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Over 3,400 drug traffickers bag jail terms in 2023

Over 3,412 drug traffickers were arrested and arraigned before court across Nigeria by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) were sentenced to different jail terms in 2023.

Of this huge number, 15 were drug kingpins that were convicted within the year under review and bagged 168 years of imprisonment collectively.

The Chairman, NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (retd) disclosed this statistics on Wednesday while addressing commanders, officers and men of the Agency during an awards and commendations ceremony at its national headquarters in Abuja where a total of 104 personnel and 13 commands that had outstanding performances in the 2nd half of 2023 were recognized and rewarded.

In his words, “Indeed, our performance as individuals and as a collective could always be better; nonetheless, we must appreciate every effort made to help sustain the momentum of our upward trajectory since January 2021, when we launched the renewed fight against illicit substance trafficking.

“According to our statistics, we recorded 13, 664 arrests leading to the seizure of 1, 606, 799.09 kilograms of assorted illicit drugs and 3,412 convictions with a total of 5, 570 offenders charged to court in 2023. It’s indeed a year that at least 15 drug kingpins bagged 168 years of imprisonment collectively. That is a substantial improvement over our performance in 2022. Notably, in 2023, we also ramped up our enforcement action against cannabis farms and carried out at least seven successful major operations, leading to the discovery and destruction of over 206 hectares of cannabis plantations.”

The NDLEA boss also explained that to create awareness about the dangers of substance abuse aimed at prevention and encourage those already in it to seek treatment, the Agency intensified its war against drug abuse (WADA) advocacy initiative nationwide.

“The frequency and intensity of our advocacy throughout the year improved considerably. Zonal and state commands have been very dedicated to propagating WADA advocacy. As a result, a total of 2,725 sensitisation lectures and programmes were held in schools, worship centres, work places and communities among others. A breakdown of the WADA lectures held in 2023 shows: 807 in Primary/Secondary Schools; 146 in Tertiary Institutions; 488 for out of school children; 264 in worship centres; 140 in military/paramilitary organisations; 90 in other work places, among others. Just as well, our commands and formations have coped with the increased workload of counselling activities leading to the counselling and rehabilitation of 10, 904 drug users”, he stated.

Marwa said those who have been in the Agency longer than 2021 can attest to the fact that the past three years have brought different dynamics to the operations and performance of the agency, a development that has attracted commendations from home and abroad.

“This is further reinforced by the content of a letter two weeks ago from the National Assembly conveying the decision of the national parliament to ‘commend the efforts of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in the fight against illicit drug consumption and trafficking.’ This recognition by both Chambers of the National Assembly should serve as a further morale booster and a reminder that your efforts are not going unnoticed.

“I must also say that the NDLEA management has no misgivings about instituting the Commands Awards and Commendations. This twice-a-year event, though a reward system, serves as an inward-looking glass for critical self-analysis and therefore a mechanism that puts the agency on its toes. Each time we gather here to honour exemplary officers and commands, we are making a loud statement that we value meritocracy and that hard work is a virtue we hold in high esteem. We are trying to normalise good performance”, he added.

He assured that he will not relent in his effort to improve the welfare of the NDLEA workforce. “All the issues we are working on will soon come to fruition in a matter of time. For instance, we fought hard to have an amended NDLEA Act last year. Today, the bill is at the 10th National Assembly receiving due attention, and we are optimistic that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. I am also pleased to inform you that our barracks projects have recorded progress. Before the middle of the year, some of our barracks will be ready for commissioning. These few examples of the efforts going on behind the scenes are evidence that we are working in your best interest.”

He however warned that the Agency will be firm on disciplinary issues. “We don’t take infractions lightly. Every officer of NDLEA is expected to work within the ambit of our core values and strictly adhere to our standard operating procedure. We expect our officers to be the epitome of service, selflessness and sacrifice.”

He expressed appreciation to individuals and institutions that have contributed to the success of the Agency. “As an institution, we thank the European Union and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, for being helpful partners on this journey. We appreciate the support of our other international partners from the US, UK, France, Germany, and India among others.

“We also appreciate sister agencies and security organisations, including the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force, Customs, Immigration, Police, DSS, NSCDC, NAFDAC, NYSC and FRSC, for the synergy that makes our job easy. Our profound gratitude also goes to the Senate Committee on Drugs and Narcotics, the House of Representatives Committee on Narcotic Drugs, and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. Importantly, we thank His Excellency President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his encouragement and immense support to NDLEA.”

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