Option of fine, a dent on drug war
Sir: It is no longer news that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has in recent times been making arrests and gigantic seizures in every nook and cranny of the country. Several assets of barons have been seized and confiscated but it is saddening to see most of these drug offenders walking freely on the streets again as if nothing ever happened?
How do they find themselves back on the streets? What happens to the morale of officers who risked their lives in making these arrests with surveillance and intelligence sometimes taking months?
Nigeria, today, has been faced with series of narcotics and new psychoactive substances ravaging the streets many of which are fuelling the security challenges we experience on a daily basis in the country: banditry in the North, unknown gunmen in the East, cultism and theft in the South. Kidnapping, oil bunkering, cybercrimes, all are married and have a strong nexus with drug use.
Substance use has caused our youths and society a better part of their lives. The effects of these drugs have left many homeless, jobless, and caused family disintegration, some have been faced with life-threatening illnesses; liver damage, seizures, stroke, and brain damage to mention a few.
A publication by the NDLEA released in July 2023 shows that 32,922 drug offenders have been arrested in 30 months with 5,495 convicted and 6.3 million kilogrammes of illicit drugs seized within the same period.
The statistics also revealed that 38 barons have been nabbed with their drug supply networks across countries cut down. These numbers clearly indicate that the NDLEA is playing its role in making sure that abuse is reduced to the barest minimum through supply reduction even with the drug demand programme, WADA advocacy initiative constantly going on to sensitise people about the effects and dangers of these illicit substances.
The question remains that what is being done behind the scenes to ensure all these people who have been nabbed do not go back into the streets to start from where they stopped?
Many have been taken into the courtrooms and have been given the option of meagre fines against getting a jail term for offences committed. Without blinking an eye, these fines are paid and thereafter they return back to their trade.
I have also read reports attributed to Gen. Buba Marwa, the chairman of the Agency that the NDLEA Act is currently undergoing amendments in the National Assembly and the removal of fines in the expected law will strengthen the deterrence effect of court prosecution and conviction.
I, therefore, want to urge Mr President to speedily assent to this bill as soon as it is transmitted to him so as to curtail judges from using their discretionary powers to give options of fine for drug offenders. It will also be a great contribution of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s government to the fight against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking while giving us the Nigeria we so desire.
Olufemi Fadahunsi wrote from Ado–Ekiti, Ekiti State.
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