The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency is handicapped in its operations by inadequate funding, lack of equipment and insufficient manpower
| By Chinwe Okafor | Aug. 26, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
IT IS not a cheering news. Nigeria’s war against illicit drug trafficking is facing three fundamental problems – lack of funds, lack of equipment and inadequate manpower. Femi Ajayi, director-general of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, cried out on Wednesday, August 14, while delivering a lecture on ‘The Role of the NDLEA on National Security and Sustainable Development,’ at a business meeting of the Rotary Club International, Ikoyi, Lagos. He said the challenges, if not addressed, would soon have negative effects on the nation’s economy, national security and the future of the country. He noted that Nigerians have not shown enough interest in the fight against illicit drugs, and warned that if the situation was not tackled immediately, everyone would be affected negatively because it would affect every facet of the nation’s economy, security and the future of Nigeria.
According to Ajayi, drug abuse is everyone’s headache and drug trafficking is everyone’s nightmare. He said the agency, despite its importance, lacked some basic equipment which should have helped its operations. For instance, he said, operatives of the agency do manual frisking of people at the airports because they lack modern equipment for the job. He urged the Rotarians and other well-meaning Nigerians to partner with the agency so as to enable it achieve its goals.
“Non-users and non-traffickers of drugs may feel that they are not affected directly, but the next victim of drug users could be anybody’s son, daughter or relation. Drug money, which is simply identified as the dirty proceeds of drug trafficking, would ruin the economy, if allowed to enter the financial system of the country through laundering by couriers and barons and that this will have an adverse effect on the governance of the country because drug money can be used to corrupt law enforcement agencies, compromise top government officials, sponsor political instability or even topple democratic administrations,” the NDLEA boss said.
On the question of manpower, Ajayi, also said that the total workforce in the NDLEA was below 5,300 personnel, thereby straining the available staff. “Sometimes, our airport operatives have to work round the clock in order to keep our society drug-free,” he said.
Apart from the airport, Ajayi said that it had just been discovered that so many farmlands suitable for growing crops have been converted to cannabis farms especially in Ekiti State and its neighbouring states. “The demand for cannabis in our society is driving farmers in these states to cultivate the drugs instead of cocoa and other cash crops. A 50 kilogramme decompressed bag of cannabis sells for N100,000 whereas a 50kg bag of rice sells for N10,000, the farmers will be so much interested to cultivate the crop that is more profitable,” Ajayi said.
Gbolahan Ayodele, president of the Rotary Club, commended Ajayi on his lecture, but criticised the NDLEA for its continued harassment of airline passengers at the airports, saying that the practice was peculiar to Nigeria. “It is only in Nigeria’s airports that people and their luggage get searched all in a bid to detect and fish out drug traffickers even to the extent that people remove their shoes, it is very embarrassing and worrisome. It doesn’t happen anywhere else,” Ayodele said.
But Ajayi said he could not blame the NDLEA operatives for searching people and their luggage at the airport in order to single out drug traffickers. He said people must realise that the officials needed to be able to do their job effectively and efficiently. He, however, called on the government to come to the aid of the agency by providing general screening machines for drugs at the airports to eliminate time being wasted through manual screening.