By Sunday Oyinloye
A year after his appointment as the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (retd) has revealed what he me on ground in his first day in office and the kind of Agency he was appointed to oversee.
Marwa in his address to mark his one year in office today in Abuja said he inherited a “disenchanted workforce” and an Agency that had been neglected over the years, a situation which allowed rot to set in leading to loss of efficiency “which in turn eroded public confidence in the Agency as well as caused allies and strategic partners to lose faith in the Agency.”
According to him, even with what he met on ground, he was optimistic that the situation could be salvaged if something extraordinary was done.
In his words “the Agency survived with a lean workforce of officers and men, who worked with grossly inadequate and obsolete tools and earned considerably less in salary than their counterparts in other government security institutions”
“The situation was so bad payment of allowances of any sort (including burial entitlements to the families of the deceased officers) stopped long ago. There was no promotion, a situation that left officers stalled on a rank, some for as long as 20 years”
“The NDLEA was an Agency afflicted with institutional defect, gradual but steady deterioration from within due to demoralising work conditions and appalling staff welfare”.
He however said with his determination to succeed and the willpower of the Federal Government, he has turned NDLEA around.
Read full text below:
It is with great pleasure and joy I welcome you all to this press briefing. Last week, I clocked one year in the saddle of the NDLEA. Incidentally, the Agency is 32 years old this month. Hence, this briefing couldn’t have come at a more auspicious time than now, when the Nigerian public ought to be informed about the state of the NDLEA after one year of a focused, and pragmatic turnaround. To the bargain, this occasion offers me the opportunity to render accounts of my stewardship of this noble institution.
WHAT WE MET
Let me start by recalling exactly how we started the journey last year. Two days after the announcement of my appointment as the new Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the NDLEA, I resumed work at the national headquarters of the Agency on January 18, 2021, and had my first meeting with the management and staff. That first day will remain evergreen for me. I was welcomed by a disenchanted workforce. I faced an agency that had great expectations. I could sense fears. I could discern disappointments. I could feel pessimism. At the same time, I got a good vibe of profound optimism. Albeit bleak, I knew the situation could be salvaged. But something extraordinary had to happen.
The NDLEA was in a bad state due to years of neglect, a situation that allowed the rot to set in, leading to loss of efficiency which in turn eroded public confidence in the agency as well as caused allies and strategic partners to lose faith in the Agency.
In retrospect, the Agency couldn’t be blamed for indolence. The problem in the NDLEA is better explained with the analogy of a machine with a manufacturing defect. The NDLEA was a forgotten agency. Underfunded and understaffed, the Agency survived with a lean workforce of officers and men, who worked with grossly inadequate and obsolete tools and earned considerably less in salary than their counterparts in other government security institutions. The situation was so bad payment of allowances of any sort (including burial entitlements to the families of the deceased officers) stopped long ago. There was no promotion, a situation that left officers stalled on a rank, some for as long as 20 years. So this time last year, the NDLEA was an Agency afflicted with institutional defect, gradual but steady deterioration from within due to demoralising work conditions and appalling staff welfare.
At last, thankfully, a government mustered the willpower to salvage, reform and rejuvenate this organisation whose importance to the wellbeing of society cannot be underestimated.
The change couldn’t have come at a better time because the dire findings of the National Drug Use and Health Survey of 2018 was a wake-up call that showed clearly that procrastination was an invitation for a national catastrophe. Having 14.3 million Nigerians abusing drugs, with 10.6 million addicted to cannabis portends grave consequences. The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is the government that read the situation correctly and subsequently took the bold and decisive step to revamp and gird the NDLEA for the task of cleansing Nigeria from the scourge of drug abuse and trafficking of illicit substances.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE IN 12 MONTHS
It required a titanic effort to move the NDLEA from a near-catatonic or moribund state to a functional condition. To achieve that, a complete overhaul was needed, which must be pursued in a pragmatic, systematic and sustained manner, and according to a well-forged blueprint.
Earlier, I had spent time as Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA), a body whose mandate included the generation of recommendations on how to rid the country of its drugs problem, part of which operationally translated to how to restructure and fortify the NDLEA to achieve that objective.
We had done our homework well, by studying the Agency and interacting with its officers as well as consulting far and wide in the industry. In the end, PACEDA submitted recommendations that we felt would help to reposition the Agency for efficiency.
By an act of Providence, I found myself entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the recommendations, with the announcement by Mr President on January 15, 2021, of a new Chairman/Chief Executive Officer.
With the blueprint from PACEDA, it was easy to point out dislocations in the NDLEA architecture, that needed to be reconstructed or restructured. We had worked accordingly in the past 12 months, propagating a slew of reforms and restructuring that were implemented in sequence or pari passu.
The key areas are highlighted as follows:
We had to find a way to bring the workforce back to life with some IMPACT measures. In this regard, the starting point was the inauguration of a Harmonization Committee which was tasked with working on all anomalies in the service and welfare of staff, such as delayed promotions, unpaid allowances, burial entitlements and other cumulative failings of the Agency in the area of career advancement of officers.
Subsequently, we corrected the aberrations with stimulus interventions calculated to motivate our personnel. Prominent among the measures are:
● Promotion of 3,506 officers.
● Payment of allowances and burial entitlements to families of 188 personnel who died in the line of duty. The last payment of such allowance was in 2014.
● Initiating a performance reward system of Bimonthly Best Performing Command Award, which after two editions, became Quarterly Awards & Individual personnel commendation awards.
● Payment of insurance premiums, both life and injury insurance, hitherto abandoned for years.
● Expanding the top hierarchy to accommodate more deserving officers, made possible by the structural reform of the agency.
2. STRUCTURAL REFORMS
We expanded the agency’s structure, which was a belated development. The restructuring was calculated to strengthen the agency to function per the reality of contemporary drug situations. In other words, the imperative of sustained efficiency necessitated the restructuring of the anatomy of the NDLEA. The beautiful thing is the Agency is comprised of very resourceful and educated personnel. Therefore, there was no shortage of capable and experienced manpower to drive the reforms in this area, which majorly are:
● Creation of new directorates, namely:
(1) Directorate of Planning, Research & Statistics
(2) Directorate of Media & Advocacy
(3) Directorate of Special Duties and Strike Force.
(4)Directorate of Airport Operations
(5) Directorate of Forensics and Chemical Examination
● Creation of 14 zonal commands
● Creation of the Office of Provost Marshall to maintain internal discipline
● Unbundling of Directorate of Admin and Finance into (a) Admin & Establishment (b) Finance & Accounts
3. CHANGE OF PHILOSOPHIES & PROCESS
To transform the NDLEA from a reactive and inert anti-narcotic organisation to a pro-active and vibrant one, we made major changes and introduced innovations to the principles and philosophies driving our activities.
The major ones are:
● A Paradigm shift to intelligence-driven process.
This gives the Agency an aura of invincibility and more efficiency in our various operations.
● Adoption of Maxim of Offensive Action against traffickers
This non-stop tracking and arrest of traffickers gave the Agency an edge in its drug supply reduction activities.
● Weaponization of asset forfeiture against barons
Shifting gear to the tactics of forfeiture of Assets of barons and pursuing the masterminds of drug trafficking networks, using a combination of laws, (including the NDLEA Act, the Money Laundering Act and the international tool of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, MLAT, enabled us to go beyond arrest to the actual dismantling of drug syndicates.
4. MECHANISMS & INTERVENTIONS
We also tried to strike a balance in our Drug Demand Reduction effort with the following:
● War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) campaign: Launched by President Buhari on June 26, 2021, this is an advocacy campaign designed to win public support and society’s involvement in the effort to combat the menace of illicit drug use and trafficking. Six months after it was flagged off, we have reached out to several states, met with governors, religious leaders, traditional rulers, community leaders, social groups amongst others. The effort has won support for NDLEA activities at the grassroots.
● Launch of National Drug Control Master Plan NDCMP 2021-25.
Developed with the technical support from UNODC, the NDCMP is a results-based strategic planning tool for coordinating interventions against illicit drug use and trafficking and related organized crime in Nigeria. This fourth edition of the NDCMP is the outcome of two years of coordinated, collaborative and multi-agency effort of experts from all the relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as well as Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
● Activation of Standard Practice and Policy Guidelines (SPPG): A treatment and rehabilitation document developed in conjunction with UNODC. The document, like a field manual, provides synergy among our counsellors and further boosts our capability at treatment and rehabilitation.
● Drug Integrity test: We concretise our drive for a drug-free Nigeria with the entrenchment of drug tests in the public sphere namely tertiary institutions, government, security organisations etc. The policy is gaining widespread acceptance with several government institutions already adopting it.
This is the easiest part for me because it is also the part of the development in the past year that is well-known to the public. We can take solace in the fact that our achievements of 2021 surpassed the records of any given year of the past 30 years. In drug supply reduction, our interdiction efforts yielded unparalleled results, which as of December 31, 2021, are as follows:
i. Arrests of 12, 306 suspects, including 7 drug barons
ii. Conviction of 1, 400 offenders
iii. Pending 1, 502 cases in court
iv. Seizure of over 3.4 million kilograms of assorted drugs
v. Drugs and cash seized worth over N130 billion
vi. 406 hectares of Cannabis farms destroyed
vii. Contributions to the Consolidated Account through asset forfeiture
viii. 7, 761 drug users counselled and rehabilitated in NDLEA facilities.
In the areas of improvement of the workforce, we attained the following:
● Approval for the construction of six standard rehab centres, starting from 2022
● Approval for the construction of barracks across the country over four years, starting from 2022.
● An improved budget
● Successful recruitment and training of 5, 000 officers and men, thereby doubling our strength.
Other positive developments include:
● Return of allies and partners
● New Partnership: The Agency signed a Memorandum of Understanding with its Gambian counterpart, DLEAG in Banjul on August 4, 2021, to formally seal their cooperation to combat illicit production, manufacture and trafficking in narcotic drugs. A similar MoU was signed with Cote D’ivoire on 7th Nov, 2021 while the same partnership with Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate Of Narcotics Control (GDNC) as well as those of Pakistan, India and South Africa are ongoing and will hopefully materialise this year. These developments are symbolic of the growing influence of the NDLEA and recognition of Nigeria’s effort in the anti-narcotic space.
● Donations of equipment and training: From strategic partners such as UNODC, DEA, UK Border Force and foreign governments, we received equipment and training, which include:
i. A speedboat donated by the UK government
ii. Operational equipment (e.g. body shields, bulletproof jackets, helmets, handcuffs, walkie-talkies, motorcycles etc) from the government of France.
iii. Two new buses and a sniffer dog were donated by the German government. The German government is also in the process of constructing a 4 million Euro dog training facility in Lagos.
I have to at this point also highlight some of the spectacular seizures recorded by the Agency since January 2021. These include:
● 230 tons of cannabis in Edo State in February and a recent seizure of over 100 tonnes of psychotropic substance across the country in the past two weeks.
● 451, 807 Captagon tablets, weighing 71.119 kg in September at Apapa Seaport, Lagos. This was the first-ever recorded seizure of the drug in the West and Central African regions.
● 1,994, 400 capsules of Tramadol in February at the Apapa Port, another 144, 400 bottles of Codeine syrup in March and in October, 32.9 kg of cocaine.
● 43.11 kg of cocaine in February at Tin Can Seaport and another 22, 590 kg of Codeine syrup at the Port in September
● 4, 996, 200 capsules of Tramadol, weighing 2,498 kg in May at the Onne Port and another interception of 100,000 (100ml) bottles of Codeine cough syrups weighing 15, 325kg in 500 cartons at the port in June
● Seizure of 2000.6kg Cannabis Sativa in concrete mixer truck loaded in Ogbese, Ondo state and intercepted along Girei – Yola road, Adamawa state on 2nd Dec, 2021
● In December 2021 alone, over 34, 000kilograms of cannabis smuggled from Ghana were intercepted at the Eko Atlantic City Beach while more than 8.3million capsules and tablets of Tramadol were seized in Lagos a week before Christmas. Just last week, about 1.5million capsules of same drug loaded in Onitsha, Anambra state heading to Kebbi and Kano were also intercepted by our men in Edo state
● At the airports, we have recorded a series of interceptions and seizures of cocaine and heroin, but Murtala Mohammed International Airport remains the epicentre of the spectacular seizures, including what stands today as the biggest single seizure from an individual in 15 years, which is 26.840kg of cocaine smuggled from Brazil in January, 24.05 kg of Heroin in April, 27.95 kg of Cocaine in May, and 26.15kg of Heroin in May.
PLAN FOR 2022 & BEYOND
After one year of restructuring and rejuvenation, the NDLEA is now an organisation of bolstered workforce with 15 Directorates and 115 formations across 14 Zonal Commands, 36 States Commands (including FCT Commands) and 10 Special Area Commands.
In 2022, we are going to build on the foundation laid in 2021.
That building process includes:
● Continued recruitment and training of new officers. We are set to increase our staff strength in the new year.
● Intensification of WADA campaign
● Amendment of the NDLEA Act, which is awaiting second reading in the National Assembly
● Procurement of arms and other operational equipment
In conclusion, I must state clearly that it is not solely by our efforts that we were able to achieve all the results of 2021. We have enablers, facilitators and supporters who helped to bring the NDLEA back on its feet.
First and foremost, all Praise and Glory to the Almighty, Allah. Our gratitude goes to President Muhammadu Buhari who gave us the necessary support and encouragement required to give the agency a new spine. Likewise, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Senate Committee on Narcotic Drugs and the House Committee on Drugs and Narcotics supported us all the way. The role of our international partners cannot be overemphasized, likewise, the Armed Forces and police, other MDAs, IMC, SPC, our partner NGOs, CSOs and regulatory agencies.
Our friends in the media helped to create a friendly ecosystem for this new NDLEA and numerous Nigerians supported us with their goodwill and prayers. We owe them all gratitude. I salute the officers, men and women of the NDLEA for their courage, tenacity, professionalism and commitment. Well done.
The Agency has come a long way. And there is still a long way to go. We have a clear vision of where we are headed, and there is a roadmap to that destination. Today, the improvement in our fortune as an organisation is driving the NDLEA workforce to continue to push for the attainment of organisational goals and fulfilment of our core mandate of securing our country against the drug scourge. We all believe in the vision of the new NDLEA and we are committed to its mission. Our mandate is to ensure a drug-free Nigeria. We shall continue to play our role towards the achievement of that goal.