Tackling Illicit Drug Trafficking, Consumption

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NDLEA Chairman, retired Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah

Chinedu Eze

For many years Nigeria was used as “middle passage” for the trafficking of dangerous drugs such as cocaine, heroine and others. They were brought into the country and dispatched to other destinations, especially Europe, Middle East and other African countries.

Then local consumption of drugs was negligible. But this has changed in the last 10 years, as there is recorded progressive increase in the local use of all types of drugs, according to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

It was not only the high rate of drug consumption in Nigeria that is a challenge today, but drugs are imported as raw material for the production of other types of drugs.

For example, the Principle Staff Officer and spokesman of NDLEA, Jona Achema, said the agency recently dismantled a six-man methamphetamine syndicate that specialised in the illegal importation of ephedrine to run methamphetamine laboratory in Nigeria.

The agency said it has made many arrests of traffickers and also discovered some of the factories in Nigeria and in the last count the agency has discovered 16 Methamphetamine laboratories in the country.

“This brings to 16 the number of Methamphetamine laboratories so far discovered in Nigeria between 2011 and 2018. Methamphetamine is an emerging drug clandestinely produced in the country. It is a highly addictive substance that affects the central nervous system. It gives a false sense of well-being and energy. The continued use of the drug creates several negative effects and irreversible harm,” Achema said.

Recently government was able to appreciate the devastating effect of these drugs when the Presidential Advisory Committee on the elimination of drug abuse visited Katsina late last month. The committee was led by its Chairman, Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa (retd) who spent five days in the state to evaluate the effects of these drugs on the youths and other Nigerians.

THISDAY learnt that in the last three years, when the current NDLEA Chairman, Mr. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah, took over the leadership of the agency, the drug problem has increased greatly instead of reducing due to low morale of the agency personnel who complain of poor welfare and lack of promotion.

NDLEA said it is against this background that the federal government decided to scale up its response to the challenge as a national emergency.

It is in view of the above that the president constituted a two tier Presidential Intervention Structure on the Elimination of Drug Abuse, comprising a high level Ministerial Steering Committee, chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse and Trafficking chaired by Brig General Buba Marwa.

The committees were mandated to carry out massive advocacy tours and visits across the NDLEA formations in Nigeria in relation to three to four states in the six geo political zones in the country.

After seeing the devastating effect of drugs consumption of the citizens, Marwa tasked all the stakeholders in the state to pursue a policy that would benefit the general public especially the marginalised groups such as the women and almajiris.

At the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) alone, the agency recently announced that it recorded a total of 5,377.125 kilogramms of drugs impounded at the airport in 2018, representing over 400 percent increase.

Compared to 2017, the agency impounded drugs worth 1,266.400kilogramms from the same airport; however, the number quadrupled in 2018 as a result of the significant increase in the number of tramadol seized at the Lagos airport.

NDLEA said majority of the drugs were destined to Nigeria, South Africa, Indonesia, Congo DRC, India, Mozambique, Dubai and Soudi Arabia, amongst others.

The MMIA Commandant, Ahmadu Garba, said, “We were able to make this huge success in 2018 as a result of the cooperation by foreign airlines. Every year, we look at the airlines with the highest number of people that are arrested and liaise with them on how to address issue of drug trafficking.

“30.14percent of the suspected drug couriers arrested during the year were coming into Nigeria and the remaining 69.89percent were destined to different countries of the world with 13.70percent of them going to South Africa, which has the highest numbers.”

He explained that out of the total number of 5,377.125kilogramms seized by the agency, 5002.900 were tramadol, representing 93.04percent.

He said other drugs seized include cocaine, heroin, cannabis sativa, methamphetamine, ephedrine, psychotropic substance and dummy, adding that 25 people were convicted.

“Most of the drug deportees came from South Africa 30.00percent, Thailand 23.75percent, United States of America (USA) 12.50percent and Ethiopia 10percent,” Garba said.

However, he noted that drug couriers have continued to deploy new tactics in packaging the drugs to avoid suspicion by officials at the airport. Most of these drugs now fund their way into the country as local consumption has increased.