Text of the Press Conference by Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (Rtd.) Chairman/Chief Executive, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in commemoration of 2020 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking, on June 22, 2020 in Abuja

Distinguished Gentlemen of the Press,

I welcome you to this Press Conference to commemorate the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking for this unusual year 2020.
You may recall June the 26th every year is designated as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking by the United Nations. Nation Actors the world over are expected to bring to the fore to serve as a reminder, issues pertaining to drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking. It is an occasion to sensitize the general populace, lest they forget the issues revolving around drug menace the world over. Additionally, it is expected to galvanize nations of the world to demonstrate the political will clearly, by backing promises made in support of the United Nations’ clarion call, with resources to help in the efforts against these twin monstrous problems – abuse and trafficking.
Nigeria being an active member of the UN, has always recognized and celebrated the commemoration of this day –usually with a week-long chain of events that climaxed on June the 26th, the actual day reserved to mark the occasion. Recall I just said 2020 was an unusual year as if any normal person needs any reminders. The fact of Covid-19 is legion and that is why the Day is marked differently this year. Nonetheless, the strategy remains to make use of you – the Mainstream Media – our natural and traditional allies and the in-vogue Social Media, to reach out to the general populace, particularly the vulnerable groups. All these must achieve while respecting the government’s protocols on social distancing, limitation as to size of crowd/gathering and article of faith – Face Mask. Somehow we must navigate the maze and reach the door steps of our citizenry the anti-drug message. This is where we count on you.
We have moved from the theme for the last 4 years – which was Listen First and Health for Justice, Justice for Health. The Theme this year is Better knowledge for Better Care. This underscores the thrusts of the combined efforts of nations of the world. It is people centric, gravitating toward ameliorating the suffering of drug abuse victims. The Theme zeroes in one major drawback in the fight against abuse particularly, not discounting trafficking though. Ignorance has been found to be a major impediment militating against the lofty goals set by the UN. The absence of information, misinformation and outright disinformation has each played parts in varying degrees. Effective responses to the extant problem require many more and varied hands on deck-policy makers, NGOs, CSOs, Corporate World, Community Leaders, Religious Leaders, Educators at all levels and increasingly service providers. All of these diverse assemblage of groups must work together to understand drug disorders are a multifactor health issue. The UN Outcome Document of 2016 puts its stamp of authority on that. Summarily, it is a health related issue desirous of compassion and help, rather than a moral stigma to be punished.
Drug use disorders are a result of a complex interplay of factors including genetics, mental health, and the environment amongst others. This is why care givers must be adequately knowledgeable and here the capacity to work with vulnerable and drug dependent person. Mere sloganism will not wash.
This year’s Commemoration encourages on and all to get involved in campaign against the illicit consumption and used of drugs not administered by Clinicians. This opens the channel for dry dependent persons to access interventions, including health care, social support and education.
In the light of the prevailing atmosphere of COVID 19, drug dependent person are more acutely at risk because of their usually attendant underling health issues, social stigmatization, and the death of access to health care. Making matters worse, is the fact that the front burner currently is the exclusive pressure of COVID 19, other matters less so. That is why there has never been a tome much worse for drug dependent persons. The lock down merely accentuated the dilemma. As drugs of choice became scarce, increased experimentation with newer concoctions and sell mediation world only have aggravated the problem. Chances are newer forms of addictions hitherto unknown may here to be contended with. Remember also withdrawal Syndrome might occur having cut short the supply chain as a result of the lock down.
The NDLEA has kept faith with its mandate assiduously. Cannabis cultivation has continued to attract our immediate attention because it is the most widely abused substance in Nigeria. In the year ending 2019, a total of 310.1 tons of Cannabis were seized and destroyed publicly. All together for that year, 612, 903.484 kilograms of drugs were seized. The arrest figures stand at 9,444 of drug related offenders. A total of 1,195 convictions were recorded, while 795 drug dependent persons were counseled.
Drug trafficking was not abating during the lockdown. They continued with their nefarious trade not withstanding COVID-19. Some of the seizures made include:
a. 6, 465.23 kilograms of Cannabis enroute Kano at Kogi,
b. 3, 962 kilograms of Cannabis enroute Kano at Benue,
c. 1, 960 kilograms of Cannabis at Edo
d. 621. 0857 kilograms of Cannabis at Imo and
e. 267.123 kilograms of Cannabis at Abia
I have over the years alerted and acquainted you with the frightening dimension of drug manufacturing in Nigeria. That was mainly in relation to Methamphetamine. We are at our wits end to discover more Meth Labs not necessarily because they do not exist. A new version of manufacturing has reared its head, the introduction of Hydrophonic outfit where Cannabis is manipulated into the production of Hashish and Canaboil, both of which are illegal since they contravene the extant NDLEA Act. Would you believe the locations? The first in Jos run by a Chinese and the second in Victoria Island, run by a mixed nationality person – Nigeria/German.
The Agency’s Treatment and Rehabilitation component of the Drug Demand Reduction Directorate is in dire need of upgrade. Medical attention given to drug dependent persons is often the last stage of the war. Along the course many battles must have be to won. These are the battles of intervention, education, sensitization counseling and psychotherapy which the Agency is ably competent to perform given the in-house expertise available. What is lacking is the en-tooling and capacity building required. Time has come for competent Treatment and Rehabilitation Centres to be fully built as anticipated by the NDLEA Act where psychotherapy and medical therapy should mutual reinforce each other.
Perhaps what we need going forward is a concept summarized as “All of Government and Whole Society” working together. Additional to what the Federal Government brings to the table, as a nation we should identify and aggressively mobilize the public and private sectors and other strategic partners for a holistic response against the trafficking in and use of illicit substances. The essence would be to complement the Federal Government funding in the light of competing national interests. This appears to be a promising, sustainable thrust that could put a damper on the real pandemic of our own nation – the drug pandemic. This consensus arrived at, would tackle the multi-dimensional problems bedeviling our nation rooted in drug abuse which causes internal insecurity, disruption of social and family cohesion and an impigning strangle-hold on the nation’s economic prosperity. Remember the concept “All of Government and the Whole Society. Gentlemen of the Press, the NDLEA has made its pitch. Will you stand up and be counted?
It would be discourteous to end this briefing without acknowledging our benefactors. Our Chief benefactor is the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR for the unprecedented political will to confront the drug menace head-on. The first intervention was the approval to increase the manpower holding of the NDLEA recognizing boots on the ground are essential in lieu of technology which the nation can ill-afford because of cost. Additionally boots on the ground permits the Agency is built from the bottom/up, i.e. deal with menace at the local government level before it escalates to State Capitals. But, Mr. President, the NDLEA accepts being called an Oliver Twist. We plead that you look into the issues of Logistics and Equipment that must concomitantly come with the upgrade of manpower approved. The two implemented together would discernibly propel the NDLEA to greater achievements and feats.
Worthy of mention and the Agency’s acknowledgement are other members of the Executive Branch, the indefatigable members of the National Assembly, the moderators of our behaviors, the Judiciary. Each singly and combined together, the support has been invaluable. We also acknowledge our International Collaborators, MDAs NGOs CSOs and other silent individual stakeholders whose contributions have manifested in our successes. To you gentlemen of the Press, you are the cream of the lot, we have relied and will continue to rely on your inevitable educative, informative and enlightening reports. We are in this together.
Together working, a drug free society is not an illusion.