President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has attributed the lingering insecurity to the funding activities of drug barons who provide insurgent groups such as Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers with arms and ammunitions to undertake criminal activities in the country.
Lawan made this known when the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brigadier General Buba Marwa (Rtd), paid a visit to his office on Thursday at the National Assembly, Abuja.
According to him, such drug barons who engage in trafficking heroine, cannabis and cocaine have made Nigeria a major transit route for plying the illicit trade, which he added, was responsible for the rise of criminality in the country. The Senate President, therefore, called for the restructuring of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), so as to further empower it to rise to the occasion of clamping down on the criminal activities of drug traffickers operating in the country.
He assured that the National Assembly would support the agency in the aspect of amending the NDLEA Act with a view to enabling the agency achieve its core mandates. He said: “The National Assembly members are almost on a daily interaction with our constituents and we know the very debilitating impact of drug abuse in our various communities.
“You have rightly said almost every community in this country suffers from drug addiction. So, we are very mindful of what is happening.
“I believe that this agency needs restructuring. Now that you have taken over, we should go the whole haul to restructure the agency, not piece meal touches, because we need to get it right.
“My personal opinion is that NDLEA should be in the league of EFCC, ICPC, and therefore, the kind of support that those two agencies I mentioned receive, you should receive something like that, in addition to many other things that you should be supported with.
“So, the National Assembly will definitely work with you, we will partner with you, and will ensure that we do our best to give you the kind of support that will enable you properly to discharge your mandate.
“Having said this, let me say that Nigeria as a country is in one way or the other a transit route for drugs.
“Drug peddlers pass their drugs through Nigeria – cannabis, heroin and possibly even cocaine.
“We believe that this has to stop, because the proceeds of such activities fund terrorism, they fund banditry, you wonder how the bandits have RPGs and these massive arms that they have.
“Definitely, these are some acquisition provided by some barons, not the bandits themselves.
“So, we need to ensure that this transit role that Nigerians plays is addressed properly. And here we have to approach this through multi-sectoral efforts – the Customs, Immigration Service, our Security Agencies, and in fact, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), and our seaports.
“Of course, this is not going to be easy, but we have to be steadfast and we should do whatever is possible without the limited resources we have to make you better.”
Speaking on the drug addiction rate in Nigeria, Lawan underscored the need for multi-dimensional efforts across the various agencies of governments aimed at tackling underlying causes such as illiteracy, unemployment and poverty, responsible for the exposure of youths to criminal tendencies.
The Senate President also advocated for the inclusion of Drug Education in the curricular for schools and institutions of learning in Nigeria. Lawan’s words: “We also believe that the drug addiction level in Nigeria is so bad that we are loosing our youths to drug addiction. Like you have mentioned, the terrorists, the insurgents, the bandits and almost all the criminals have recourse to taking drugs to enhance their courage in order to undertake their illicit activities.
“So, there then is the need for us to step up our work on preventing our youths from taking the drugs, and that requires a lot of multi-dimensional efforts, because some may be due to lack of employment, some illiteracy, and poverty generally.
“These are some of the root causes. Somebody out of frustration is recruited to join. And, therefore, this is also something that the National Assembly has been trying hard to ensure that the economy of Nigeria provides for everyone – that we have an all inclusive economy bringing up those who are down.
“And I believe that this is one way that we have to continue to deal with this scourge. I also believe that we have to go on advocacy to our schools and institutions, and why not, even include in our curricular the issue of drugs, so that right from primary school up to secondary school level, our students should be able to understand the dangers of taking drugs.
“I believe that this is one incentive to criminality like you have just pointed out, so it is a huge responsibility placed on your shoulders, but you are not going to walk it alone, we are going to walk it with you.
“I want to urge you, that you get across to other agencies of government – like the immigration service, customs, airports authority, DSS – and the decay that you might have found is probably because the agency has not been able to have a better structure that will enable it fight drug trafficking and even addiction of the 21st century.”
Earlier, the Chairman of the NDLEA, Buba Marwa in an address delivered said the Ninth Senate under the leadership of Senator Ahmad Lawan has “displayed great interest, competence, support and effort” on the review of the NDLEA Act.
“This is a very important step to correct some of the lapses in an Act that was promulgated way back in 1989”, he said. According to Marwa, the visit was intended to “call for urgent intervention from the Senate President”, warning that, “Nigeria is in a state of siege today.”
Marwa raised alarm that the drug addiction scourge was largely responsible for acts of criminalities which has pervaded all parts of the country, and the outcome witnessed in the spate of insecurity lately. He lamented: “Yes, you have insurgency, banditry and kidnapping, but if you went to Ogoni to spoke to somebody about insurgency he might not be concerned.
“If you go to some other parts of the country and speak of kidnapping in some areas, it’s not a major concern. If you go to some other areas and speak of banditry, it may not be of major concern.
“But when you enter the realm of drug abuse, every part of Nigeria, you can for sure say that everybody in this room knows somebody, or a neighbour or family that has affliction with drug abuse.
“The drug affliction is actually the number one problem we are facing, it is everywhere.” he said.