On NDLEA renewed offensive – Thisday

There is need for the NDLEA to collaborate with other security agencies to tackle the drug menace

Trafficking in drugs, particularly through our airports, is a risky venture. There is every possibility that any drug courier going through any of the airports – local or international – would be caught. This is made possible particularly with the installation of powerful and sensitive scanning machines in and around the airports. Yet evidence abounds that many desperate Nigerians are still sucked into the crime of dealing and trafficking in drugs. In the past few months many Nigerians, young and old, men and women, had been arrested trying to smuggle out narcotics or bring them in, a trend that is keeping many increasingly worried.

For some quick cash for the downtrodden to billions of dollars to some powerful men and women in society, many drug couriers devise new strategies to conceal these substances to outwit narcotic agents. But the appointment of Buba Marwa as Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has seen to the arrest of more than two thousand drug traffickers and some major drug barons who control different cartels across the country as well as the seizure of huge numbers of these illicit substances valued at billions of naira. The NDLEA has also now been primed for diligent prosecution of cases. With his hands-on approach to leadership, Marwa has no doubt made a difference at the agency. But the battle against drug trafficking will require more than the efforts of one man.

Those who manage to slip through the borders in Nigeria may not be lucky abroad because of the world-wide crusade against the use of narcotics. They remain a major source of embarrassment to the country. Recently, four Nigerians were executed by the Indonesian authorities over drug-related offences. Some seven others are also on the death sentence in the same country. Some other 132 Nigerians are reportedly also on the death row in various prisons across China, Malaysia, and Singapore while others are serving prison terms in Europe, United States, or some African countries.

That many people are still plying the drug trade is indicative of a war that is compromised on many fronts. Nigeria’s extensive land, sea and air borders are ill-policed. Even though NDLEA is getting more focused, it is still handicapped by dearth of funds and inadequate logistics to fight a well-organised and resourceful gang of criminals. There is need for the NDLEA to collaborate more with other security agencies. But more important, the growing poverty in the society and lack of employment opportunities for the youths must be addressed. From concealing illicit drugs in their luggage to ingesting these substances, there is a spike in the number of people taking to the business of illicit drugs.

It is not enough for the NDLEA to make episodic arrests. The agency should also investigate syndicate that aids the traffickers, including those that specialise in planting drugs in passengers’ luggage at the airport. In May 2017, according to the NDLEA, some officials of an airline handling company colluded with a passenger to ferry ephedrine and used their official pass to take the drug to the tarmac where it was loaded to the airplane. Following a tip off, NDLEA officials seized the drug and arrested the passenger, and two officials of airline handing company. Two clearing agents were later charged to court and were convicted. But after discovering the nefarious activities of the syndicate in May 2017, arrested some members of the illicit body and sent them to jail, NDLEA ought to have carried out a thorough investigation to expose their network, possible reach and methods of operation.

That is one challenge before Marwa as he continues his offensive against drug trafficking in our country.

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