The Chairman, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Colonel Mohammad Mustapha Abdallah (retd.) has expressed concern over the effects of drug trafficking like drug dependence and money laundering in the West African sub-region.
Abdallah made the disclosure in Abuja while presenting the programme of activities in commemoration of the 2017 International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
According to the NDLEA boss, “In West Africa, the 85 billion dollars global cocaine trade is exacerbating addiction and money laundering while fuelling political instability and threats to security.
Every $1 billion of pure cocaine trafficked through West Africa earns more than ten times as much as when sold on the street in Europe. We have cause to worry over the increasing conversion of jurisdictions such as our neighboring African countries into transit routes to Europe and Asia because some of these illicit drugs will no doubt find their way through the porous borders to our hinterland into cities for local consumption”.
The theme for the commemoration is same as last year’s Listen First with the rider, listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe. It is through listening that parents can properly appreciate the salient factors that account for indulgence in drugs and it is through such understanding that strategies can be suitably counter and prevent drug challenges.
The Nigerian government has displayed sufficient political will to address the drug menace. The Agency noted that the social investment policy thrust of the Federal Government coupled with the laudable initiatives in agriculture seeks to profitably engage the youths who are vulnerable group in substance abuse thereby de-escalating the problem of drug trafficking and abuse.
Abdallah said that there was a marginal decline in both the arrests and seizures of drugs by the Agency in 2016. “The Agency arrested a total of 8,257 suspected drug traffickers comprising 7,720 males and 537 females in 2016.
Illicit drugs weighing 263,947.57kg were also seized. The drugs include 305.166kg of cocaine, 66.283kg of heroin, 187,394kg of cannabis, 1,352.56kg of methamphetamine, 718.265kg of ephedrine and 74,111.30kg of other sundry drugs.
However, in 2015 suspected drug traffickers arrested were 8,778 consisting of 8,143 males and 635 females while 903,624kg of drugs were seized.
Comparatively, there was a reduction of 521 persons in the number of arrests made in 2016 while drug seizures also reduced by 639,677kg.
This reduction is due to the updated strategies adopted by the Agency in preventing cannabis cultivation as cannabis seizure alone in 2015 was 871,480kg” he stated.
The NDLEA also said that the drug war was taken to the cannabis plantations leading to the destruction of 718.78 hectares far above the 377.12 hectares discovered in 2015.
Correspondingly, the number of drug cases favourably determined in favour of the Agency in court increased with 559 from 1,690 in 2015 to 2,249 in 2016.
Abdallah advocated a drug control model adopted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) where a task force was constituted to coordinate and strengthen responses to illicit drugs and organized crimes by incorporating them into all UN peace keeping, peace building, security, development and disarmament programmes. This model can be domesticated to cover peace building activities in the country.
The NDLEA admitted that although the task before it is daunting, the Agency promised to fast track her strategies by collaborating with stakeholders.
It noted that governments have a responsibility to counteract both drug trafficking and abuse but communities can also make major contributions.
Families, schools, civil society and religious organizations can do their part to rid their communities of drugs.