* Charges continent’s anti-narcotic agencies to consolidate partnerships
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
President Bola Tinubu has warned that Africa will remain in chains till it breaks free from the shackles of the criminal enterprises of drug barons and syndicates of illicit drugs.
He has, therefore, implored heads of national drug law enforcement agencies in the continent to renew the fight against substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking in their respective countries.
The president, who sounded the warning in Abuja Tuesday while declaring open the 31st meeting of the Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Africa (HONLAF) said: “If we don’t dismantle the criminal enterprises that threaten our future and build a brighter tomorrow for all Africans, we will remain in chains in a diseased and amoral world, as will our children and their children.”
In his keynote address titled, ‘Rising Above the Drug Threat’, President Tinubu, who was represented by Vice-President Kashim Shettima, observed that Africa was “at the mercy of a threat that knows neither race nor geography, neither gender nor social class”.
To this end, he enjoined the heads of drug law enforcement agencies to consider the conference in Abuja as a ray of hope and a catalyst for positive change across the continent.
The president thanked them for their sacrifices in ensuring a world that is free of illicit drugs.
According to him, “This threat has crossed borders and destroyed societies and dreams. Without the moral commitment of the men and women in this room, this threat would have left cities, countries and even civilizations erased. So, I must commend you for your sacrifices in the bids to keep our world drug-free, sane and safe.
“This conference emphasizes your investment across borders to protect us from the devastations of drugs, a threat that only submits to the enforcement of the law.
“Therefore, we are grateful to HONLAF and its partners, notably the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, for creating this avenue, for offering intelligence and drug law enforcement officials a grand opportunity to compare notes, collaborate and build networks that would be several steps ahead of the criminal network of drug transnational organizations.”
President Tinubu noted that in the last couple of decades, criminal organisations had made frantic efforts to breach the security measures in African countries, all in a bid to pollute the minds of their citizens, adding however that the anti-narcotics agencies have proven to be a thorn in their flesh.
The president, who doubles as the chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), stated: “But while it’s a compliment that drug-law enforcement organizations are a threat to their criminal empires, their desperation must never be taken for granted.
“Without you as gatekeepers of healthy nations, humanity as we know it would have long been perverted. So, on behalf of the world, I say: thank you, thank you to all of you who have kept us from being polluted and destroyed.
“For us, the commitment to the fight against drug trafficking and substance abuse is not just a matter of policy; it is a moral imperative. We recognize that a population at war with drugs is not a dividend but a liability. We believe that the future of our youth, the strength of our institutions and the well-being of our communities depend on our ability to eradicate this threat.”
President Tinubu further stressed the need for the anti-narcotics agencies to consolidate established contacts, strengthen operational existing partnerships and cooperation among them at the sub-regional and regional levels.
This, he said, would make trafficking of illicit drugs and movement of drug syndicates difficult in the African continent.
On the choice of Nigeria for the conference, the president said it is a profound recognition of the campaign and fight against illicit drugs in the country by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
“We are hosting the 31st HONLAF meeting here to reassure you of our promise to participate in building a world not threatened by the infiltration of illicit drugs,” he added.
Declaring the meeting open, President Tinubu said: “While I encourage you to take some time out from the busy schedule of your programmes to enjoy the beauty and hospitality of Abuja, I thank you for your dedication and resolve in this noble cause and look forward to the fruitful discussions and partnerships that will emerge from this gathering.”