By Abiola Olawale
Ahmad Lawan, President of the Nigerian Senate, has called the attention of Nigerians to the activities of drug barons in the country as he revealed that they provide funds and ammunitions to insurgent groups such as Boko Haram, bandits, kidnappers, among others.
The Senate President who was reacting to the reported cases of killings, kidnapping, among other criminalities in the country, raised the alarm when he hosted the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brigadier-General Buba Marwa (Rtd), in his office, at Abuja.
Lawan, urged the NDLEA to be proactive in the fight against drug abuse in the country.
The Senate President also called for a complete overhaul of the NDLEA in a bid to empower it to rise to the occasion of clamping down on the criminal activities of drug traffickers operating in the country.
Lawan further assured that the National Assembly is committed in supporting the NDLEA to ensure that the agency properly discharge its duties and mandate to the people.
In his words, “The National Assembly members are almost on daily interaction with our constituents and we know the very debilitating impact of drug abuse in our various communities. You have rightly said that almost every community in this country suffers from drug addiction. So, we are very mindful of what is happening. I believe that this agency needs restructuring. Now that you have taken over, we should go the whole haul to restructure the agency, not piecemeal touches, because we need to get it right. My personal opinion is that NDLEA should be in the league of EFCC, ICPC, and therefore, the kind of support that those two agencies I mentioned receive, you should receive something like that, in addition to many other things that you should be supported with. So, the National Assembly will definitely work with you, we will partner with you, and will ensure that we do our best to give you the kind of support that will enable you properly to discharge your mandate. Having said this, let me say that Nigeria as a country is in one way or the other a transit route for drugs. Drug peddlers pass their drugs through Nigeria – cannabis, heroin and possibly even cocaine. We believe that this has to stop because the proceeds of such activities fund terrorism, they fund banditry, you wonder how the bandits have RPGs and these massive arms that they have. Definitely, these are some acquisition provided by some barons, not the bandits themselves. So, we need to ensure that this transit role that Nigerians plays is addressed properly. And here we have to approach this through multi-sectoral efforts – the Customs, Immigration Service, our Security Agencies, and in fact, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), and our seaports. Of course, this is not going to be easy, but we have to be steadfast and we should do whatever is possible without the limited resources we have to make you better. We also believe that the drug addiction level in Nigeria is so bad that we are losing our youths to drug addiction.
“Like you have mentioned, the terrorists, the insurgents, the bandits and almost all the criminals have recourse to taking drugs to enhance their courage in order to undertake their illicit activities. So, there then is the need for us to step up our work on preventing our youths from taking the drugs, and that requires a lot of multi-dimensional efforts, because some may be due to lack of employment, some illiteracy, and poverty generally. These are some of the root causes. Somebody out of frustration is recruited to join. And, therefore, this is also something that the National Assembly has been trying hard to ensure that the economy of Nigeria provides for everyone – that we have an all-inclusive economy bringing up those who are down. And I believe that this is one way that we have to continue to deal with this scourge. I also believe that we have to go on advocacy to our schools and institutions, and why not, even include in our curricular the issue of drugs, so that right from primary school up to secondary school level, our students should be able to understand the dangers of taking drugs. I believe that this is one incentive to criminality like you have just pointed out, so it is a huge responsibility placed on your shoulders, but you are not going to walk it alone, we are going to walk it with you. I want to urge you, that you get across to other agencies of government – like the immigration service, customs, airports authority, DSS – and the decay that you might have found is probably because the agency has not been able to have a better structure that will enable it to fight drug trafficking and even addiction of the 21st century.” Lawan said.
Reacting, the NDLEA boss, appreciated the Ninth Senate under the leadership of Senator Lawan for displaying great interest and support for the agency.
He also commended the Senate President for his efforts on the review of the NDLEA Act, adding that it is a very important step to correct some of the lapses in an Act that was promulgated way back in 1989.
Speaking on drug abuse in the country, Mawa assured that he is committed to tackling the menace.
In his words, “Yes, you have insurgency, banditry and kidnapping, but if you go to Ogoni to speak to somebody about the insurgency, he might not be concerned. If you go to some other parts of the country and speak of kidnapping in some areas, it’s not a major concern. If you go to some other areas and speak of banditry, it may not be of major concern. But when you enter the realm of drug abuse, every part of Nigeria, you can for sure say that everybody in this room knows somebody or a neighbour or family that has affliction with drug abuse. The drug affliction is actually the number one problem we are facing, it is everywhere. First of all, it destroys our kids, women, our youths, and the family system. Secondly, it is behind the criminalities everywhere now. You have to be crazy to commit some of these criminalities, and what fuels it is drug abuse. Even the insurgents and bandits themselves, they take drugs before they go into their activities.”