The Chairman/Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig. Gen Buba Marwa (rtd), has said the arrest of the suspended Commander of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), DCP Abba Kyari, is a clear message that no one would be spared in the agency’s ongoing war against illicit drug business.
Marwa said this on Wednesday in an address in Abuja during training on Sensitization on Drugs and Drug Prevention, Treatment and Care (DPTC) organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for NLDEA personnel and selected journalists.
He said that the system cannot allow those given the responsibility to fight crime, which includes the matter of drugs to themselves be proponents of it.
The anti-narcotics czar said the fight against drug abuse is serious business and the agency is committed to pursuing a drug-free nation.
He said: “The media has a very important role to play in our society. The business of getting information out needs to be accurate and professionally done especially in the business of drug control, drug abuse, trafficking, there are technicalities that you need to get sufficient knowledge of the terrain so that when you get the word out, it is gotten out accurately because you mold the opinions of millions. It is for this reason that I urge the journalists to please take this training seriously and take full advantage of it.
“While we are at it there is an ongoing play which we are witnessing and I have followed the role of the media even in it. It is a serious business that is ongoing. We all are responsible. We want a drug-free nation. We may not get to zero level, but definitely, there is a certain minimum acceptability standard that we are all pursuing. And those given the responsibility to fight crime which includes the matter of drugs cannot themselves be proponents of it. This message I believe we have sent abundantly clear.”
Responding, Country Representative of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Oliver Stolpe, said more is still required to be done in the fight against drug abuse.
He said, “I think there is still more to be done because I still believe that most Nigerians perceive drug use as more of a failure of some sort of basically those people that are using drugs.
“It has not yet been fully appreciated that drug use is a health condition first and foremost and it is a health condition that affects this nation much more severely than I think there is a true awareness of.
“Just to give you an idea, HIV/AIDS that USAID and international development partners have spent billions to fight to put under control affects 1.9 million Nigerians as we speak. COVID-19 affects roughly half a million people.
“The drug use epidemic in terms of pure use affects around 40 million Nigerians as we speak, and around 3 million are affected with what we would refer to as a drug use disorder. It means they would require medical intervention to stop using drugs. So this is a higher number than HIV/AIDS or COVID-19 and yet I think in terms of what is being put towards addressing this issue, it falls significantly short of other efforts.”
Stolpe added: “That is not to say other efforts are less important. It is just to say you need to understand where your public health priorities stand, where they are and how much resources are you putting against them to address them. So it is really critical and that is the message that I hope you will continue to help us to spread.”