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How Marwa’s NDLEA Saves Europe

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Just a little story to try to breakdown the import of this flowery title of this piece.

It is generally known that some highly uneducated rich elites from the South East of Nigeria suffer from the affliction of pride and excessive penchant for titles or what some wordsmith appropriately called as titlemania.

In this insane rush for titles and self adulation, some of them here have gone as far as deifying themselves and equating themselves to the messianic status that ought to be left exclusive within the arena of the sacred and not drag through the gutter of profanity.

Some of these rich elite have gone as far as wearing the cynical title of ‘Ozo Igbo Ndu’ or literally interpreted it means “Messiah of Igbo People who protect their lives.”

But this article doesn’t suffer the same contamination of some craziest penchant to dress the subject matter in an apparently borrowed robes.

Not at all!

What is about to be discussed is backed by a trailer load of empirical, scientific and concrete data to justify the characterization that the current hierarchy of Nigeria’s National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is doing so much to save Europe.

Yes, NDLEA has in less than two years stopped tons of prohibited substances and drugs such as cocaine, heroin, et ce tera far from flooding the streets of European cities. Both the European Union and the government of the United States of America have given this testimony as would be revealed in this article.

As a corollary to the aforementioned, it is a notorious fact that within the underworld, Nigeria used to be a safe transit camp for hard drugs that were shipped in from South America and Asia into Europe to saturate the streets and these products are then sold by cartels whose business leads to multidimensional issues for mostly the younger population of Europe. During the military era, certain crime writers went as far as labelling the then government as narco-regimes.

I will reproduce a very meticulously documented report done by the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) asserting that Nigeria was praxtixally turned into a transit for hard drugs that are moved by cartels and drug barons into European Union nations and the USA.

Writing on the theme of Drugs and organized crime, UNODC stated as follows: “Nigeria is a transit point for heroin and cocaine intended for European, East Asian, and North American markets. Since 2004 drug traffickers have been increasingly using West African countries, including Nigeria, for smuggling large amounts of cocaine from South America into Europe and North America. The country has a relatively high rate of drug abuse due to the continued availability of illicitly manufactured and diverted pharmaceutical products containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The most abused drug in West Africa is cannabis, mainly in its herbal form. Cannabis is locally produced all over the region and is therefore affordable.”

After establishing that historical background, we make haste to restate that there is little doubt that drug addiction is a major or social factor in much of Europe.

This writer recently read a report by British government.

The report observed that the decision by the UK government to leave the European Union (EU) comes at a time when parts of the UK are experiencing a marked rise in reported gun and knife crimes, including many fatalities

The ofgicial report further averred that the health effects of Brexit have attracted growing, if belated, attention with concerns about the supply of health workers, medicines, and radioisotopes with many other areas being under recognised.

“As we argue here, one is the UK’s ability to tackle this upsurge in drug-related crime. This is an issue in the context of Brexit because many of these crimes are linked to gangs fighting for control of parts of the illicit drug markets, particularly the lucrative £11 billion cocaine market.

The report then revealed that with new models of distribution involving recruitment of young people as couriers (the “county lines” phenomenon), a development that police forces link to increasing violence. While the EU plays an important role in assembling the evidence and intelligence to tackle drug-related harm linked to serious and organised crime, continued access to its resources is not guaranteed after Brexit.

The report discloses that this work is crucial in reducing harm in for example cocaine use, that has been expanding rapidly in many metropolitan areas. Bristol now ranks fifth among European cities for per capita use, surpassing Amsterdam, Berlin, and Paris.

Further the report averred that the effects of this expansion are visible in its contribution to the rise in Drug-Related Deaths (DRDs) and its effects on public health across the UK.

In 2015 there were 3,070 deaths classified as DRD, a 13% increase from 2014 (n = 2,717). Seventy percent (2,162) were in England, 21% in Scotland (637), 5% (167) in Wales, and 3% (104) in Northern Ireland, the report concludes.

Each of these countries experienced an increase between 2014 and 2015, with 13% more in England, 11% in Scotland, 14% in Wales, and 36% rise in Northern Ireland. This trend has continued across the UK. For example, in 2017 there were 934 DRD’s registered in Scotland, 8% more than in 2016, according to figures released by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) with cocaine implicated in 176, 53 more than the previous high of 123 in 2016.

The report says that In 2017 in England and Wales there were 3,756 deaths related to drug poisoning.

These were the highest figures since the beginning of the time series, and show a small increase in the 2016 level 2016 (3,744 deaths). Looking ahead, there is concern about the growing use of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, with a 29% increase in mortality linked to this drug in 2018, and the involvement of organised crime in the production and distribution of traditional drugs and new psychoactive substances (NPS) [12,16,17]. At a time when drugs policy is under scrutiny and pressure for change is intense, informed debate is essential.

On the International effort to combat drug trafficking and other forms of crime, the Netherlands says it collaborates with other countries to combat international drug trafficking and organised crime. The Dutch authorities work closely with their counterparts in other countries. For example, they exchange police information and provide international legal assistance, the government disclosed.

“The Dutch authorities work with other countries within different international organisations. These include Euregional institutions like EURIEC, EPICC and BES, regional institutions like the Benelux Union and the Hazeldonk cooperation, EU institutions like Europol and EMPACT, and international institutions like MAOC-N and Interpol.”

On other forms of cooperation, the Dutch authority said rapid information sharing when a new synthetic drug is identified on the market. This includes exchanging information about the health risks involved and the treatment of users. An Early Warning System (EWS) is in place for this purpose.

Comparing the data on drugs that exist in the various countries of the EU. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) collects, analyses and supplies information about drugs and drug use in the European Union. The UNODC does the same at a global scale. Based on the undeniable fact that since coming on board at the head of Nigeria’s counter narcotics warfare, Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa led NDLEA has received accolades from the international community because of the agency’s enormous efforts to stop tons of hard drugs from infiltrating and saturating the streets of Europe and the United States of America.

We also read that the United States and the United Kingdom governments have pledged more support for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA) after expressing satisfaction with the successes recorded by the new leadership of the agency in just eight weeks in the saddle.

The Consul General, US Consulate, Lagos, Claire Pierangelo and the British Deputy High Commissioner in Nigeria, Ben Llewellyn-Jones said this on Tuesday during the donation of a speedboat to the NDLEA.

In a statement made available by the Director Media and Advocacy, Mr Femi Babafemi, in Abuja, Pierangelo expressed satisfaction with the performance of the Chairman, NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (Retd) in just eight weeks on the seat.

She assured that the US government would be willing to collaborate and give more support to the lead anti-drug agency in Nigeria in view of the dynamism and efficiency that have been brought into the operations of the agency.

In his remarks, the Deputy British High Commissioner, Llewellyn-Jones, said the UK government was pleased with the series of illicit drugs seized by the NDLEA at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport.

Llewellyn-Jones added that the seizures at the Tincan seaport and the Apapa seaport, all in Lagos, soon after Marwa came on board as the Chairman of the NDLEA were commendable.

He said with the renewed vigour brought into the war against illicit drugs in Nigeria and the successes recorded between January and now, the UK would be glad to offer more support to the Agency.

He added that the handing over of the patrol boat was a significant indication of the support.

“Since your appointment, there has been a flurry of activities. There have been huge seizures across commands.

“The cocaine seizure at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport was massive and for this, NDLEA must be recognised and commended.

“We will continue to give you all the necessary support. We must continue to work on our relationship to make sure that the current situation continues,” he stated.

In his response, the NDLEA boss assured the British government that the boat would be put to good use, while thanking them for their investment and support for the war against illicit drugs in the country.

“I want to appreciate the American and the British governments for the support given to the NDLEA over the years in terms of intelligence sharing, training, equipment and other logistics, and most especially since my assumption of duty as the Chairman of the NDLEA.

“Let me state categorically that with the new vigour and vigilance of our men and officers at the seaports, airports, and land borders, which recently resulted in huge seizures.

“I am aware that drug traffickers have now turned to our waterways across the borders to bring in drugs.

“With the donation of this boat today, I’ll like to warn that the time is up for them also on our waterways because from now they have the NDLEA to contend with there and we’ll deal decisively with them if they fail to back out of the criminal trade,” he stated.

And as the NDLEA continues to get accolades from within and outside of our shores for their massive raids of drug cartels and the massive arrests and prosecution of billionaires who are alleged drug barons, the NDLEA recently intercepted Europe-bound 58kg cocaine, meth at Lagos, Abuja airports just as it recovers 2.6million opioids in Adamawa, Kogi, Kaduna; arrests Chadian, others.

Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, had intercepted consignments of illicit drugs including cocaine, methamphetamine and its precursor chemical, ephedrine going to the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand and Cyprus at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Lagos; Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and some courier companies.

At least three traders at the Trade Fair Complex in Ojo area of Lagos: Nwudele Basil Christopher; Chiedu Ezenwani Francis and Donatus Nwojiji have been arrested in connection with attempts to export 52.10 kilograms of ephedrine, a precursor chemical and active ingredient for the production of methamphetamine, concealed in bunches of fishing threads and packed among other items in jumbo sacks that were intercepted at the SAHCO export shed of the Lagos airport on Sunday 31st January and Monday 1st February. It took the painstaking efforts of NDLEA officers and deployment of sniffer dogs to be able to discover the complex mode of concealment of the illicit substance.

At the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, NAIA, Abuja, vigilant operatives of the Agency on Monday 13th February intercepted a 29-year-old Apeh Kelvin Ogbonna while attempting to board Turkish airline flight TK0624 going through Istanbul to Cyprus, with 4.5 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed in false bottoms of his travelling bag. The suspect claimed he was running a boutique business in Enugu before he decided to travel to Cyprus for a degree in Business Administration.

At three different courier firms in Lagos, operatives intercepted two cocaine consignments weighing 400 grams each, going to United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia. They were hidden in walls of cartons used for packaging. Two other consignments containing 500 grams and 100 grams of methamphetamine were also blocked from being shipped to New Zealand after they were discovered concealed in food items.

No fewer than 2,684,900 pills of tramadol and other pharmaceutical opioids were seized by operatives during interdiction operations in some states in the past week. In Adamawa, a total of 250,000 pills of tramadol and exol-5 as well as 1800ml of codeine neatly concealed in the reserve fuel tank of a trailer from Onitsha, Anambra state were seized at Mubi and a dealer, Hussaini Ibrahim (a.k.a Bafu) arrested.

While a total of 279,000 pills of tramadol 200mg and 225mg were recovered from a suspect, Hammajan Suleman, along Okene-Abuja highway in Kogi, on Monday 13th February, 376 blocks of skunk weighing 229.36kgs and a Toyota Camry car used in conveying the consignment from Edo state enroute Kano by another suspect, Moses Alabi were handed over to NDLEA by a patrol team of the Nigerian Army, in Lokoja on Tuesday 14th February.

In the same vein, two suspects: Christian Nnachor, 23 and Chinonso Obiora, 20, arrested with 1,843,900 tablets of Diazepam and 300,000 pills of Exol-5 by soldiers along Abuja-Kaduna express road were transferred to the Kaduna State Command of NDLEA on Monday 13th February while Christopher Maduka, 43, was arrested with 10,000 ampoules of pentazocine injection by NDLEA operatives on Saturday 18th Feb. along Abuja-Kaduna highway.

In Kano, Ahmed Suraj Rabiu was nabbed with 89 bottles of codeine syrup in Badawa area of the state, while Amadu Musa and three others were arrested in Kofar Mata with 53 blocks of cannabis weighing 41.9kgs. In Niger state, a trans-border trafficker, Abdullahi Isah was arrested along Jebba-Mokwa highway with 188 blocks of skunk that weighed 107 kilograms, which he was attempting to take to Niger republic.

While 24kgs of Arizona variant of cannabis and 2,000 pills of opioids were recovered from Ibrahim Isiyaku along Nguru- Kano road in Yobe, no fewer than four suspects: Usman Abubakar, a Chadian; Muhammad Ali; Ibrahim Yahaya and Babagana Abdullahi were arrested in connection with the seizure of 61.45kgs of cannabis and 22.1kgs of exol-5 in Jigawa with follow up operations in Kano. The consignments were ordered by Usman with a view to taking them to Chad.

In his reaction to the arrests and seizures of the past week, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) commended the officers, men and women of the MMIA, NAIA, DOGI, Adamawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kogi, Niger, and Yobe commands for their commitment and vigilance. He urged them and their compatriots across the country to continue with the current working synergy with other security forces towards ridding Nigeria of the menace of illicit drugs.

To underscore the importance of these interception by the NDLEA, let’s peruse the UNODC World Drug Report 2020 in which the United Nation agency stated that global drug use rising; while COVID-19 has far reaching impact on global drug markets.

Dated 25th June 2020, the report statistically revealed that around 269 million people used drugs worldwide in 2018, which is 30 per cent more than in 2009, while over 35 million people suffer from drug use disorders, according to the latest World Drug Report, released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The Report also analyses the impact of COVID-19 on the drug markets, and while its effects are not yet fully known, border and other restrictions linked to the pandemic have already caused shortages of drugs on the street, leading to increased prices and reduced purity.

Rising unemployment and reduced opportunities caused by the pandemic are also likely to disproportionately affect the poorest, making them more vulnerable to drug use and also to drug trafficking and cultivation in order to earn money, the Report says.

“Vulnerable and marginalized groups, youth, women and the poor pay the price for the world drug problem. The COVID-19 crisis and economic downturn threaten to compound drug dangers further still, when our health and social systems have been brought to the brink and our societies are struggling to cope,” said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly. “We need all governments to show greater solidarity and provide support, to developing countries most of all, to tackle illicit drug trafficking and offer evidence-based services for drug use disorders and related diseases, so we can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, promote justice and leave no one behind.”

Due to COVID-19, traffickers may have to find new routes and methods, and trafficking activities via the darknet and shipments by mail may increase, despite the international postal supply chain being disrupted. The pandemic has also lead to opioid shortages, which in turn may result in people seeking out more readily available substances such as alcohol, benzodiazepines or mixing with synthetic drugs. More harmful patterns of use may emerge as some users switch to injecting, or more frequent injecting.

Looking at further effects of the current pandemic, the Report says that if governments react the same way as they did to the economic crisis in 2008, when they reduced drug-related budgets, then interventions such as prevention of drug use and related risk behaviours, drug treatment services, the provision of naloxone for management and reversal of opioid overdose could be hard hit. Interception operations and international cooperation may also become less of a priority, making it easier for traffickers to operate.

On the trends in drug use, UNODC states that Cannabis was the most used substance worldwide in 2018, with an estimated 192 million people using it worldwide. Opioids, however, remain the most harmful, as over the past decade, the total number of deaths due to opioid use disorders went up 71 per cent, with a 92 per cent increase among women compared with 63 per cent among men.

Drug use increased far more rapidly among developing countries over the 2000-2018 period than in developed countries. Adolescents and young adults account for the largest share of those using drugs, while young people are also the most vulnerable to the effects of drugs because they use the most and their brains are still developing.

UNODC specifically affirmed that Socio-economically disadvantaged face greater risk from drug use disorders.

It says that poverty, limited education and social marginalization remain major factors increasing the risk of drug use disorders and vulnerable and marginalized groups may also face barriers to getting treatment services due to discrimination and stigma. (The World Drug Report and further content is available here: wdr.unodc.org).

The 2020 World Drug Report provides a global overview of the supply and demand of opiates, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine-type stimulants and new psychoactive substances (NPS), as well as their impact on health, taking into account the possible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It highlights, through improved research and more precise data, that the adverse health consequences of drug use are more widespread than previously thought.

The piece is factually accurate and evidence based so you dear readers need to know that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) not long ago disclosed that it made drug and non-drug seizures of over N450 billion from drug traffickers and barons in the last 22 months.

Also within the same period of time seizures of over 100 million pills of pharmaceutical opioid, tramadol that could have impacted negatively on the youth population and national productivity in Nigeria were made, the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the agency, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (Retd) disclosed in Abuja, yesterday.

Marwa made the disclosure during the Command’s Awards/Commendations and decoration of newly promoted officers at its headquarters.

According to him, “Within the period under review, the agency arrested 23,907 drug traffickers including 29 barons. Our seizure was over 5,500 tons or 5.5 million kilogrammes of assorted illicit drugs, which together with cash seized are worth over N450 billion.

“In the same period, we have taken the fight to the doorsteps of cannabis growers by destroying 772. 5 hectares of cannabis farms. In these 22 months, we have record convictions of 3, 434 offenders. We have equally made good strides in our drug demand reduction efforts where the number of those counselled and rehabilitated is 16,114.

“The figures are mere statistics until you view them through the lens of human impact and the good or harm that could have come to the society, the impact on public health, security as well as law and order if those dangerous drugs had gone to the street. “Take, for instance, the 100 million pills of tramadol seized in the past 22 months. If those pills had gone into circulation and ended up in the hands of young people, it would take a heavy toll on lives, families, productivity and, ultimately, the GDP of the country because it will affect these young people who are the engine room of productivity.”

Marwa, while justifying the reason behind the award and promotion of staff, said, “there is no gainsaying that our dedication to duty has been the driving force behind our good performance; at the same time, it is also not an exaggeration to say that our good performance is catalysed by motivation.

“As proven right by events in the past 24 months, management’s decision to deploy multi-pronged motivational mechanism to improve the organisation’s work ethic is part of the recipe for the resurgence of the agency and the resultant spectacular performance.

“On that score, management is committed to doing everything possible to improve productivity on the job. Part of that effort is why we are here today, namely the Commands Awards and Commendations.

“We usually calculate our performance as monthly, quarterly or yearly appraisals. But drug law enforcement is generally a continuum, hence, I am wont to always appraise our efforts from January 2021, when we began far-reaching reforms, reviewed our strategies and rejigged the existing systems to accommodate innovations.

“From then till now, we have been on an upward trajectory and indeed, what we have done in the last 22 months, from January 2021 to October 2022, based on the available statistics, is cause for celebration.”

Marwa while praising President Muhammadu Buhari for his relentless support for the agency to succeed in its given assignment, led the gathering to offer a birthday song to celebrate the president on his 80th birthday.

He charged the officers who were promoted and those who got commendation awards to rededicate themselves while assuring others with such expectations to be hopeful.

“I charge you to take this award as a testament to your professional progress. Beyond that, that you are here today should also be taken as a challenge to surpass your record every quarter and to be resolute to always be part of this bi-annual ceremony.

He said the second leg of the ceremony pertained to the decoration of some officers that were recently promoted. Last year, 3,506 officers were promoted.

This year, a total of 1,018 officers were also promoted to new ranks including two DCGN, 17 ACGN, 29 CN, 78 DCN and 111 ACN. Others are 63 CSN, 106 SN, 129 DSN, 25 ASN I, 400 ASN II, 9 CNA, 44 SNA, 3 NA and 2 NAS I.

He noted that: “Promotion is a reward for industry, diligence and dedication. It is earned on merit, not given as gratis, and at times, it is subject to vacancy.

“What that means is that it is not everybody that deserves a promotion that gets it. From certain ranks, there is a limited vacancy in upward mobility.

“That brings me to this important point: to those whose expectations were not met in the just concluded promotion and harmonisation exercise, I am saying that the process is still on going as management is working to address some complaints. We will continue to put everyone concerned into consideration as soon as there are openings at the higher level,” he added.

He however charged officers not to rest on their oars while also urging them to abstain from any action that could undermine the collective interest of the agency in ridding the country of illicit substance abuse and trafficking.

“I am obligated to give kudos for the good job you have done this year. This year’s performance is a testament to the fact that what we achieved last year was not a fluke. I enjoined us to keep up the good work, but remember, we are on a long journey, there is still long mileage to cover and there is room for improvement.

“Importantly, do not abuse the trust reposed in us by the public. I want to assure you that management is taking care of your welfare, professionalism and work entitlement.

“President Muhammadu Buhari has done this in terms of welfare packages with his approval of a number of incentives. The barrack project is also in full swing. These are indications that the future is bright for NDLEA officers.

“Therefore, we cannot afford to have officers that cross the lines in terms of temptations. You have got nothing to fear whether now or in retirement because we now have a good welfare package that should take care of you and your family on the job or in retirement,” he added.

So dear readers, when you hear me shout from the rooftops that the Nigerian National Drug Law Enforcement Agency under the leadership of retired military General Mohammed Buba Marwa is working to put huge quantities of hard drugs away from the streets of Africa, Europe and the USA, you can rely on these statistics elaborately enunciated herein as your most dependable resource or reference material to establish the veracity of this factually accurate statement. The be all and end all of this piece is to encourage Nigerians to keep supporting the General Marwa-led National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency so Nigeria does not degenerate Ince more to a NARCO-REGIME and a safe transit camp or haven for drug cartels and barons.

*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

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