Government must embark on enlightenment campaigns on the dangers of trafficking in hard drugs

Reports that about 16,500 Nigerians are currently in prisons outside the shores of the country, most of them on drug-related charges, is worrisome. More depressing is that the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), a human rights organisation, has put the number on death row in prisons across Asian countries at about 300. LEDAP recently used the occasion of the World Day Against the Use of the Death Penalty to draw the attention of the authorities to the rising number of Nigerians awaiting execution in different parts of the world.

The revelations which should prompt the authorities to action highlight the increasing desperation of some Nigerians in the narcotic trade. That more Nigerians are pouring across the borders with hard drugs in spite of the sophistication in technology as well as the stiff punishment mapped to curb the illegal business is disturbing. The boom in the illegal trade perhaps speaks to the fact that the country’s law enforcement agencies still have much work on their hands. Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are evidently among the active drug routes, judging by the number of traffickers caught regularly. Incidentally, these are countries where it is public knowledge that trafficking in hard drug carries the mandatory death sentence.

In the past decade or so, and up till this moment, some of our nationals abroad have become synonymous with all manner of crimes ranging from internet scams, credit card fraud, forgeries of travel documents to drug trafficking. While these crimes are committed by a handful, they are enough to damage the reputation of the entire country and other compatriots in such countries. Yet these unfortunate occurrences have become so common that hardly a day passes without a Nigerian being arrested at some local or international airports, for violating one law or another.

In Bangladesh, Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Thailand and India, many Nigerians are currently on death row, having been convicted for offences such as drug-trafficking, credit card scam or infractions on immigration laws. Elsewhere, there are others who are also in jail because of outright racism or what some have described as xenophobia, some of them convicted without legal representations. Some Nigerians in Chinese jail reportedly did not know why there were in. These are cases that our authorities should take up so that some of our nationals who may be innocent of the charges against them do not continue to suffer unnecessarily. But that many desperate Nigerians are going into crimes abroad is also something we must deal with.

One thing that is clear is that there is a syndicate operating in our airports and other exit points to the extent that the drug dealers evade all security checks at the airports, even with the increased security watch. Government should take it as matter of urgency to acquire up-to-date security gadgets at the airports and all exit points to the outside world for improved security.

Perhaps more urgently, it is important for the government to embark on enlightenment campaigns on the need for our nationals to know the dire implications of committing crimes abroad. Besides, the government should also employ all diplomatic means to assist those who may have been wrongly convicted. Since the principle of reciprocity drives diplomacy, we must insist that other countries treat our citizens the same way we treat theirs.