Francis Agbo and the War on Drug Addiction

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BY ANDREW AGBESES

By the early 1980s, the boom in the global illegal trade in hard drugs due to the increase in the consumption of narcotics had begun to manifest its horrors in Nigeria..

Young people, caught up in the frenzy of fashionable social movements like hippies and Rastafarianism coupled with the rise of nightlife in emerging cities, have been sold the idea that certain substances, primarily cannabis – hemp Indian – were fashionable and stylish, while many were lured into trafficking hard drugs across continents for money.

The rate at which young people were starting to use these substances and getting into the very risky but lucrative business of drug trafficking had become so alarming that it was beginning to negatively affect the image of the country, causing much embarrassment in Nigeria and to Nigerians abroad.

The main hard drugs exported to the country then included cocaine, heroin, morphine, cannabis sativa (Indian hemp) and crystal methamphetamine.

It was so embarrassing that all green passport holders were considered drug dealers and remained suspects until they could prove their innocence.

This, coupled with the destruction of the young population through the use of narcotic substances which has led to an increase in mental illnesses and an upsurge in crime in the country, has become worrying that the military government of General Muhammadu Buhari has felt the need to take drastic measures to deal with the crisis. problem.

This led to the enactment of Executive Order 20 of 1984 which prescribed the death penalty for drug traffickers!

Subsequently, as part of efforts to address the problem, the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) was also established by the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida in 1989, as a special agency to deal with fight against drugs and substance abuse, which was before being taken care of by the police and customs.

The NDLEA, which is modeled after the US Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA, took its mandate seriously and was able to solve some cases.

But over the years, the spark with which the government has gone after drug traffickers and addicts has started to fade and the problems of drug abuse and addiction have not only refused to subside, but have aggravated.

Last month, the NDLEA intercepted 40 parcels of cocaine weighing 43.11 kg, with an estimated street value of over N32 billion at Tincan Port, Lagos.

NDLEA Chairman Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), just three months in office, said last week that the agency had intercepted and destroyed illicit drugs worth more than $60 billion. naira since he took office as the Chief Executive Officer of the NDLEA.

What these foreclosure experts have said indicates that Nigeria has reason to be concerned about the scourge of drugs and that is where the Honorable Member representing Ado/Ogbadibo/Okpokwu Federal Constituency, Dr Francis Ottah Agbo, is concerned.

Even before winning elections to the House of Representatives, Dr. Ottah Agbo was pained by the rate at which young people were unable to follow the path of personal development and engage in meaningful projects to help their families and contribute to the economic development of the country due to addiction to hard drugs and abuse of narcotic substances.

His experience as a journalist who rose through the ranks and as an assistant to former NAFDAC Director General, the late Professor Dora Akunyili, had put him in a good position to appreciate the magnitude of the problem of fake medicines. in Nigeria and the intensity of labor required. to fight against established crime syndicates whose businesses were threatened by the law!

Dr. Ottah Agbo, who has traveled to all parts of Nigeria as part of his work as a journalist, has also observed that drug addiction is directly at the root of the social upheavals that the country is currently experiencing and which manifests itself in various forms such as terrorism, banditry, rape, suicide and violence and had come to the conclusion that if the problem was not solved quickly, the cost would be too heavy for the country to bear.

So it was deja vu, when the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, after the inauguration of the House, beckoned Dr. Ottah Agbo to lead the House Narcotics Committee.

With zeal and passion to serve his country, coupled with what he learned about public trust management from Professor Akunyili and former Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson, Dr Ottah Agbo rolled up his sleeves and immediately got to work!

But the problem he saw on the field almost diminished his enthusiasm to get back into the fight.

The NDLEA, which is statutorily empowered to continue the fight against the threat of drugs, has been bogged down with so many problems.

He discovered that the agency is grossly underfunded, lacking in personnel, weapons and adequate equipment to continue the fight.

The Legislator, popularly known as Ozigizaga and the moving train of Enone, couldn’t hide his shock.

He said a situation where the NDLEA has an average of one vehicle for every six local governments while wielding weapons used in the Nigerien civil war does not bode well for the country.

He explained that part of the reason why drug addiction progresses in a geometric progression and why the war against it progresses in an arithmetic progression is that while traffickers sport sophisticated weapons, NDLEA agents pursue them with weapons. archaic weapons and insists that a situation where in terms of staffing, the NDLEA has an average of one staff for a local government with only eight sniffer dogs in the entire county is not acceptable.

said Dr. Ottah Agbo; “We would continue to hammer home the problem of drug addiction which progresses in a geometric progression while the strategies and efforts to combat it progress in an arithmetic progression. It is high time to nip drug addiction in the bud because if we fail to destroy drug addiction it will destroy Nigeria.

“The drug problem threatens all segments of the country, especially young people. If we say young people are the leaders of tomorrow, we must secure their future now by beating illicit drugs, otherwise there may be no country we can proudly call ours tomorrow, except everyone is on deck to fight this scourge.

He said the problem of drug addiction posed an existential threat to Nigeria more than corruption.

With that belief, the House Narcotics Committee he chairs got to work and was able to come up with ideas and strategies to help the agency.

Part of the suggestion was to get the FG to start looking at substance abuse and addiction as a national emergency. This is to help the government see that the fight against drug addiction is so broad that it cannot be left to one agency, but must be supported by all to achieve the desired outcome.

Another strategy proposed by the committee headed by Dr. Ottah Agbo, who is also the spokesperson for the minority caucus in the House of Representatives, is to seek ways to increase funding for the NDLEA so that the agency can s perform its duties effectively.

To achieve this, Dr. Ottah Agbo, known as the Feedback Lawmaker, proposed a restructuring of the statutes establishing the Police Trust Fund Act to include the NDLEA as a beneficiary.

This he explains as follows: “We all remember that the NDLEA was created to investigate, arrest and prosecute drug addicted offenders, so it is a police institution. And we think one of the ways to give him more resources to bark and bite is to include him as a beneficiary of the Police Trust Fund.

Not having finished with it, Dr. Ottah Agbo started advocating for the NDLEA to be listed among the country’s security agencies.

He said: “If you look at the responsibilities of the NDLEA, you will agree with me that it is also a security agency.”

Dr. Ottah Agbo also assured the agency of his full cooperation in ensuring that the fight against drug and drug abuse in Nigeria is won, ensuring that all his budget proposals would be promptly processed and delivered on time.

He said: “It is because we are aware of the enormity of the challenges facing the NDLEA that we wasted no time in approving funds for the agency in the 2020 and 2021 budgets so that the essential of the agency’s problems are resolved. . Today, NDLEA has a transit house in Abuja and a national headquarters for the NDLEA is in sight!”

Fortunately, the federal government is taking some steps that will help win the fight.

President Muhammadu Buhari, for example, has approved the recruitment of more personnel for the NDLEA and the first phase of the exercise is nearing completion.

Dr Ottah Agbo said that with the approval, one of the agency’s fundamental problems, namely the lack of adequate staff, would be solved.

These efforts, combined with what the chairman of the House Narcotics Committee is doing, have given a glimmer of hope that the war on drugs in Nigeria can be won and young people can be protected from drug abuse and addiction. .

Agbese is the media advisor to Dr. Francis Ottah Agbo.

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