Thursday, 7th December 2023

President Tinubu tasks Africa’s anti-narcotic agencies on scaling up efforts, partnerships

By Terhemba Dakar & Tina Abeku, Abuja
26 September 2023   |   3:00 pm
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has implored heads of national drug law enforcement agencies in Africa under the aegis of Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Africa, (HONLEA), to collectively renew strategies towards the fight against substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking on the continent.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.Twitter

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has implored heads of national drug law enforcement agencies in Africa under the aegis of Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Africa, (HONLEA), to collectively renew strategies towards the fight against substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking on the continent.

He made this known while declaring open the 31st meeting of the Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Africa (HONLEA), hosted by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, (UNODC), yesterday in Abuja.

He said the African continent would remain in chains till it breaks free from the shackles of the criminal enterprises of drug barons and syndicates of illicit drugs.

“If we don’t dismantle the criminal enterprises that threaten our future and build a brighter tomorrow for all Africans, we will remain in chains in a diseased and amoral world, as will our children and their children,” he told the anti-narcotics agencies’ chiefs.

In his keynote address titled, ‘Rising Above the Drug Threat’, the President, who was represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, observed that Africa was “at the mercy of a threat that knows neither race nor geography, neither gender nor social class”.

He therefore enjoined the heads of drug law enforcement agencies to consider the conference in Abuja as a ray of hope and a catalyst for positive change across the continent.

He said, “This threat has crossed borders and destroyed societies and dreams; hence, hencewithout the moral commitment of the men and women in this room, this threat would have left cities, countries, and even civilizations erased. So, I must commend you for your sacrifices in the bids to keep our world drug-free, sane and safe.

“This conference emphasizes your investment across borders to protect us from the devastations of drugs, a threat that only submits to the enforcement of the law.

Tinubu noted that in the last couple of decades, criminal organisations had made frantic efforts to breach the security measures in African countries, all in a bid to pollute the minds of their citizens, adding however that the anti-narcotics agencies have proven to be a thorn in their flesh.

“But while it’s a compliment that drug-law enforcement organizations are a threat to their criminal empires, their desperation must never be taken for granted.

“Without you as gatekeepers of healthy nations, humanity as we know it would have long been perverted. So, on behalf of the world, I say: thank you, thank you to all of you who have kept us from being polluted and destroyed.

“For us, the commitment to the fight against drug trafficking and substance abuse is not just a matter of policy; it is a moral imperative. We recognize that a population at war with drugs is not a dividend but a liability. We believe that the future of our youth, the strength of our institutions, and the well-being of our communities depend on our ability to eradicate this threat.”

President Tinubu further stressed the need for the the anti-narcotics agencies to consolidate established contacts, strengthen operational existing partnerships and cooperation among them at the sub-regional and regional levels.

This, he said, would make trafficking of illicit drugs and movement of drug syndicates difficult in the African continent.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, (CEO), NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba-Marwa (Retd) charged his counterparts across the continent to strengthen operational networks and raise the bar in the drug war.

He notes that “Drug use disorders are harming health, including mental health, safety and well-being, while the harms caused by drug trafficking and illicit drug economies are contributing to many of these threats, from instability and violence to environmental devastation.

“Young people are using more drugs than previous generations, and the majority of people being treated for drug use disorders in Africa are under the age of 35. What is worse, the availability of treatment and other services has not kept pace with these developments, and women in particular are suffering from treatment gaps.

“The world drug problem, in all its forms and manifestations, affects all of us. The stakes are especially high for Africa.”

“No one country can tackle a problem of this magnitude alone; just as well, the world drug problem cannot be tackled solely through international policymaking; it also requires effective implementation and collaboration among practitioners. This is where the HONLEA comes in” he pointed out.

He adds “The 31st meeting will indeed provide an opportunity for us to raise the bar and break new ground in different areas of our operations and collaborative efforts. I am as excited as a lot of us in this hall are to make presentations, listen to others, and share experiences that will positively shape our operations and redefine our cooperation at the end of this conference.”

Earlier, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN represented by the Director, International Criminal Justice Cooperation, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Nkiruka Jones-Nebo said “It is imperative that this conference remains proactive in addressing the legal complexities that may impede seamless cooperation in intelligence sharing, joint operations, and training.

“These barriers must be dismantled to prevent any loopholes that could potentially facilitate the activities of drug cartels operating across our borders. The Federal Ministry of Justice stands committed to providing unwavering support and efficient systems to empower NDLEA in its mission.”

Country Representative, UNODC, Oliver Stolpe said the drug problem has changed from what it used to be 20 years ago. “Today, the picture is different, local consumption is increasing, and increasingly problematic. We need a balanced approach to supply and demand reduction. We need to invest in prevention and in treatment. And, we need alternatives to imprisonment for drug users that are more effective and help decongesting prisons.

“At the same time, we need to strengthen cooperation between countries along drug trafficking routes with the aim of dismantling the ever more sophisticated trafficking networks”, he stated.

Executive Director, UNODC, Ghada Fathi Waly and the Chairman, UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs who both spoke via video messages expressed support for the gathering and charged delegates to maximise the opportunities provided by the platform..