Sowore Thinks Nigeria Can Do Better

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Omoyele Sowore

Akeredolu is not the only Nigerian who sees potential in Indian hemp production. During the last general election campaigns in Nigeria, Omoyele Sowore, the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), strongly believes Nigeria can do better with cannabis. At least, he once vowed that Nigeria would export marijuana if he was elected president of the country. He said people are making billions from cannabis while Nigeria is lagging behind.

“We have to start taking care of our weed (cannabis), such that we can also contribute to the GDP of the world,” he said. Sowore claims that Nigeria has the best weeds (types of cannabis) in the world and that they are grown in Ekiti State.

“I’m very serious,” he says. “People are making billions out of that particular plant that is very potent in Nigeria. We should be focusing on it,” he stated.

“Our NDLEA should get the notice, memo in advance that Nigeria will be exporting weed to cure cancer in other parts of the world. Instead of chasing after people who are growing weed (cannabis) whereas we are not chasing after our politicians who are smoking cocaine in their houses.” But Abdallah is not buying any of that, saying: “The NDLEA under my leadership has been consistent in our opposition to legalisation and decriminalisation of cannabis. “For example, ‘Operation Thunderstorm’ undertaken by the Ondo State Command of the NDLEA destroyed 3,900.73 hectares of cannabis sativa planted in forest reserves.”

Many cannabis farmers who spoke with THISDAY think Abdallah is lying through his teeth. “Ask him and his boys why they haven’t prosecuted any of us? Ask them to show you all the cannabis they’ve claimed to seize before burning?” one of the farmers says. “You can quote me: NDLEA agents collude with big-time cannabis farmers. They don’t collect bribes. They get many bags of cannabis as kickbacks. They sell them outside the borders of Nigeria.” But the agency’s Head of Public Affairs, Jonah Achema, said the opposite.
“Who said we don’t prosecute cannabis farmers? We do. We have zero tolerance for illicit drugs and the highest number of people we have arrested so far are those who cultivate cannabis and those who deal in cannabis,” Achema says. Though he did not provide a figure of the number of cannabis farmers prosecuted in Nigeria, he directed attention to the NDLEA’s website.
“The statistics are there on our website – go and check it,” he advises.

After a repeated search of the website, no record was found regarding the number of cannabis farmers arrested, prosecuted or undergoing prosecution. Yet, according to the Nigerian Hemp Act, “In this Act “Indian hemp” means any plant or part of a plant of the genus cannabis… Any person who knowingly plants or cultivates any plant of the genus cannabis shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to be sentenced either to death or to imprisonment for a term of not less than twenty-one years.” The legislation also states that any person who exports any Indian hemp “shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than twenty-one years”.

Kayode Ajulo, an Abuja-based lawyer and former National Secretary of the Labour Party (LP), observed that under the NDLEA Act, which came about by the promulgation of Decree Number 48 of 1989, the possession or smoking of cannabis, or even allowing one’s premises to be used for dealing in cannabis, can result in a prison sentence from 15 years to life. “A careful perusal of the NDLEA Act will reveal that there was no mention of the legal use of narcotics. What could appear to seem as a provision for legal use is provided for under Section 3 of the NDLEA Act,” he notes. That section provides that NDLEA shall have responsibility for facilitating “rapid exchange of scientific and technical information and the conduct of research” geared towards eradication of illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

It is based on that provision that the NDLEA gave a letter of “No Objection” to Medis Oil Company Limited and two others to import seeds of industrial cannabis for research purposes.

“Similarly, Under Article 3 paragraph 5 of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to which Nigeria is a signatory to, it is envisaged that as a result of research, a drug may be deleted from schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention,” explains Ajulo, “if researches reveal its therapeutic advantages.” Considering the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria, Ajulo believes that legalising cannabis will provide job opportunities for many Nigerian youths – that is already happening in Ondo, Osun, Ekiti, and Oyo. “It is succinct to point out that the war on drugs is often far costlier than the drugs themselves,” he adds. “Thus if the money pumped against the use of drugs could be redirected in cultivating marijuana for economic use, there will be a great boost in the economy of the country.”

At this point, he thinks the National Assembly should be lobbied to amend the provisions of the NDLEA Act and other relevant laws in order to make room for the legal production, manufacturing, sale, and use of cannabis in Nigeria, which, in turn, will boost the economy of the nation as a whole. “The NDLEA should also enforce the provisions of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs,” Ajulo argues, “and allow the use of Marijuana for medicinal purposes.”