Drug War: Marwa gets off to winning start

Just about mid-way through January 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed former military administrator of Lagos State, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Rtd) as the Chairman/Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). It was not considered a poor decision, given that the retired military General had scored some firsts during his time as either military governor in Borno state or the MILAD of Lagos, as well as other national assignments he has been assigned to.

Marwa’s first duty in office was to inaugurate a seven-member harmonisation committee to address all forms of distortions hampering the smooth running of the agency – welfare, ethics, logistics, posting, promotions, salary increments, discipline etc. – and tasked with receiving memoranda from aggrieved staff members and analysing them in line with set criteria, taking into account service progression and vacancies.

Weeks after that committee was in place, Marwa also inaugurated a 31-man Special Purpose Committee to support the agency in the fight against drug menace. No doubt, Marwa’s administration is dedicated to establishing the ground work for the fight against drugs in Nigeria and, as part of this, fresh from his inauguration, he reached out to international partners for strong collaboration in the fight, by signing a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United States Government on how to strengthen Nigeria’s war against drug abuse even as he assured that the agency would  be hard against drug traffickers, exporters and importers operating in the country.

“We will be hard against drug criminals. We will be serious. We are going to rid this country of illicit drugs trade, trafficking and consumption. But in carrying out this onerous task, I will take this opportunity to seek for more of your support for the agency to enable us move faster,” he told the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard.

Passionate about his duty to the nation and the administration, Marwa has called on Nigerians to join ranks with the agency to report and campaign against the menace. To this end, he tasked Nigerians to take ownership of the renewed fight against the pandemic of drug abuse in the country, with a view to making Nigeria a safer place for all.

Giving the charge in Abuja recently, during the inauguration of the Special Purpose Committee, Marwa called on civil society groups to get more active and get involved in the fight against drug abuse, peddling and trafficking.

Marwa’s time at the helm of the NDLEA got off to a great start with series of eye popping seizures of illicit drugs and high profile arrests of drug users, traffickers and barons. Some of the most recent include the seizure of cocaine worth over N30billion at the Lagos airport soon after he assumed office. Not long after, another heavy consignment of cocaine worth over N32billion was intercepted at the Tincan seaport in Lagos. This was also followed by the seizure of over 230,000kg of cannabis sativa from four warehouses in a forest in Edo state. This is said to be the biggest seizure of the illicit drug in the history of NDLEA. Soon after, operatives of the agency intercepted two million capsules of Tramadol (precisely 1,994,400 capsules) tucked in 554 cartons in a container at the Apapa Seaport.

The container, falsely declared to contain ceramic tiles, found its way to Nigeria but the eagle eyes of the narcotic agents discovered it during a joint inspection of the ship that brought it into the country.

Operatives of the agency further raided some drug spots in Agege, Ikorodu, Lekki, Okokomaiko and other parts of Lagos state and dismantled major drug syndicates, arrested 90 suspects (including an Indian) and seized large quantities of hard drugs.

Illegal drugs seized include ‘Cannabis Sativa’ 577.020 kg; cocaine 0.183kg, heroine 0.003 kg, tramadol 36.202kg (7,697) tablets, rohypnol 0.208kg (646) tablets, diazapam 0.462kg (2066) tablets, Exol-5 0.52kg (316) tablets, making a total of 614.396kg of different types of hard drugs seized.

As the noose continued to tighten, operatives intercepted another trans-border trafficker in Sokoto, as he tried to cross to Algeria through Niger Republic with 62 wraps of substance suspected to be cocaine weighing 1.550kg, which has an estimated street value of about N1billion.

The suspect, who had neatly concealed the drugs in yoghurt cans and strapped them to a motorcycle, at Illela border, tried to cross to the Niger Republic while his destination was to be Algeria where he resides.

Without mincing words, the NDLEA is rejuvenated under Marwa and, working with Nigerians and his army of dedicated staff, there are strong indications that the agency will break all the glass ceilings that had hitherto hampered its progress.

Pembi, a public affairs analyst, wrote in from Abuja.

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