Fresh onslaught against drug abuse, illicit trafficking
DESPITE continued and increased efforts by the international community, the world drug problem continues to constitute a serious threat to public health, safety and well-being of humanity, particularly young people, and the national security and sovereignty of States. It undermines socio-economic and political stability and sustainable development.
Indeed, to underscore the debilitating effect of this scourge, the United Nations General Assembly, in 1987, set aside every June 26 as International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
As part of activities marking the day, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in collaboration with the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), launched the National Drug Control Master Plan (NDCMP) 2015-2019 to checkmate illegal trafficking of illicit drugs into the country.
Speaking on the theme for this year’s commemoration:‘Let’s Develop Our Lives, Our Communities, Our Identities Without Drugs’, Director General, NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii, said drug abuse is a global phenomenon that has assumed increasing and alarming dimensions, stressing that there is the need for all stakeholders to take clear, decisive and sustained actions to stem this menace
According to him, effective drug control requires a multi-agency, multi-sectoral, mutually reinforcing, comprehensive, integrated and balanced approach as exemplified in the National Drug Control Master Plan 2015-2019. He said there is no doubt that the NDCMP will go a long way in strengthening the collaborative efforts of the various stakeholders in drug control.
Orhii said: “As we all know, the primary aim of the three International Drug Control Conventions is to ensure availability of controlled substances exclusively for medical and scientific purposes while preventing their diversion, trafficking and abuse.
“Nigeria strives to fulfill its obligations to these conventions cognizant of the fact that such fulfillment will engender better drug control, adding that the country keeps faith with subsequent United Nation’s instruments targeted at the strengthening the existing International Drug Control Conventions”
In his opening address at the occasion, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, NDLEA, Ahmadu Giade said NDLEA’s counternarcotics measures have contributed positively to the socio-economic and political development of our country.
“NDLEA played a very crucial role towards the peaceful conduct of the last general elections. This is because the monetary value of seized drugs and cannabis plant destroyed in 2014 hit a record high of 542 billion naira. This huge amount is mind blowing and has the capacity to derail the most credible election. Such proceeds can be used to either subvert the wishes of the electorates or instigate upheavals.”
Giade explained that drugs do not make heroes but drug addicts. Drug trafficking does not make people successful rather it makes them prisoners, stressing that drug use does not make stars but great stars who use drugs have lost their identities and precious lives.
He noted that drug trafficking is a threat to public health, peace and safety, adding that it undermines socio-economic and political stability of a country.
“The excessive crave for materialism among other factors has forced many into drug trafficking. This situation is gradually eroding the foundation of integrity and good conduct. The age long cords of love, discipline, diligence and cultural values that held families together are falling apart. We must act fast in protecting our lives, our communities and identities from the devastating effects of drugs”.
Orhii, represented by the Director Administration and Human Resources in NAFDAC, Dr. Yetunde Oni said the political declaration and plan of action adopted during previous United Nations General Assembly and Commission on Narcotic Drugs meetings have been characterized by the principle of common and shared responsibility as well as the need for a comprehensive, integrated and balanced strategy in tackling the world drug problem, stressing that the National Drug Control Master Plan (NDCMP) 2015-2019 being launched has the hallmarks of the aforementioned resolutions.
The Director General noted that there have been reports at various international meetings of the increasing abuse of tramadol, a synthetic codeine analogue which is not under international control, stating that Nigeria has put tramadol under national control to rein IN illicit distribution and abuse but there is need for international scheduling to effectively control illicit importation.
“The NDCMP is a roadmap for battling drug issues in all ramifications, noting that it is a carefully crafted document with four pillars namely law enforcement response to illicit drugs, access and control of illicit drugs, drug demand reduction and coordination mechanisms, stating that the world drug report gives an analysis of the current drug situation in different countries of the world and the report is indispensable in making evidence-based policies in battling illicit drugs whose production, trafficking and abuse are dynamic in nature.”
The NAFDAC boss added that the 2014 International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) report details the effort of the board in cooperation with national governments as well as regional and international organizations in ensuring access to controlled substances for illicit medical use and measures are put in place to prevent diversion and abuse, stressing that prescription of opiods and stimulant drugs in different countries led to the new phenomenon of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and efforts made towards containing them in international trade
“INCB initiated project ION, an international operation on new psychoactive substances and made NAFDAC the national focal point, adding that the project focuses on the monitoring of the movement of the synthetic psychoactive substances which are yet to be scheduled.”
According to 2012 estimates by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), about 183,000 drugs related deaths were recorded globally. The report also added that between 162 million and 324 million people, corresponding to between 3.5 per cent and 7.0 per cent of the world population aged 15-64, had used an illicit drug mainly a substance belonging to the cannabis, opioid, cocaine or amphetamine-type stimulants group at least once in the previous year.
Additionally, there was inadequate coordination and collaboration between the main agencies charged with drug control and drug demand reduction at federal, state and local government levels. The report also stated that there is lack of technical and logistical support to facilitate an effective coordination mechanism, with a low level of awareness and ownership of the NDCMP 2008-2011, (extended to 2013) among relevant agencies and stakeholders.
“In particular, limited nexus was found between drug control activities reported by MDAs and other stakeholders and the NDCMP 2008-2011 (extended to 2013). An absence of available data on implementation activities or systems to collect this data to facilitate record keeping, tracking of activities, policy formulation and implementation compounded this issue.”
The UNODC, in 2013, published a threat assessment of transnational organised crime in West Africa. According to the report, Nigerian trafficking groups based in Brazil and elsewhere in south America remain quite active in cocaine trafficking, with these groups importing cocaine through containerized consignments and maritime shipping, air couriering and postal shipments.
The report also notes that methamphetamine production in West Africa is a growing concern, adding that the main market for West African produced methamphetamine is East Asia, and to a lesser extent South Africa.
However, between January and May 2015, the NDLEA has arrested 3,478 drug suspects and seized 170,341.704kg of narcotic drugs. The drugs are cannabis 167,461.826kg, cocaine 103.848kg, heroin 17.976kg and psychotropic substances 2,619.195kg. The Agency also discovered cannabis farms measuring 126.721 hectares, adding that a total of 783 cases have so far been won in court.
In June 2011, the first clandestine laboratory in the country was discovered in Lagos, noting that in 2012, four similar laboratories were detected, three in Lagos and one in Anambra State.
In 2013 and 2014, the Agency discovered two additional laboratories in Lagos. In the past few weeks, three laboratories were discovered in Anambra State making it a total of ten.
The report also stated that to effectively involve stakeholders in drug control activities and in line with the then Global Plan of Action, the federal government of Nigeria constituted the Inter-Ministerial Committee on drug control (IMC) in 1994, which is headed by the chairman and chief executive of NDLEA and has members drawn from government ministries and agencies. The IMC produced the first National Drug Control Master Plan (NDCMP) in 1999, a second NDCMP 2008-2011 extended to 2013 and the current NDCMP 2015-2019.
Director General of NDLEA, Mrs. Roli Bode George who reviewed the Master Plan said that the beauty of the plan is that its formulation and implementation is based on the principle of collective participation.
George listed some objectives of the plan to include, “prioritizing issues identified through inclusive and participatory consultation, address disparity between law enforcement and drug demand reduction. Others are to provide strategic direction and capacity, enhance operational coordination and implementation as well as promote systematic policy oversight and evaluation”.
“The implementation strategy for the Master Plan recommends clear roles and responsibilities for lead and implementing agencies at all levels, multi-agency implementation plan and robust monitoring and evaluation.
“The master plan aims to strengthen response to drugs in order to contribute to the enhanced health, security and wellbeing of all Nigerians. The major gaps in the previous master plan identified by stakeholders at consultative town hall meetings have been addressed” George stated.