Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig Gen Buba Marwa (Rtd) on Thursday raised the alarm that drug barons were now after the operatives of the agency following the renewed efforts of the agency towards curbing circulation and consumption of illicit and hard drugs in the country.
The NDLEA boss raised the alarm when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee of Drugs and Narcotics to defend the agency’s 2022 budget performance and 2023 proposal.
He said that in the renewed efforts against drug war under his watch, the agency had arrested and is prosecuting 28 barons with seizures worth billions of naira.
According to him, “we have arrested and are prosecuting so far 28 barons with seizures worth billions of naira. Indeed, one of the barons we found had 103 bank accounts with a total balance of over 20 billion naira, which we have frozen.”
Consequently, the NDLEA boss said that there was an urgent need to provide barracks accommodation for the operatives of the agency for their safety.
According to him, “the barracks issue is very critical to us because as we all know the NDLEA is very aggressive now against drug traffickers and the drug barons and when you arrest and prosecute them and send them to jail, they are not happy. So they come after our personnel and with our personnel living in the town and cities and among them, we have been recording casualties and assassinations against them.”
He, however, disclosed that the agency was at the process of building a barrack for NDLEA personnel for the first time following the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari and well in the process of building three laboratory centres, two forensic laboratories and purchasing of security equipment.
He added that the agency has concluded the acquisition of land in Adamawa, Abuja and Lagos for the barracks and the Private Public Parternip process is rounding off.
The NDLEA boss said that N24 billion was allocated to the barracks project in the 2022 budget but now been slashed to N13 billion in the 2023 budget proposal and demanded an additional N10 billion for the projects.
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According to him, “like I said earlier, the President had graciously approved the construction of barracks for the Agency in 2022. The barrack project is ongoing and the sum of N13 billion has been captured in the 2023 budget proposal. Last year it was N24 billion. Actually 24 billion cannot build a barrack, complete barrack. But we had to figure out certain key priorities in selected areas, bearing in mind the need to go round all the geopolitical zones and this year, we have been able to look at four zones. We have touched Lagos but it still needs more to be done.
“We pray that with more money for the barrack, because N13 billion would probably build half a barracks, but if we are able to achieve another 10 billion or more on this barrack, then we would be able to add three more of the geopolitical zones for us to complete six. Hopefully as the years go by and we have other chairman, the struggle for barracks would continue.”
Marwa said from January 2021 the Agency has arrested over 19,000 persons while 28 drug barons have also been arrested and were being prosecuted.
He said 5452 metric tonnes illicit drugs, with a street value of N420 billion had also been seized.
He added that over 3000 convictions have been secured, over 12000 have been counseled in rehabilitation centres while the Agency had destroyed cannabis farms of 714 hectares.
The NDLEA Boss said the Agency was appropriated a total of 38,933,249,197.18 for 2022 and during the year under review, it completed the recruitment of 5000 additional personnel.
He said this number was out of a total of 15,000 which was approved by the President to be implemented incrementally.
“So even though the recruitment exercise started last year, the training was concluded this year. The 15, 000 approved by the president has been segmented into three phases of 5000 each. So we did 5000 last year, completed this year. The second 5000 has received Mr President’s approval and is in the process. We hope that within the next quarter or so, funding would have been released for it and we would fully engage ourselves in the process of the next 5000,” he said.
He added that the agency recorded the largest seizure ever of pure cocaine in 2022.
According to him, “In the course of 2022, I am glad to mention that the agency made history by recording the largest seizure ever of pure cocaine weighing over 2.1 metric tonnes, which is worth $315 million or over N230 billion. We have received a court order and have already destroyed it. This was a unique operation because we were able to arrest the five barons involved who were located in different parts of Lagos, practically to the second, without firing a shot. We had to coordinate it properly so that none would be arrested one minute earlier than the others because they will alert the others and they would escape. But we were able to do it clinically for those five at the same time in one night.
“For the 2023 proposal, he said Agency was allocated a sum of N40, 112, 063, 869 of which N16,607,531,761.00 is for recurrent personnel cost; N2,064,083,294.00 is for recurrent overhead cost and N21,440,448,814.00 is for capital.”
In his remark, the Chairman of the Committee, Hon Francis Agbo commended the leadership of the agency for injecting life back into the agency.
He assured that the committee would ensure adequate budgetary provision for the agency in the 2023 financial year to sustain the current tempo of the war against illicit drugs in the country.