Hard drugs: Agenda for Tinubu’s presidency
As the newly elected President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is sworn in to take over the reign of power in Abuja on May 29th, 2023, one item of interest that people globally will be expecting from him, is the sustenance of the vigorous war against trafficking of hard drugs and illicit substances. There is no gainsaying that if a good assessment is done of all the key appointments made in the last two years by the erstwhile President, Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) that of Brigadier-General Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), to head the then moribund National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), is certainly a star appointment.
The Chairman of NDLEA has in less than one year significantly brought many reforms to bear on the operations of the counter narcotics institution in Nigeria, which have obviously attracted global acclaims. Hard drug barons, who hitherto wielded invincibility, are now on the run even as NDLEA under Marwa has told them to turn a new leaf or be caught because there is no peace for the wicked unless the wicked person repents and does restitution.
Obviously, with the increasing tempo of organised and sophisticated crimes and the high rates of extrajudicial killings of Nigerians by armed terrorists and kidnappers and all sorts of armed freelance hoodlums, robbers, herdsmen, there is therefore, the urgency of the now that the incoming President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, considers giving adequate support and attention to the Marwa-led NDLEA so they will scale up the iconic job of waging battles against drug barons, many of whom this forward-looking hierarchy of NDLEA, has already caught and are currently prosecuting with some levels of successes. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu needs to work in synergy with the 10th session of the National Assembly to give NDLEA the required legislative template to sustain and even scale up their result oriented war on narcotics.
The 10th National Assembly also must have a proactive and positive attitude toward supporting and boosting the operations of the NDLEA by, first and foremost, empowering NDLEA to become financially independent so as to expand their programmes of combating drug abuse and trafficking in Nigeria going forward.
We will later give citations from authenticated statistics of the mileages and landmarks made so far in the counter narcotics war achieved by Marwa and his activist management team. But let’s look at the fundamentals of hard drugs, which is the core business of the deadly criminal underworld industry, and we will do this by first identifying the basic concepts.
What then is drug trafficking, we may ask? Fortunately, there are several research findings on this question and the one we readily decided to cite here states that drug trafficking is a major source of revenue for organised crime groups, many of whom are involved in other forms of serious crimes such as firearms, modern slavery and immigration crime. Action against drug trafficking, therefore, has a much wider disruptive impact on organised criminal activity. The threat from drug trafficking, says these researchers from www.nationalcrimeagency.org, are multifaceted.
The authors drew their analogy from the consequences of hard drugs trafficking and abuses happening in one of Europe’s biggest markets – the United Kingdom. They wrote that the number of people in this country (UK), whose deaths were caused by drug misuse increased last year. The last official numbers – for 2016 – attributed 2,593 UK deaths to drug misuse. Newer synthetic opioids – such as fentanyl – have contributed to this rise.
Opium production in Afghanistan and cocaine production in Colombia are at record levels. This increase in production has the added effect of a high level of drug purity at street level as the criminals have less need to use cutting agents, and this brings its own dangers. The chemicals necessary for amphetamine production continue to enter the country in volume, while street prices drop, again indicating rising availability. Evidence suggests crack cocaine use – a particular driver of violence – is rising in England and Wales, while demands for all common drug types remain high.
There is significant, and often deadly competition between rival organised crime groups at all stages of class ‘A’ drugs production and supply. There is also corruption at every stage of the drug supply chain, including through the use of corrupt port and airport officials. Organised crime groups involved in drug trafficking are typically also involved in a range of criminal activity, and the profits from illegal drugs are used to fund other forms of criminal operations, including buying illegal firearms and financing terrorism.
Crime associated with drug trafficking is very often violent, with direct links to the criminal use of firearms and gang feud knife attacks, and traffickers frequently exploit young and vulnerable people. Cannabis gangs in particular are notorious for the trafficking and exploitation of Vietnamese children and other vulnerable people to carry out live-in work in dangerous cannabis factories. Now, this is why President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should focus on combating trafficking of hard drugs and other affiliated crimes. On November 14, 2021, a report emerged showing that Nigerians are at the verge of suffering immense consequences due to hard drugs.
Specifically, the 2021 Global Organised Crime Index has ranked Nigeria among the top 10 criminal markets for trafficking in people, firearms, illicit cannabis, and heroin trade, fauna crimes, synthetic drugs, and non-renewable resource crimes.
The index shows that the countries with the highest criminality levels are those experiencing conflict or fragility, adding that such affected nations were most affected by organised crime.
According to the report, the Democratic Republic of Congo topped the list of the criminal markets with a score of 7.75, followed by Columbia 7.66; Myanmar 7.59; Mexico 7.56; Nigeria 7.15; Iran 7.10; Afghanistan 7.08; Iraq 7.05; Central African Republic 7.04 and Honduras 6.08. Other high-scoring countries include: Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, where conflicts have decimated the formal economies, led to mass displacement and an influx of weapons. The report was authored by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL in affiliation with the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime.
In conflict settings, the GOCI notes that states’ attention and capacities may be diverted to war efforts, leaving social, economic and security institutions weakened, while resilience to organised crime declines. The lowest-scoring countries with better resilience and social safety include Tuvalu 1.54; Nauru 1.76; Sao Tome & Principe 1.78; Liechtenstein 1.88; Samoa 2.04; Vanuatu 2.20; Marshal Island 2.31; Kiribati 2.35; Luxembourg 2.36 and Monaco 2.43.
The report states: “In breaking down criminality and looking at the 10 criminal markets covered, the global average was slightly lower at 4.65, with human trafficking determined to be the most pervasive worldwide (with a global average of 5.58). Indeed, human trafficking features in the top five criminal markets of every continent in the world. After the trafficking of people, the illicit cannabis trade and arms trafficking were assessed to be the second and third most pervasive markets worldwide, with global averages of 5.10 and 4.92, respectively.”
The index observed that failure on the part of states to provide safe environments and stable economic livelihoods for millions of vulnerable populations created conditions conducive to exploitation, as human traffickers exploit victims for profit, both within national borders and abroad through sexual exploitation, forced labour/modern slavery, forced begging, organ trafficking and child soldier recruitment, noting that the vast majority of victims are women and girls.
It affirmed that opportunities for human trafficking have increased with Internet technology, which provides both a ready online market and, simultaneously, the means to exploit people with greater anonymity. It added that the human trafficking market is present in a wide range of contexts, from both stable countries to those in conflict, often overlapping with other criminal markets, such as human smuggling.
Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)