THE LAGOS DRUG BUST
The NDLEA needs all the support to do more
Last Sunday, the NDLEA discovered a warehouse in a residential estate in Ikorodu, Lagos, with 1.8 tonnes of Cocaine, and a street value of about N194bn. It was the biggest singular cocaine seizure in Nigeria’s history. An immensely happy President Muhammadu Buhari who was in New York attending the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly telephoned the Chairman of the National Drug Law and Enforcement Agency, Brig. General (rtd) Buba Marwa and said: “I deeply appreciate the work that you have put into the eradication of the drug menace.” And at a meeting later with members of his delegation, the President added, “Buba Marwa is doing well. Two tonnes of cocaine, that’s a haul.”
The NDLEA under the chairmanship of Marwa deserves all the commendation. The war against illicit drug and abuse in Nigeria is particularly difficult because it has, over the years, been compromised on many fronts. The Marwa-led NDLEA is making a big difference. With 3.6million kilogrammes of assorted illicit drugs seized in less than 20 months; over 19,000 arrests; more than 3,000 convicted and 12,326 counselled and rehabilitated, the latest seizure means the NDLEA must be doing things right and getting good results.
The remarkable progress is better appreciated against the backdrop of the institutional inadequacy of NDLEA as the leading anti-narcotic agency faced with the task of drug control in a country with an exceptionally high prevalence of drug use. Hard drugs, ranging from cannabis – often called Indian Hemp – to cocaine, heroin and amphetamines – are increasingly available on the street and abused by both the young and the old in our country.
The World Drug Reports recently identified cannabis as the most abused drug, corroborated by National Drug Use Survey in 2019 which revealed that over 11 million Nigerians abused it. The drug use prevalence for ages 15 to 64 in Nigeria is put at 14.4, almost three times the global drug prevalence of 5.5 per cent. According to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC) country representative in Nigeria, Oliver Stolpe, 27.7 per cent of the14.4 per cent of those concerned were youths who ordinarily should face their studies and called for change in the narrative to secure their future. “One in every 10 drug users is a woman; this has affected women and girls proportionately,” said Stolpe. “Data collected around the globe suggest that this has elevated cases of gender-based violence.”
Hard drugs cause serious problems for the user and the society at large. Statistics are hard to come by but there is a correlation between the abuse of drugs and organised crime. Many of the audacious crimes including vicious robberies and murders, raiding of banks, prisons, and kidnappings, are said to be aided by drugs. Most experts agree that issues related to drug abuse have increased the challenges of insecurity in the country.
But barely 20 months in office, the NDLEA under Marwa is more alive to its responsibility. Besides issues of welfare for staff, he has strengthened the capacity and capability of his officers with good operational tools which has earned the trust and confidence of international partners. The UNODC, European Union, United Kingdom, United States, and others help with technical assistance and equipment.
The NDLEA is also fostering partnerships with drug enforcement agencies in foreign jurisdictions. A well-armed and trained strike force is on ground to beef up the agency’s enforcement capabilities.
With all this, the NDLEA is launching widespread operations against drug cartels across the country with large harvests. They need all the support to do more.
A COUNTRY DROWNING IN DEBT
A running joke among Nigerians is that the country is so mired in debt that every Nigerian has a certain amount hanging over their heads. Now, whether or not this is true remains to be seen but that it is even whispered points to Nigeria`s staggering struggles with the creditor. That the country is exhibiting classic signs of a drowning man answers the question whether any country can survive the suffocation that a mountain of debt certainly translates to.
The alarm about the frail state of Nigeria`s economy has certainly been ringing for a long time now. But like many other such alarms, it has always fallen on deaf ears.
The Debt Management Office recently disclosed that Nigeria`s total public debt stock increased from N41.60tn as of March 2022 to N42.84tn as of June of the same year showing an increase of N1.24tn in three months.
According to the DMo, external debt remained the same at N16.61tn($40.06bn) from Q1 to Q2 2022, adding that 58 per cent of external debts were concessional and semi concessional loans from multilateral lenders such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Afrexim and African Development Bank and bilateral lenders including Germany, China, Japan, India and France.
According to the DMO, domestic debt also rose to N26.23tn($63.24bn) as a result of new borrowings by the government to part-finance the deficit in the 2022 Appropriation (Repeal and Enactment) Act. as well as new borrowings by State Governments and the Federal Capital Territory.
The DMO further noted that the Total Public Debt to GDP as of June 30,2022 was 23.06 per cent compared to the ratio of 23.27 per cent as of March 26,2022 adding that the Debt Service-to-Revenue ration remained high.
All these may sound like some economics jargon for the uninitiated but the harrowing reality is that the Nigerian economy is on life support.
Only last month, inflation rose to a record 15-year high, showing in the process that whatever the current administration has been doing to improve the Nigerian economy is failing badly.
Can a country which has to borrow to keep going ever run a sustainable system that would give its citizens a shot at anything resembling stable, comfortable lives?
For all Nigeria has borrowed over the years and the stigma compulsive borrowing has stamped on the country,to what extent has the country been able to properly utilize resources borrowed in the last few years?
Of course, has it ever happened that anyone successfully stored water in a basket anywhere? With corruption and cluelessness unyielding vices among many of those who have held the reins of power in the country since 1960, it does not take clairvoyance to know that not a small amount of every money Nigeria has borrowed in the last couple of years has disappeared into private pockets, or have been simply consumed by projects that were poorly executed.
Nigeria`s debt profile speaks to a country set up to fail. Nigeria`s population is projected to hit 216 million by November 2022. For how long will these many people continue to live off debts? Alas, it appears that even the time is borrowed time.