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President Muhammadu Buhari said the threat that illicit drugs posed to Nigeria is more deadly than the current dangers from insurgency, banditry, and kidnapping in the country.
President Buhari said this yesterday while launching the War Against Drug Abuse (WADA), an initiative of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in commemoration of the United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking with the theme: “Share Facts on Drugs. Save Lives.”
“Let me say that this war is more deadlier than the insurgency we have in the Northeastern part of the country or the acts of banditry in the Northwest or the acts of kidnapping that transcends all the geopolitical zones of this country, because it is a war that is destroying three generations, because I’ve seen clips of where grandparents are on drugs, parents are on drugs, and by extension, their wards, their children are on drugs,” he said.
The President, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, charged the NDLEA to rid the vast forests in the South West and South-South regions of the country of criminal elements using the places as hideouts to launch attacks on citizens and cultivate marijuana.
Buhari said: “I am directing the NDLEA to develop a robust risk-communication and community engagement strategy that will not only disseminate the four pillars of the plan to responsible entities, but also deal with destroying production sites and laboratories, break the supply chain, discourage drug use and prosecute offenders as well as traffickers, rehabilitate addicts and enforcement of relevant laws.
“I want to particularly draw the attention of the agency to the fact that the use of many of our forests as criminal hideouts is because large swathes of cannabis plantations are hidden deep within those forests, especially in the Southwest and the South-South.
“You may, therefore, need to drive these criminal elements from such hideouts because they use it for the growth of these plants and also as a repository for criminal elements to conclude and plan their adventures on our people….
“The war against drugs is a war that must be fought by all. It is therefore my pleasure to declare on behalf of the good people of Nigeria a War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) not just as a slogan but a call for civil action for all Nigerians to take active part in this war.
The president said the drug war is targeting three generations in a stretch, stressing that it is “more deadly than even the security challenges that we are having in this country”.
He said every effort must be put in place to ensure that “we deal with the issues of substance abuse and trafficking and manufacture so that we can get to the root cause as ably elucidated by our keynote speaker this afternoon, of the mirage of insecurity problems that are confronting this nation and I believe strongly, with every bit of conviction, that if we are able to deal with the issues of drug abuse, substantial, our security challenges will drastically reduce as we walk towards a drug free, Nigeria.”
President Buhari called on all families, schools, civil society organisations, professional associations, religious organisations, the academia, community leaders and individuals to work for the common good in order to rid their communities of drug use and trafficking.
The President, however, promised to continue to address underlying causes of drug abuse, including poverty reduction, strengthened by the recently developed National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy.
In his remarks, the Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (retd), estimated the value of cash and drugs seized in the past five months since he came on board at over N90 billion.
Marwa, who added that over 2,180 traffickers had been arrested, including five drug barons controlling different cartels across Nigeria, said a record 2.05 million kilograms of drugs had also been intercepted and seized across the country and 2,100 drug offenders prosecuted with 500 jailed by courts.
Marwa said according to statistics, Nigeria is the highest users of cannabis worldwide, adding that revelations from kidnapped victims have collaborated the facts that illicit substances are enablers of insecurity currently rocking the country.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, urged the President to give nod to the appointment of 10,000 for NDLEA which he said was currently “understaffed”, “underfunded”, and “ill-equipped”.
Gbajabiamila, who was represented by Hon Francis Agbo, Chairman, House Committee on Drugs and Narcotics, said the NDLEA is using weapons used during the civil war, stressing the need to fight the menace of drugs abuse in the country as all crimes were enabled by narcotics drugs addiction.
He said the National Assembly was working to amend the Police Trust Fund Act to ensure that other policing agencies like NDLEA benefitted from the pool, adding that efforts would be made to guarantee accelerated endorsement of Mr President after its amendment.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who was represented by Senator Ezekiah Dimka, Chairman, Senate Committee on Narcotics Drugs, underscored the need for individual and collective responsibilities to achieve success.
The United Nations General Assembly Antonio Guterres, said the world drug problem remained an urgent challenge that threatened to exacerbate damage impact and to hinder a healthy recovery.
Guterres, who was represented by the Country Representative, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Oliver Stolpe, urged law enforcement agents to go after the criminals at the upper level of the drug trafficking chain who reaped the highest profit and wrecked the greatest havoc.
Guterres said the 2021 world drug report of UN showed that death and crime attributed to disorders had nearly doubled over the past decade.
He said while new HIV/AIDS infections among adults had declined worldwide but not among people who injected drugs which accounted for 10 percent of new infections in 2019.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, who was represented by Emir of Keffi Dr Shehu Chindo Yamusa III, urged Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), and other relevant agencies to work with NDLEA to tackle drug abuse which described as a major global challenge.
He underscored the need for consistency in the fight against illicit drug and its abuse to save this generation, adding substance abuse counselors should not see their clients as “hopeless”.