A Reflection on the UN’s Visit to NDLEA

A Reflection on the UN’s Visit to NDLEA

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

When the United Nations through the Deputy Secretary General Mrs. Amina Mohammed visited and assured the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, of support to succeed in its onerous task of curbing the menace of substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking in Nigeria, there can be only but one straightforward implication: a mark of excellence.

The lesson to be immediately learnt from this epochal visit by the United Nations to the NDLEA is that good work pays so much and the moment a public office holder in a highly misunderstood nation like Nigeria is known to have concretely set up a leadership characterised by great examples, virtually everyone would gladly identify with such a charismatic figure. No doubt, the NDLEA under the current administration Lee by President Bola Tinubu is one national agency that has distinguished itself in good works that everyone can easily see.

For instance, my beautiful wife Ugochi Onwubiko came home on Friday and told me that she saw the photographs of the living quarters for the operatives of the NDLEA being set up by the General Marwa-led management and further stated that she is so impressed by the top-quality architectural works that have gone into that project in Abuja. Also, over seventy percent of the most critical minded public affairs analysts that I know, as a consummate public affairs commentator myself, have a whole lot of positive ratings for the NDLEA.

However, that innocuous visit by the two- terms Deputy Secretary General of the UN is a demonstration of the serious nature of assignments that the NDLEA is Coordinating and the expansive dimensions of successes that it has recorded in only but few months since the Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa took over the mantle of leadership.

Mind you, the United Nations is significant in terms of the global issues that the organisation coordinates in the comity of nations.

From simple research, we are informed that as the world’s only truly universal global organization, the United Nations has become the foremost forum to address issues that transcend national boundaries and cannot be resolved by any one country acting alone.

To its initial goals of safeguarding peace, protecting human rights, establishing the framework for international justice and promoting economic and social progress, in the seven decades since its creation the United Nations has added on new challenges, such as AIDS, big data and climate change.

While conflict resolution and peacekeeping continue to be among its most visible efforts, the UN, along with its specialized agencies, is also engaged in a wide array of activities to improve people’s lives around the world – from disaster relief, through education and advancement of women, to peaceful uses of atomic energy.

For us in Africa, the UN system plays a crucial role in coordinating assistance of all kinds — to help Africa help itself.  From promoting the development of democratic institutions, to the establishment of peace between warring nations, the UN is present on the ground supporting economic and social development and the promotion and protection of human rights.

The work of the UN covers five main areas:

1.         Maintain International Peace and Security; 2. Protect Human Rights; 3. Deliver humanitarian and; 4. Support sustainable development and climate action and to uphold International Law.

As an international organization with 193 members states the United Nation is uniquely positioned to address and solve global issues.

From just a few points we have seen above, we will agree that the visit of the UN to the NDLEA is quite significant and symbolic and for us who observe the activities going on in the NDLEA and the frontal war going on against hard drug trafficking in Nigeria, the visit of the UN coming just few months after many powerful nations of the World such as the USA and the United Kingdom have demonstrated their practical support for the counter narcotics war in the Country, it is indeed a visit that must never go unnoticed.

In the same vein, the strong assurances of support made by the UN to the NDLEA is heart-warming and worthy of commendation.

The assurance was given by the Deputy Secretary General of the UN, Mrs. Amina J Mohammed when she paid a courtesy visit to the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Brig Gen Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) at the Agency’s headquarters in Abuja.

Accompanied by the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Mohamed Malick Fall, the UN deputy scribe said the global body is willing to enhance the impact of the significant efforts of the Agency.

According to her, “On behalf of the UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, we want to reconfirm our support from the United Nations to the work of this agency. It is extremely important; this is coming at a time where the challenges are more complex. The Chairman has spoken about the needs, and we are very pleased to hear that everyone is doing a very good job and we hope that we can increase the impact.

“From our conversation with the Chairman, the issue is clear, it involves many other sectors. We talked about the root causes, and the escape is often drugs. That is why it is important for us to work with the rest of government to ensure that all people have a right to their dignity. I see this agency as a symbol that wants to do the job, to succeed. This is a challenge we will be here to support.”

The UN Chief commended Marwa for providing NDLEA exemplary leadership. “I just have to commend the leadership you have here, the leadership we have known for a very long time. When we were much younger, we used to look up to the Soldier Marwa, that led from the front with example and discipline. We see the discipline now in your officers as we walk into the office and there is a difference. We need more of that.”

“This is the only country that we have. And we must harness the potential through the work that we do. What we want to do is support with whatever that we can, to ensure a greater and better Nigeria that takes its position not only in Africa but worldwide”, she added.

While appreciating the UN deputy scribe for the visit, Marwa said “We’re indeed pleased to have you visit us. This will go on record as the first visit in history to NDLEA by the highest echelon of the United Nations. We not only commend you for this but also in equal measure your string of impressive achievements, whether when you served as Minister at home or at the global stage where you’re currently serving as Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations. Thank you for being a shining light and a good ambassador of not only Nigeria, but the African continent and indeed the black race world over.”

Marwa noted that the twin problem of substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking remains one of the ferocious threats to public health and national security despite the significant efforts being made by NDLEA in the areas of drug supply reduction and drug demand reduction in Nigeria.

“With the dire consequences of the menace steering us in the face, upon my assumption of leadership in 2021, we have moved swiftly to halt the spiral turn of the situation and between then and end of 2023, we have been able to make over 48,157 arrests including 46 drug barons with a total of 8,350 already successfully prosecuted and convicted while 7,500 tons of illicit drugs were seized from them and 1,057 hectares of cannabis farms destroyed deep in the forests in parts of the country.

“On the other part of our mandate, we have equally put in place a strong mechanism to raise public awareness about the dangers of drug abuse. This we do through our War Against Drug Abuse, WADA, a social advocacy campaign initiative. In addition, we provide treatment and counselling to users in our commands across the country, through which we have been able to counsel and treat over 29, 400 persons within the same period.

“This is why you’re coming today affords us the opportunity to share with you some of the things you can use your good office and the huge platform of the UN to facilitate to enhance what we are doing and plan to achieve. They include but not limited to the following: Conduct of another drug use survey that will give us a better assessment of where we’re now six years after the last survey; procurement of mechanical tools to destroy cannabis farms as against the current manual system; procurement of incinerators to destroy tons of illicit drugs seized as against the current open air burning which is not good for the environment and public health; support for our Alternative Development programme and  modern forensic equipment needed in our old and new labs”, among others.

As stated earlier, the great strides being piloted by the General Marwa-led charismatic leadership at the NDLEA recently attracted the attention of two of the World’s most advanced and sophisticated democracies: the USA and the UK.

The United States government had recently assured the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, of more support and collaboration in different areas of its strategic operations to enhance its capabilities against substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking in Nigeria.

The assurance was given by Dr. Mark Hove of the Africa and Middle East Office, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, US State Department, on Wednesday 1st June when he led another top official of the Bureau, Craig Nixon on a courtesy visit to the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) at the Agency’s headquarters in Abuja.

This comes on the heels of a recent official letter by the Bureau announcing the U.S. project grant to the NDLEA following requests by Gen. Marwa during series of meetings both in Abuja and in Washington DC. The letter had noted that the support grant which will be implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Nigeria, covers

 forensic and chemical analysis capacity of the Agency, intelligence-led investigations through diverse resources as well as legal books and an e-library for prosecution and other legal needs of the Agency.

Speaking during the visit recently, Ambassador Mark Hove commended the tremendous work done so far by the Marwa-led NDLEA while expressing satisfaction with the response of the Agency to the threat of lethal illicit drugs such as Fentanyl, Captagon and Methamphetamine. He cited the recent seizure of over 2.1 tons of cocaine in Ikorodu area of Lagos by NDLEA as an incredible feat. Hove said he came on the visit to discuss areas of more assistance for the Agency and further collaboration. He said with the NDLEA success story, the Agency is well positioned to be a training centre for other anti-narcotic agencies in Africa.

In his response, Gen. Marwa expressed appreciation to the INL for its support to the Agency and its readiness to do more. He said such will significantly enhance the investigative and prosecutorial capabilities of NDLEA especially coming at a time when the enabling Act of the Agency has been amended by the National Assembly to further strengthen its capacity.

The NDLEA boss expressed happiness with the collaboration between NDLEA and the US Drug Enforcement Administration to combat trafficking of illicit drugs between the US and Nigeria as well as globally. “There’s need for greater collaboration on Fentanyl and others”, Marwa added.

Similarly, the United Kingdom government is set to embark on the construction of a maritime headquarters for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

The Director Africa region operations of the United Kingdom Home Office International Operations, Mr. Richard Lloyd, disclosed this yesterday, during a visit to the national headquarters of NDLEA in Abuja,

Lloyd, who described as amazing and impressive, the collaborations between the UK body and the NDLEA spread across various drug law enforcement operations and projects jointly conducted, said the construction would commence in June 2024, to further enhance the capability of the anti-narcotic body.

Lloyd, who led a four-member delegation to the NDLEA headquarters, commended the leadership of Marwa, which has achieved tremendous successes in dismantling a lot of trans-border drug trafficking cartels.

He said as a further proof of their commitment to the result-oriented partnership with NDLEA, his office would be glad to sign an already drafted Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with the NDLEA very soon.

He said: “I have heard so many good stories of the agency and your team. I will start by saying thanks for your support and the relationship that we have. I’ve been nothing but impressed since I arrived in Nigeria 10 days ago.

“I met a lot of the teams in Lagos and in Abuja and I must say they have been fantastic. The way that we work together with the Home Office International Operations and the NDLEA is astonishing.

“I manage a lot of countries and teams in Africa and I have a lot of teams across the continent and in Nigeria here is by far head and shoulders above everyone.

“To be fair, not only in Africa, because I work in Africa I may be biased but across all of our operations, we are massively ahead of everyone and it is really good for me to go back to the UK and highlight the amazing work that NDLEA does with Home Office team in the country.

“The office has a keen interest in Nigeria and the way that we work to disrupt organised crime and gangs in the country. Congratulations to the NDLEA team for doing a fantastic job.”

In his response, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Brig Gen Buba Marwa (Retd) expressed appreciation to Lloyd and his team for their kind comments about NDLEA’s work, adding that such commendation will further encourage the officers and men of the agency to do more.

He said: “We thank you very much for these encouraging remarks. These commendations coming from you are considered highly because we are glad to be meeting our mandate.

“I will like to give you the assurances that the NDLEA is very committed to our mandate. We plan to go down to the 774 local governments of the country so that at the community levels, we are able to check what is going on there and do whatever needs to be done there.

“We know these are difficult times in the UK as it is with other countries, and we appreciate that even with that you find the resources to support us is much welcome, especially the training, and capacity building which is very important.”

It can also be said that the visit of the UN and many of the most advanced democracies in the World to the NDLEA, is a big mark of excellence and a global aspirations that the NDLEA will continue to play the role of a flagship in the counter narcotics wars in Africa by the member nations of the African Union.


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