President Muhammadu Buhari has said the danger posed to the country by illicit drugs is worse than those posed by insurgency and banditry.
The President made the disclosure on Saturday as he launched the War Against Drug Abuse (WADA), an initiative of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in commemoration of the United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking with the theme, ‘Share Facts On Drugs. Save Lives’.
Represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, the President, who was a Special Guest of Honour at the launch, also charged the NDLEA to intensify efforts at ridding the vast forests of the Southwest and South-South regions of the country of criminal elements.
Buhari said: “I am directing the NDLEA to develop a robust risk-communication and community engagement strategy that will not only disseminate the four pillars of the plan to responsible entities, but also deal with destroying production sites and laboratories, break the supply chain, discourage drug use and prosecute offenders as well as traffickers, rehabilitate addicts and enforcement of relevant laws.
“I want to particularly draw the attention of the agency to the fact that the use of many of our forests as criminal hideouts is because large swathes of cannabis plantations are hidden deep within those forests, especially in the Southwest and the South-South.
“You may therefore, need to drive these criminal elements from such hideouts because they use it for the growth of these plants and also as a respository for criminal elements to conclude and plan their adventures on our people.
“On this United Nations anti-drug day, I call on all families, schools, civil society organisations, professional associations, religious organisations, the academia, community leaders and individuals to work for the common good in order to rid their communities of drug use and trafficking.
“As your President, I will continue to address underlying causes of drug abuse, including poverty reduction, for which my pledge for lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years and strengthened by the recently developed National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy signposts my unwavering commitment.
“Finally, I would like to appreciate our stakeholders and international collaborators, especially the European Union, and the United Nations Office for Drugs and Control, for their unwavering support to our drug control efforts, including the development of our roadmap.
“Also appreciated are the members of the inter-ministerial committee on drug control, civil society organisations, the academia, for their contributions and efforts to our National Drug Control initiatives.
“The war against drugs is a war that must be fought by all, it is therefore my pleasure, to declare on behalf of the good people of Nigeria, a War Against Drug Abuse (WADA), not just as a slogan, but a call for civil action for all Nigerians to take active part in this war.
“Let me say that this war is more deadly than the insurgency we have in the Northeastern part of the country or the acts of banditry in the Northwest or the acts of kidnapping that transcends all the geopolitical zones of this country, because it is a war that is destroying three generations, because I’ve seen clips of where grandparents are on drugs, parents are on drugs, and by extension, their wards, their children are on drugs.
“So this is a war that It is targeting three generations in a stretch. So it is more deadly than even the security challenges that we are having in this country and I believe strongly that every effort must be put in place to ensure that we deal with the issues of substance abuse and trafficking and manufacture so that we can get to the root cause as ably elucidated by our keynote speaker this afternoon, of the mirage of insecurity problems that are confronting this nation.”
Explaining further Buhari said: “and I believe strongly, with every bit of conviction, that if we are able to deal with the issues of drug abuse, substantial, our security challenges will drastically reduce as we walk towards a drug free, Nigeria.
“I once again implore all Nigerians from every strata of life; our traditional institutions, our religious leaders, our local leadership at every level, to be very vigilant and to support this cause and the war against drug that has declared on this day, the 26th of June they 2021.”
On his part, chairman of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa, put the value of cash and drugs seized in the past five months since he came on board at over N90billion.
He also added that over 2,180 traffickers have been arrested, including five drug barons controlling different cartels across Nigeria.