-NDLEA spokesperson, Mitchell Ofoyeju speaks on the agency’s efforts
In a development sure to draw public condemnation, Nigeria has the highest number of convicts held worldwide for drug related offences. This is according to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). Mr. Iweajunwa Okechukwu, the NDLEA commander in Niger state disclosed this while celebrating the 2015 UN Drug Free Day in Minna on June 26, 2015.
In his words, “There is no doubt that as a country, the menace of drug abuse and trafficking is one of the biggest problems staring us in the face today.
“All over the world, Nigerians are notorious for drug trafficking. We have the highest number of traffickers serving jail terms more than any other country in the world.”
To better understand the statistics, ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke with the Head of Public Affairs, NDLEA, Mr. Mitchell Ofoyeju. He spoke on this and much more…
According to the NDLEA, Nigeria has the highest number of drug related convicts worldwide. What are the statistics validating this assertion?
In 15 years, precisely between 2000 and 2014, the agency prosecuted 17,311 cases winning 17,200 while 111 were lost.
This is quite a disturbing statistics. What would you say is responsible for this?
Many reasons are responsible for these high convictions. NDLEA has one of the best prosecution policies. Every case is diligently prosecuted to a logical conclusion. The agency gives priority to in-depth investigation that provides overwhelming body of evidences in support of drug charges. In addition, our attorneys are knowledgeable and committed. Kindly note that conviction is one of the strategies we employ to ensure a drug-free society.
How do these drug peddlers escape the security forces at our airports?
The NDLEA has intensified security checks at all exit and entry points in the country. This fact has further been validated by the arrests of drug suspects, seizures of drugs and convictions. We have scanning machines, sniffer dogs and other drug-detecting equipment. Our officers are also properly trained to tackle the drug menace. So, there are several measures to ensure that drug traffickers are arrested. We have discovered drugs hidden in foodstuff, electrical appliances, auto parts and many more. Even when drug couriers ingest drugs, we still detect them with the aid of our scanning machines. Honestly, so much has been achieved in this regards.
How much is the NDLEA doing to curb the trafficking of drugs?
There are two major approaches in the fight against narcotic in the country. They are supply control and demand reduction. In supply control we investigate drug cartels, arrest the kingpins and seize illicit drugs.
Those arrested are prosecuted and their illicit drug proceeds confiscated. In the past five months, between January and May 2015, the agency arrested 3,478 drug suspects and seized 170,341.704kg of narcotic drugs. The drugs are cannabis 167,461.826kg, cocaine 103.848kg, heroin 17.976kg and psychotropic substances 2,619.195kg. The agency also discovered cannabis farms measuring 126.721 hectares. On the other hand, there are ongoing anti-drug abuse enlightenment programmes in schools, work places and public places aimed at reducing demand for drugs. This is very crucial because without demand there will be no supply. I am glad to inform you that the Agency in collaboration with stakeholders has formulated a National Drug Control MasterPlan (NDCMP). This policy document is a road map for an elaborate drug control programmes involving other government agencies, ministries, department, non-governmental organizations, organized private sector and individuals.
What are some of the banned substances that are most frequency trafficked?
Drugs that are commonly smuggled in the country are cannabis also known as hemp, cocaine, heroin and recently Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS) particularly methamphetamine. The most prevalent drug is cannabis which is cultivated in the country. NDLEA has equally discovered and shut down 10 clandestine laboratories that produce methamphetamine in the country since 2011.
What are the challenges you face on a day to day basis in the course of your duty?
Challenges are many but we are trying our best in addressing them. The agency needs more equipment like scanning machines, sniffer dogs and drug testing kits. We also need additional vehicles and more funding because narcotic investigation is capital intensive.
What should be done to remedy the situation both on the part of the government and the society?
This is a fight for all and I am glad that the master plan has outlined roles for stakeholders. What we must do is to intensify our efforts individually and collectively.
Would you say the NDLEA is equipped enough with all it needs to combat the sales, use and trafficking of drugs in Nigeria?
We are well equipped. That is why we are able to present an impressive scorecard. However, the expectation is high so we expect more input. We need more funding, improved welfare packages and equipment for us to surpass our current performance level.
How much success have you recorded in recent times, say in the last one year?
The agency recorded unprecedented success in cannabis farm destruction operation in 2014. A total of 4,529.15hectares of farmland representing 53,719,342.32 kilogrammes of cannabis were destroyed and prevented from causing untold harm to Nigerians. A total of 8,826comprising 8,332 males and 494 females were arrested or questioned during investigation while illicit drugs seized weighed 166,697.18kg. The breakdown of the drugs is as follows; cannabis sativa 158,852.2kg, cocaine 226.041kg and heroin 56.449kg. Others are methamphetamine 119.2kg, amphetamine 0.05grammes, ephedrine 35.8kg and psychotropic substances 7,407.44kg. Besides arrests and drug seizures, 3,403 drug dependent persons received drug counseling services in NDLEA centres nationwide. NDLEA also had a good prosecution scorecard as 2,070 cases were charged to court and 2,054 were convicted in 2014.
Briefly, tell us about your office…
The Public Affairs Office is in charge of cultivating and sustaining cordial working relationship between the agency and its publics. Let me use this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to all our media partners. They have been very supportive and we sincerely appreciate their excellent contribution.