Beyond the raids on drug addicts
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) raids of drug joints in Lagos, Abuja, Benue and other parts of the country and arrest of hundreds of drug addicts and traffickers underscores the endemic state that the drug menace is having on the country; and the fact that if not effectively addressed, the menace has a potential for huge negative impact on Nigeria’s social and economic lives, worse than the prevailing situation. The NDLEA has a herculean task before it, but although it has started well by putting addicts and traffickers on their toes, the agency needs to adopt a more far-reaching approach to combat the scourge. And of course, its efforts can only be a part of more holistic measures that will necessarily involve public-private partnerships.
For a start, it is gratifying that there is no hiding place for the criminals, as the drug situation in the country has assumed an alarming proportion with dire consequences on the society. The catalogue of the encounters is unwholesome. For instance, a suspected fake police officer and soldier were among 663 drug traffickers and users reportedly arrested during raids by operatives of NDLEA in notorious drug joints in Lagos, Abuja, Benue and other parts of the country.
The NDLEA’s Director of Media and Advocacy, Femi Babafemi in a statement, said, the exercise also saw the seizure and destruction of assorted illicit drugs weighing over 153, 256.876 kilogrammes. He said, “in Lagos, the notorious drug haven, Akala in the Mushin area of the state was on Friday October 15 raided by a combined team of 70 NDLEA operatives and 30 soldiers in a joint operation code named: ‘‘Operation Still Waters.’’ No less than 27 suspects were arrested, while various drugs such as cocaine, heroin, tramadol, Rohypnol and cannabis, with a cumulative weight of 2,463.876 Kg were seized.
The danger posed by free consumption of illicit drugs by youths across the country cannot be better highlighted than the sight of young men, including teenagers, lolling in street corners early in the morning, smoking weeds and appearing without a care in the world. One needs no informant to recognise that such scenarios constitute prelude to crime commission, besides being training grounds for budding criminals.
It is notable that the NDLEA raid covered a few states apart from Lagos, where the enforcement activities led to arrest of six persons and seizure of various quantities of drugs. In Ogun State, operatives had on October 15, intercepted one Williams Esuabom along Ore-Sagamu expressway with 562.5kg cannabis being conveyed in a Toyota Sienna bus, while in Benue State, narcotic officers in a joint operation with soldiers raided Lafia Park, where six suspects including a youth corps member were arrested with different quantities of drugs.
In the course of the raids, a suspected fake soldier along Apir-Makurdi-Aliade road with 3.5kg cannabis was arrested on Wednesday, October 13. Similarly, in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, a suspected fake Assistant Superintendent of Police who claimed to be serving in Kano, was arrested along Gwagwalada expressway while conveying 45.5kg of cannabis.
Other suspects were arrested during raids in Dabba and Luku village, Kaiama Local Council Area of Kwara State, where over 64kg drugs were recovered on Wednesday, October 13. In Ekiti State, NDLEA operatives stormed the forest reserve along Uso Road, Ise-Orun Local Council, where operatives of the agency destroyed over 150,000 kilogrammes of cannabis being harvested on 40 hectares of land during an operation that lasted more than three days up till Sunday, October 17.
The Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd), while commending his officers for a good job, charged them not to rest on their oars. He called for continued collaboration between the agency and other stakeholders, especially the armed forces and other law enforcement agencies in the battle to rid the country of illicit drugs.
It is worrisome that despite the concerted efforts by the NDLEA in arresting and prosecuting drug offenders, the menace keeps assuming a monstrous dimension with many youths sinking into the malaise.
According to Babafemi, at the Nigerian Army School of Infantry in Jaji, Kaduna State, the drug scourge in Nigeria is unacceptable with almost 15 million Nigerians abusing substances; 20 per cent of who are addicted, which is three times the global average.
To win the war against peddling and consumption of dangerous drugs and the consequence on criminality, parents must take greater control of their wards and children who must be gainfully occupied in schooling and educational ventures. While the NDLEA uses the stick to deal with the stubborn addicts, parents and other arms of government should be using the carrot to dissuade the youths and engage them in meaningful work. It is tragic that young girls are not spared in the drug scourge, and many of them are not only addicts but core participants in crime perpetuation.
In addition, religious organisations must assume greater roles in checking the menace. This they can do not just by condemning the ugly practices but perceiving it as an avenue to render help to patients. Indeed, many of the addicts need more of medical attention than physical punishment. The drug menace is largely a reflection of the high socio-economic imbalance of Nigeria. It is important for the Buhari administration to put a firmer grip on jobs creation and security of lives and property, if the country is to overcome the patent danger of illicit trafficking in drugs.