The Chairman, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Mohamed Buba Marwa has warned that unrepentant drug barons and cartels will face “tougher times” in 2023 if they fail to give up their illicit trade.
Mr Marwa issued the warning on Wednesday in Abuja at a media briefing to update the public on efforts by the agency to rid the country of illicit substance abuse and drug trafficking. The day marks the second anniversary of Mr Marwa’s assumption to the leadership of the anti-narcotics body.
“Last year, I issued a New Year appeal to them and also warned that those who refused to heed the warning will find themselves in a difficult situation,” He remarked.
“Already, we have 34 barons in our net and they are facing the music in court,” he stated. “We have secured orders for the temporary forfeiture of their assets.
“With our prosecution being topnotch, they can look forward to a long time in prison and final forfeiture of their wealth and assets.
“Those involved in the illicit drug trade should take a cue from our actions. They can again look forward to a tough time this year.”
He said the signs of what is to come are clear as the agency, in the first two weeks of this year, took down three major drug cartels, one of which has built extensive networks across the world while at least six of their kingpins are in NDLEA custody.
Promising that the details will be released in the coming days,Mr Marwa said: “In these two years, we arrested 26,458 drug traffickers, among them, 34 barons. In 24 months, we successfully prosecuted 3,733 offenders who were convicted and handed various jail terms in court.
“Of the conviction figure, 2,346 were recorded in 2022 alone, which is the highest in the history of the agency and almost doubled the highest ever recorded in the 33 years of NDLEA. This is not happening by chance but a result of professionalism, determination, commitment and hard work of our officers, men and women.”
He described 2022 as an “epoch year”, saying: “We took a giant leap in drug demand reduction with the establishment and commissioning of the NDLEA drug abuse call centre, which broadened access to treatment and rehabilitation. It was a year we had unprecedented support too, notably from the Governors’ Wives Forum, which made commitments to broaden and deepen social efforts to ameliorate the consequences of drug abuse.
“We also had support from our international partners, chiefly the UNODC, counterparts and governments of the United States, France, Germany, United Kingdom, India, and South Korea. The support came in the form of donations of equipment, training, intelligence and other logistics.”
While assuring Nigerians that the agency is firmly on the task of making the country safe from illicit substances, the NDLEA boss said such may sound like an impossibility but is achievable.
He also warned citizens to be wary in their dealings with people of questionable wealth; adding that the anticipated amendment of the NDLEA Act will happen this year, thereby helping to strengthen the arm of the agency in its drug law enforcement.
Expressing confidence that the Proceed of Crime Act, 2022, enacted last year, has given the Agency “renewed leverage”, the NDLEA chairman delivered a terse warning to drug offenders.
“I will like to remind those who benefit from the proceeds of drug crimes, this time, families, friends and associates, that our investigations are thorough; and where we find any link between a drug baron and private citizens, we shall scrutinise their assets. The onus is now on every citizen, to be honest in their financial dealings with people whose source of wealth is suspect.”
He expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari and other stakeholders for their support in the “total transformation” of the agency and the successes recorded.