Emmanuel Onwubiko: Is NDLEA biting more than it can chew

 

The nation’s anti-hard drugs Czar General Mohammed Buba Marwa(rtd) understands the nitty-gritty of his complex task of eliminating the hydra-headed monster that trafficking and consumption of hard drugs and prohibited substances from the face of the geographical space known as the Federal Republic of Nigeria with some 200 million population if we go by the very unreliable and fraudulent census figures churned out by the morally challenged National Population Commission.

Significantly, the Marwa headed institution has successfully navigated away from the notorious Nigerian character of doing government job in which certain ethnicities are considered as sacred cows.

For instance, the Federal Government has demonstrated filthy biases towards the terrorist activities of some outlaws known as armed Fulani terrorists because of the proclivity of some top Federal government officials for backing whatever evils these set of people unleash just for the mere fact that the President and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is himself a Fulani who deliberately and illegally surrounded himself with only Fulani born internal security chiefs who in the last 7 years have compromised Nigeria’s National security interests on the altar of sectional interest and the deeply rooted and vicious FULANISATION AGENDA of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

This trojan horse of ethnicism and adoption of tribal prism in carrying out public functions as are exhibited in the offices of the President, EFCC, Police, has been defeated in the Mohammed Buba Marwa led NDLEA. Mohamed Buba Marwa is Fulani but he can even arrest an Emir if he has evidence of malfeasance.

Marwa in the last one year has caught big fishes and drug barons from all ethnicities and has shown greater patriotic zeal and passion towards doing whatever he can to carry out his mandates.

However, it appears like Marwa and his boys are chasing more crooks than they should or that they are becoming a little bit overzealous or they are even biting more than they can chew.

A case in point is the recent raiding in an abominable commando fashion of a venue of a social party in the upscale area of Abuja Asokoro in which the body arrested 200 young persons who were only out to unwind.

Swooping on party goers just because you have an intelligence that the drinks are laced with prohibited substances and then arresting every human that moves as suspects is a kangaroo way of law enforcement, if you ask me because so many innocent persons may have been arrested arbitrarily and arbitrariness is unlawful and unconstitutional.

Also, raiding the venue in such a loud way makes it seem like we are in an Islamic State whereby social parties and clubbing are criminalised.

The best deal would be, to go in there as gentle as you can ever be without creating unnecessary tensions and panics.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is guilty of this infractions of raiding places such as hotels in the wee hours of the night to plug off literally, persons asleep in their Adamic nature and in many cases of this use of brute force, the victims are innocent of the crime for which they were hitherto suspected of committing.

This is so irregular, vicious, obnoxious and tragic. Get me clearly, I don’t support doing drugs whether in small or big way, but the manner of law enforcement activities matter a whole lot in defining what kind of a place Nigeria is and law enforcement agencies must never create the impression that Nigeria is a Banana Republic whereby MIGHT IS RIGHT no matter how crudely controlled violence is applied.

Another misstep that is about to happen is the plot to investigate or test political aspirants for drugs.

This is as absurd as it can ever be.

It is like first calling everyone who comes forward to serve in public offices as crooks before then going ahead to issue them a clean bill of health.

This is against the PRINCIPLE OF RULE OF LAW which presumes that even a suspect is deemed innocent until a contrary determination is made.

Moreover, how does NDLEA intends to test nearly 200,000 persons for drugs?

Where are the laboratories? Where are the skilled personnel and where is the money for such huge task which in any event is antithetical to RULE OF LAW? MInd you, NDLEA is an agency under the financially turbulent Federal ministry of Justice and the body gets their funding through what is called an envelope system.

Although, NDLEA has made attempts to get the enabling law amended to take care of such operational and funding encumbrances, but for now, NDLEA is short of funds and staffing.

I may actually be crying more than the bereaved.

Be that as it may, the activist Chairman thinks he needs to add to his already overwhelming assignments by seeking to test politicians for drugs.

So why the discrimination? Why only politicians? Why not also test civil servants Students and literally every living thing for drugs? This sounds very awkward and grotesque. Recall that section 42(1) of the Constitution prohibits discrimination. Mr. Chairman of NDLEA must adhere strictly to the RULE OF LAW.

The Chairman/Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) has however urged political parties to make drug integrity test part of the screening requirements for aspirants seeking to contest political offices in the 2023 elections on their platforms.

Marwa stated this while responding to questions from journalists at the 2022 First Quarter Best Performing Commands Awards ceremony at the Agency’s national headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday 27th 2022.

According to him, “for politicians, we have long advocated and I take the opportunity again to repeat the advocacy that when they run for public office it demands a lot of responsibility from the person and we need to be certain if he’s a person that is already a drug addict/user who will spend all the money he’s given for public service to consume cocaine and his head will not be in a stable condition to handle the affairs he has been entrusted with. For this reason, we have advocated and will continue to advocate that drug test be conducted for politicians; some state governments like Kano state is already doing this.

“Not just politicians, but government appointees, and I’ve just sent a letter this morning to the National Chairman of APC, who will be the first of the national working committee I wish to pay an advocacy visit on this issue. I recommended that drug tests be incorporated in the screening process for all those interested in running for public office; we’ll do the same to the PDP and other important parties.”

While addressing officers and men of the Agency present at the event, Gen. Marwa said the ceremony “has become part and parcel of our corporate culture. Recognizing and rewarding hard work and excellence has always been a pragmatic way of stimulating productivity and enhancing the attainment of organisational goals; making it a tradition for the Agency is our way of enshrining meritocracy in the system.

“Statistics from the first quarter (Q1) report, indicated that our performance level has not dropped off. Indeed, achieving 3, 539 arrests, 677 convictions and seizures of 65, 916 kg of drugs in three months is no mean feat. Little wonder our performance continually earns the Agency deserved accolades from the right quarters within the country as well as from abroad, especially from international partners and peers. While we have not yet achieved the utopia of a drug-free society, the results showed that we are getting it right.”

He told the officers that the awards and commendations are expected to spur them to surpass their current feats at the next awards ceremony. “The ceremony should be a poignant reminder for us not to forget where we are coming from. And there is no better way to say it other than for us to be mindful of the saying that success has a hundred fathers, but failure is always an orphan. No organisation would understand this adage better than NDLEA in the light of our past rock bottom experience. Therefore, we should all be mindful that we hold the fate of NDLEA in our hands, and that fate will be determined by our patriotism and dedication to duty, as well as our collective resolve to work towards the attainment of the Agency’s mandate.

“Let me also seize this occasion to remind you about the importance of propagating the War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) programme in your various commands. There is much we can achieve when our communities are working hand-in-hand with us. That is why our roadmap, the NDCMP 2021-2025, strongly emphasises collaboration with all the stakeholders in society. We have to woo members of society to work with us on this very important assignment. Therefore, I charge you to ensure that WADA is correctly and deeply entrenched in the spheres of operation of your respective commands”, he stated.

While assuring the officers that the Agency is proud of them, he said “the sacrifice of a narcotic officer cannot be quantified in gold or silver, for he is fulfilling a higher calling. As we go about our duty of securing our society against the corrosion of illicit drugs, we should be aware that we are the direct beneficiaries of our work because for every kilo of drugs seized, we are making our streets and society safer for our children, family and kinsmen.

NDLEA is proud of its workforce; the Agency treasures the effort of its officers and men; the management shall continue to look out for their best interest. We shall continue to reward hard work and excellence.”

If you ask me I will say this line of thinking is way out of the logical and should be perished forthwith.

Just as an addendum, I had poured and showered praises on NDLEA but the institution should be mindful of how they paint suspects as criminals even before the court of law says so. I understand that the Socialite Mr. Obi Cubana has instituted a libel suit against a newspaper that rushed to call him names when he was invited by the NDLEA few weeks back. This is a pretty good step. We must even as media people respect media laws.

Recently, a certain man who is already labelled a drug baron by the NDLEA was arrested and he has already been persecuted in the media as if to say Nigeria is a Banana Republic. This is an intolerable conduct unbecoming of public office holders.

Mind you, I hold no brief for that fellow whom I have never met and don’t intend to meet and I’m in support of every lawful efforts to eradicate hard drugs from Nigeria because of the damages that drug addiction inflicts on the youths who should be in their most economically productive age brackets but are made useless by the effects of hard drugs.

The businessman identified as Mr Afam Mallinson Emmanuel Ukatu was arrested by operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) over the N3 billion tramadol deal involving the suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Mr Abba Kyari.

Mr Kyari and his team, the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) were accused of being involved in the sale of narcotics.

In a statement issued on Monday by the NDLEA’s Director of Media and Advocacy, Mr Femi Babafemi, it was alleged that Mr Ukatu was the billionaire drug baron behind the N3billion tramadol deal.

According to the statement, after months of surveillance and evading arrest, Mr Ukatu, who is Chairman of Mallinson Group of Companies, was eventually grabbed onboard a flight to Abuja at the MM2 terminal of the Lagos airport, Ikeja on Wednesday, April 13, 2022.

The anti-drug agency claimed that the suspect has been a major importer of large consignments of different brands and high dosages of Tramadol Hydrochloride, ranging from 120mg, 200mg, 225mg and 250mg, all of which are illicit.

He owns pharmaceutical and plastic manufacturing companies, which he used as a cover to import illicit drugs into Nigeria in addition to operating 103 bank accounts, most of which are used to allegedly launder money.

The NDLEA said Mr Ukatu came under watch last year after five cartons of Tramadol 225mg were seized from his staff on May 4, 2021, when he sent them to sell to undercover police officers (unknown to Ukatu) from the then Kyari-led IRT of the Nigeria Police, Ikeja Lagos. The price of a carton of Tramadol was negotiated at N17 million each as against the then black market value that ranged between N18 million and N20 million a carton in Lagos.

After the arrest of the staff of the Mallinson Chairman: Pius Enidom and Sunday Ibekwete, Mr Kyari’s men were then led by the suspects to Mallinson’s warehouse at Ojota in Lagos where 197 additional Cartons of Tramadol 225mg were seized by the IRT Team. The monetary value of the 202 cartons of Tramadol seized from Mallinson in one day was over N3 billion.

Three weeks after the seizure, the IRT team transferred only 12 cartons of the Tramadol with one truck and a suspect to the Lagos Command of the NDLEA, leaving 190 cartons unaccounted for.

After over eight months of following the lead, anti-narcotic officers of the agency eventually arrested Mr Ukatu at the Lagos airport about two weeks ago.

Mr Kyari and four top members of his team are already facing trial for a different but similar offence at a Federal High Court in Abuja.

Praiseworthy as the recent landmark achievements of the NDLEA is, caution must be the watchword and the adoption of better operational methodology is what is needed so we don’t continue to promote anarchy and lawlessness.

EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

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