By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Opinion: “A leader takes people where they want to go.
A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”
The law can only work when good people are put in place to ensure that the right governance standards and methodology are put in place in a law enforcement related agency to demonstrate that nobody is above the law.
When the law works seamlessly, it is therefore absolutely impossible to describe the law as an ass. I find it inconceivable actually that some observers dismissively categorised the entire body of law of a nation as an ass that is open to certain machinations and mechanical manipulation by the powers that be. To me, the law is not an ass but rather an asset. One man who through the dint of hard work, foresight, integrity and high reputation, has convinced me to believe that the law is an asset is the Chief executive and Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Brigadier General Mohammed Buba-Marwa(CON), rtd.
It is the way the law is deployed by the management of the National Drugs law enforcement authority in Nigeria to wage massive war on hard drugs, that has attested to the fact that adhering to the principles of rule of law is the most beautiful attribute that make up good governance in a Country.
Another beautiful thing is that the management of NDLEA headed by the hard fighting Chairman Brigadier General Mohammed Buba-Marwa has carved a niche for NDLEA as one of only few Law Enforcement platforms in the Country that takes justice to or brings offenders to justice.
For many outlaws, the fear of NDLEA is the beginning of wisdom.
This has energised the war on drug to a very impressive dimension so much so that Nigeria has in the last 29 months recorded an enviable feat in the fight against narcotic substances and illegal drugs, with seizure of 6.3 million kilogrammes of assorted drugs, 5,147 convictions and 31,675 arrests. Little wonder then that Nigeria now plays pivotal and leadership role in championing a continental wide massive war on hard drugs and illicit substances. By showing leadership and demonstrating high charisma, the NDLEA Chairman is truly and professionally tailoring the war on drugs along the lines of international best practices and global counter narcotic laws. We will examine briefly the global legal template for waging war on hard drugs.
International Legal Framework for Drug Control:
The clear evidence of documentary nature is that hard and illicit drugs related issues are of universal concern. No country can lay claim to being isolated from the menace of use, abuse, trade and trafficking of hard and illicit drugs. This is principally the reason for the global concern. The historical global efforts on drugs cannot be successfully or comprehensively broached without touching on the leading role of the United States of America. Therefore, its founding role in this regard must be acknowledged. It was the United States of America’s single handed initiative in 1909 through the convening of the International Conference on Opium in Shanghai that has blossomed into a fortified, sustained and sustainable direction within the comity of nations as it relates to drugs.
Besides, a second Conference was held at The Hague in 1911. It was this conference that led to the first International Opium Convention of 1912. As stated above, the earliest Convention was in 1912, that is, International Opium Convention, followed by Agreement concerning the Manufacture of, Internal Trade in and Use of Prepared Opium,” International Opium Convention.!” Several other Conventions were signed until 1936, when the Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs, was signed. The defining moment for global effort was in 1961 with what can be seen as a comprehensive international legal framework designated as Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961.
it was by this Convention that global consensus and determination was practically demonstrated by the participating countries to deal with the cultivation, production, manufacture, extraction, preparation, possession, offering for sale, distribution, purchase, sale, delivery, brokerage, dispatch of dispatch in transit, transport, trafficking, consumption, importation and exportation of drugs, especially those types considered illicit; see the book titled: Drug Laws Enforcement and Administration in Nigeria by Inyang E. Ekwo, a Justice of the Federal High Court of Nigeria.
Understandably, the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig. Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa (Retd), reeled out the figures, only recently at a joint press briefing with the Country Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Mr. Oliver Stolpe, to flag off weeklong activities marking the 2023 World Drug Day (WDD).
The WDD is yearly international event to mobilise resources, align policies, and inspire organisations, communities, and nations to work in a particular direction to effectively tackle the challenges of illicit substances in society. He stressed that the fight against substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking has yielded significant results in the last 29 months.
According to the NDLEA boss, “This year’s theme, ‘People First: Stop Stigma and Discrimination, Strengthen Prevention,’ is in furtherance of the whole-of-society approach to taming the drug scourge.
“This theme is especially pertinent to the Nigerian situation at the moment. In the past two and half years, we have strengthened our law enforcement efforts to cut down on the supply of drugs in society.
“In 29 months, we have arrested 31, 675 drug offenders, including 35 barons; successfully prosecuted and got convicted 5,147 of them, and over 11,000 other cases still pending in court, while 23,725 drug users had been counselled and rehabilitated, majority of them through brief interventions.
“At least 6.3 million kilogrammes of various illicit substances have been recovered in response to our efforts to sweep up drugs and shut down the distribution channels.
“We have destroyed 852.142 hectares of Cannabis farms and dismantled three clandestine methamphetamine laboratories. I can assure you that even as we speak, NDLEA agents are busy with interdiction activities somewhere.”
Marwa said drug supply reduction is, however, only one of the components of the equation. He added: “Another crucial component is drug demand reduction, which operationally means prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. It should go without saying that we must strike a balance between these two crucial components if we are to achieve our desired utopia of a drug-free society.
“NDLEA has made significant investments in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation over the last two years. The doors of our rehabilitation facilities are open at all times. In the last 29 months, we have acquired a few more rehab centres, given to us as donations, while we have also obtained the Federal Government’s approval for the construction of regional model rehabs. More private treatment facilities are also cooperating with NDLEA. To cap it all, NDLEA went above and beyond to invest in a toll-free, round-the-clock call centre that provides teletherapy. Teletherapy is mental health counselling over the phone or online.
“In summary, we have prioritised treatment, while our War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) advocacy initiative has taken a life of its own with our Commands, Formations and partnering civil society organisations taking sensitisation lectures and campaigns to schools, communities, worship places and many more across the country every day.
“In addition, we have also produced TV commercials and radio jingles in different languages being broadcast on various platforms. This is simply aimed at prevention, by sensitising the people and equipping them with facts about drugs to enable them take the right decisions against substance abuse.”
Marwa, who was represented at the event by the Agency Secretary, Shadrach Haruna, charged the society to drop the stigmatisation that discourages drug users from seeking treatment, a development that has serious socio-economic repercussions for individuals and their families.
“Stigmatisation and discrimination make recovery and reintegration difficult for drug-dependent users who submit themselves to treatment. And the prevalence of such an attitude is counterproductive to the effort, time, and resources invested by governments, institutions, and corporate bodies working to contain the drug problem.
“This is what the year’s theme is about. We must rid ourselves of any bias against those who are drug-dependent to be able to support, expedite, and make permanent their recovery. The theme will serve as an impetus for us to make a collective effort to break down these invincible but formidable social barriers that undermine the attainment of the goal of a drug-free society,” he said.
Marwa expressed appreciation of the partnership between NDLEA, NGOs, development partners, and the various groups, institutions, and relevant professionals in society, including media professionals, who have been very supportive of the renewed war on drugs.
I want to thank the UNODC, especially for its unquantified support that has contributed to the rapid evolution of NDLEA. In the same vein, we are thankful to the European Union (EU) and the governments of the United States, United Kingdom, France, India and Germany, who have all boosted our capacity to cope with the demands of our mandate.
“To celebrate this year’s WDD, we have a line-up of activities for the week, some of which will be conducted in partnership with our stakeholders like the UNODC and MTN Foundation. Some of the events are educational, like the essay and the quiz competitions. We have days set aside for events like the Walk Against Drugs, NGO activities, and a campaign to raise awareness among young people who are not in school. The grand finale will be the ceremony at the State House on Monday, June 26,” he added.
In his remarks, UNODC Country Rep, Oliver Stolpe, emphasised the “benefits of international cooperation in criminal justice matters with a specific target of dismantling trafficking networks involved in this terrible trade”, adding that “long overdue is the need to make sure that the public and primary health care providers are better prepared to take basic drug counseling needs, knowing how to deal with people suffering from drug use disorders.” He commended NDLEA for the successes recorded so far in the fight against substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking in the country.
Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd), has said that seamless exchange of intelligence and strengthened collaboration among African countries will help the continent surmount the daunting challenge of illicit drug trafficking and abuse.
Brig. Gen Marwa stated this on Wednesday at the ongoing 30th Conference of Heads of Drug Law Enforcement Agencies Africa (HONLEA) in Nairobi, Kenya; a stand widely supported by other countries represented at the gathering.
While briefing the meeting on the gains so far recorded by Nigeria in the fight against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking, Marwa said there is the need for all to put in place a national coordination mechanism that will ensure coordinated action against the menace.
According to him, “The starting point is the harnessing of all the stakeholders by the national drug focal agency. Through this national coordination and collaborative effort, Nigeria has steadily made significant efforts in tackling drug challenges and has between January 2021 and August 2022, recorded unprecedented arrests, in the region of 21,302 suspected drug traffickers, including 28 drug barons. In the area of prosecution, the agency has secured 3,111 convictions, and seized 5.4 million kilograms of illicit substances. On Drug Demand Reduction, the Agency within the same period had brief interventions, counselling/rehabilitation for over 12,326 drug users.”
While canvassing for regional and sub-regional collaboration, the NDLEA boss said “the global drug problem has placed higher demands on countries to work round the clock to achieve this goal and consolidate the achievements recorded. It is on the above premise that my delegation is proposing strengthened collaboration at both regional and sub-regional levels.
“This noble objective could be realized with the creation of an informal network of HONLEA contact persons to complement and enhance real time exchange of intelligence or operational information. It will also enhance more robust activities all year round. At the sub-regional level, countries should endeavour to establish sub-regional group like HONLEA for strengthened collaboration under the auspices of the regional economic communities.”
He told the gathering that “the HONLEA platform offers unlimited opportunities, and it is imperative to maximize these amazing benefits by completing it with practical form of cooperation such as the suggested HONLEA Informal Network of Contact Persons.
“This would enable regular bilateral meetings, training programs, exchange of intelligence, and the conduct of joint operations at sub-regional and regional levels, if need be.”
He said this, Nigeria has done by taking practical steps to deepen collaboration at both national and international levels in countering the world drug problem in line with the principle of common and shared responsibility.
“This was done through bilateral visitations and discussions that culminated in the signing of Memorandums of Understanding with countries and organizations. Thus, Nigeria’s statement is anchored on the need to deepen collaboration to fighting a common challenge as the world is taken by storm with the exponential increase in drug trafficking and use”, he added.
Marwa expressed optimism that the canvassed synergy will facilitate the speedy dismantling of drug trafficking cartels across Africa through a more vibrant HONLEA platform.
The NDLEA boss was earlier elected unanimously the Vice Chairman of the conference chaired by the host country, Kenya.
HURIWA can only but extend our solidarity to the management and staff of NDLEA.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.