Drug War: Marwa Explains Targeting Assets of Barons, Traffickers

Michael Olugbode in Abuja

Chairman/Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd.), has justified the decision of the anti-narcotics body to go after the assets of drug barons and traffickers as part of ongoing offensive action against illicit drugs.

Marwa spoke at a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday while kicking- off week-long activities to celebrate the 2024 International Day Against Drugs and Illicit Trafficking, which NDLEA organized in conjunction with other stakeholders like the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Marwa said: “Permit me to share with you that our offensive action against drug cartels and traffickers, launched in January 2021, has to date continued to yield the desired result with the arrests and prosecutions of several barons.

“As you are all aware, two serial traffickers got life imprisonment in court in April. Our prosecution efforts have continued to achieve successes in courts given the painstaking investigations and diligence in the prosecution of cases.

“Our water-tight case preparations are unassailable. This has been further strengthened with our forfeiture regime with the passage of Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA 2022).

“Apart from conviction, the assets of the convicts used as instrumentality of the crime or the proceeds derived from the crime would be forfeited to the federal government.

“Indeed, a civil action in rem could be maintained against assets reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime in which case the burden of proving the licit origin of the asset would be on the defendant who claims ownership of the asset. This diligent and painstaking preparation of investigations and prosecutions explains the success of the high conviction rate.”

Marwa, represented by the agency’s secretary, Mr. Shadrach Haruna, on the drug demand reduction efforts of the NDLEA, said the flagship programme, War Against Drug Abuse (WADA), built on ‘the whole of society approach’ to preventive action against drug abuse has been a tremendous success as an effective tool of advocacy for social action and an awareness-driven vehicle for public engagement and collaboration against illicit trafficking and abuse.

He said this aligns with the theme for the 2024 World Drug Day, WDD and explained that the World Drug Day, observed on June 26 every year, “is an important day for the global community, and an occasion during which current efforts against illicit drug problems are given policy direction for the next 12 months.”

He added that the theme for this year: “The Evidence is Clear: Invest in Prevention”, stresses the importance of preventing people from falling into the danger of experimenting with illicit drugs and subsequently falling into the trap of dependence on psychoactive substances.

He noted that: “Prevention is an important aspect of the effort to curb the menace of abuse of illicit drugs in society. At NDLEA, prevention, as ably anchored in our War Against Drug Abuse (WADA), social advocacy programme is a priority area for us.

“Within our modest means and with the support of the federal government and our various stakeholders, we have invested in prevention by various means over the past three years as part of the reforms being undertaken in the agency.”

He gave the breakdown of the weeklong activities to include: Juma’at Service at the National Mosque in Abuja on Friday, Walk Against Drugs in collaboration with MTN and other stakeholders on Saturday, Thanksgiving Church Service at the National Christian Centre on Sunday, among others.

He expressed gratitude to the federal and state governments for the support given to the agency in various ways in the onslaught against drug traffickers.

He said: “The UNODC has been a strong support for us as well as our foreign partners, including the US-Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), the British Border Force, National Crime Agency (NCA) of United Kingdom, as well as our stakeholders like Nigerian Armed Forces, the Customs, Police, Immigration, NAFDAC, NFIU, NACA, FRSC and Civil Defence, among others.

“And importantly, our media friends. That you are here today is a testament to the support you have given to us these past three years. I cannot help but thank you and representatives of the media you represent.”

In his remarks, UNODC Country Deputy Representative, Mr. Danilo Campisi, called on government at all levels and other stakeholders in Nigeria to invest in drug use preventive measures to avoid a 40% rise in the population of drug users in the country especially the youth population.

According to him, “projections show that by 2030, there will be a 40% increase in the use of drugs in Africa, based on the population of young people. This is extremely concerning, if we consider that 2030 is only six years away.

He said: “We are all familiar with the saying: ‘prevention is better than cure’ and considering the data and projections, it has become even more critical for Nigeria to invest heavily in drug use preventive measures.

“I do not think it would be an exaggeration to describe this as a national emergency. If the country is to take on the challenge of this projected increase in drug use, it is imperative that it adopts scientific evidence-based approaches that prioritise prevention and treatment.”

He said UNODC has worked with the “Government of Nigeria to adapt and implement evidence-based prevention measures which include the highly successful UNPLUGGED, a school-based Drug Prevention Programme implemented together with the Federal Ministry of Education, in 110 Unity Schools and in a few states in the country, notably Kebbi, Bayelsa and recently, Kaduna, on the initiative of the state governments in these states.”

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