But the NDLEA spokesman debunked all these allegations and explained that the dilapidated facilities of the agency are capital projects beyond the ability of the management to address.
â€œThe leaking and dilapidated roofs of the Agency’s buildings are capital project issues, some of which were captured in the 2015 capital budget. All renovations captured in the 2015 budget that were awarded were executed fully. However, no further budgetary provisions for office renovations were provided in both 2016 and 2017. The capital budget so far released for 2017 is only N16 Million, which cannot execute the listed projects captured in the 2017 budget,â€ he said.