Rep Member calls on FG to treat drug addiction as national emergency

Dr. Francis Agbo


*Wants NDLEA listed as a security agency 

Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Narcotic Drugs, Dr. Francis Ottah Agbo, has called on the Federal Government to stop treating the problem of narcotic drug addiction in Nigeria with kid gloves.


He said the earlier the Federal Government begins to see narcotic drug addiction as a national emergency, the better for Nigeria. 


A statement signed by Dr. Ottah Agbo’s media adviser, Mr. Andrew Agbese, indicated that the Honourable Member made the call at a pre-budget meeting with the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), and top  management officials of the agency at the National Assembly complex, Abuja.


Dr. Agbo, who represents Ado/Ogbadigbo/Okpokwu Federal Constituencyof Benue State, said the fight against narcotic drug addiction is so huge that it cannot be left for one agency alone to handle but must be supported by all to achieve the desired result.  He restated the fact that the NDLEA is underfunded, underequipped and understaffed, stressing that these challenges make the agency  a toothless bull dog.

He regretted that the NDLEA still uses civil war weapons to chase drug traffickers. 


“As we speak, NDLEA still uses weapons used during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, in the whole of Nigeria, we have only eight sniffer dogs even these dogs were donated to us by the Germans, we have very few scanners and all of these lack, hamper the smooth operation of the agency and only increased finding can bridge this gap” the chairman noted.


Agbo, who is the spokesman of the minority caucus of the House of Representatives , said the House Committee on Narcotic drugs is doing its best to empower the NDLEA to carry out its functions effectively and has proposed a restructuring of the laws establishing the Police Trust Fund Act to include the NDLEA as a beneficiary.

He said, ” We all recall that the NDLEA was established to investigate, arrest and prosecute drug offenders, so it’s a policing institution. 


“And we feel that one of the ways to make it have more resources for it to bark and bite is to include it as a beneficiary of the Trust Fund.”


The  Honourable Chairman also said the NDLEA should be listed among the security agencies in the country.


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 said the drug problem threatens all segments of the country  especially the youths, and stressed that, “if we say the youths are the leaders of tomorrow then we must secure the future now by defeating illicit drug or else there may be no country that we can proudly call our own tomorrow, except all hands are on deck to fight this scourge.”


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


“We keep saying at the level of our committee here that if we  fail to kill nacortic drug addiction,  it will destroy Nigeria,” he stated.

He said there was an organic  relationship between the rise in crime rate and increase in drug addiction as he said many arrested  criminals have confessed to using hard drugs.


Agbo hailed the collaboration between the NDLEA and other government agencies towards addressing the drug problem in Nigerja and urged them to do more in that regard. 


He said Nigerians want to know what is delaying the recruitment of more personel in the NDLEA having been approved by both the Presidency and the National Assembly, and called on the agency to make sure those who qualify get their  letters of appointment on or before 1st of November. 


The Feed Back Lawmaker assured the agency that all its estimates in the 2021 budget proposal  would be dealt with expeditiously  and  passed on time for the agency.


A member of the committee, Mohammed Shamsudeen Bello, urged the agency to maintain close relationship with the committee to work out solutions to the challenges facing the agency. 


He said the onus lies on the agency to work out a proper road map for making the agency more effective.

Another member of the committee, Hon Bamidle Salam said the problem of drug addiction affects every sector of the society.


He encouraged the NDLEA to leverage on donor organisations and partner with  international agencies to raise resources needed to fight drug addiction more effectively.
Hon. Chinedu Onwuaso in his remarks, observed that the rehabilitation centre at the NDLEA are obsolete and appalling.


He said since  the agency was meant to reform, he called on the FG to equip the agency so as to carry out that function effectively. 


Chairman of the NDLEA, Col. Mohammed Abdullai (Rtd), in his remarks,  thanked the committee for the support to the agency and expressed hope that its staff strength would be boosted when it receives the go ahead for the second and third tranches of the recruitment exercise it has received approval for. 

He  said that will go a long way in addressing the shortfall in personnel in the agency. 


The NDLEA boss said Nigeria has a big problem in its hands as it has overshot the global average of drug addiction which stands at 5 percent to 14 percent. 


He said, “There is a big problem which we pretend not to know and hoping that a miracle will happen, this miracle will not happen, we must do something about this our 14 percent of our drug dependent cases.”


The NDLEA chairman said the Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA, in the US which has existed for many years had in the past years, lost 39 personel in line of duty  while the NDLEA in five years, has lost 65 men in line of duty and said this has to do with lack of equipment.


He said the problem of drug addition is better fought with the use of technology and that cannot be achieved without resources. 
He said the number of staff the NDLEA has are not even enough to handle the drug issues in Lagos, Kano and the FCT alone and said the agency intends to recruit from all the local governments in the country in its next recruitment exercise.


The NDLEA officials that came with the chairman added that the agency is facing challenges conveying  witnesses  to court as well as paying interpreters of foreign languages due to lack of funds.


They said a particular drug case has been stalled for several months due to lack of funds to pay the interpreter.

 
Members of the committee at the meeting included Hon. Beni Lar, Hon.Bamidele Salam, Hon.Abdullahi Saad Abdulkadir, Hon. Jimoh Ogunsola and Hon. Akintola George and so on.

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