BY: Grace Oyenubi
Francis James (not real name) is a 56 year old father of six, who felt the way out of penury is to traffic drugs to Europe. He confessed frustration and so many family responsibilities made he commit this crime, “I lost my job and owe a lot of debts”.He is one of thousands of people attempting to traffic illicit drugs every year. Illicit drugs, no doubt, pose a grave threat and danger to global development. Globally, the commonly abused drugs are: cocaine, heroin and cannabis, among others. In spite of the insistence on the part of those who continually abused these drugs, to continue in their defiant acts, governments of various countries have also put in place agencies, to check the menace.
In Nigeria for instance, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, is the body statutorily charged with the responsibility of arresting and investigating persons suspected to have dealings in illicit drugs.
Statistics show that in 2008 alone, a total of 7,899 suspected drug offenders were caught, while 336, 442.84kg of illicit drugs, were seized from them, during the year under review.
Joan Peters (not real name) said she was not caught the first time she trafficked drugs, so she tried it again. She concealed it by ingesting it. She said the health implication of swallowing it was far from her mind: “it’s for survival, money made me take the risk”
From the statistics of the arrests made during the period under review, it was evident that the male folk, are more in number than the female folk. According to the NDLEA, the number of men arrested stood at 7,584, while those of their female counterpart stood at 315, adding that over 90percent of the drugs suspects were arrested in Kano, Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Abuja international airports.
Investigations further revealed that of all the drugs that are usually abused, the production and trafficking of cannabis, otherwise known as Marijuana, remains a major drug challenge in Africa, in general and in Nigeria, in particular, with Africa, according to the NDLEA, accounting for 26 percent of global cannabis production.The cannabis alone, it was further revealed contains 400 destructive elements.
Explaining further on the strategic role of Africa, in the illicit drug business, an NDLEA officer Lawal Hamisu disclosed that due to West-Africa’s strategic location, the region serves as effective mediator, for the supplier, user and buyer of the illicit drugs, thus making the region the hub of Latin American drug syndicates, who smuggle cocaine into Europe and America.
In Nigeria, one of the sure ways, according to investigation, to smuggle these drugs, is through ingesting the drugs. There were times, it was further revealed, when smuggling are done through some cabin crew members, especially because these set of people are not usually subjected to a thorough search, the way other ordinary passengers are usually searched.
Do those who smuggle these illicit drugs contemplate the risks involved, especially where they are not so lucky to pull it through before they are arrested?
Again, Francis James provides an insight: “it’s not worth it, the risk is not worth the monetary gain”.
Beyond arresting and punishing drugs suspects, NDLEA also tries to rehabilitate so they become better members of the society, and become useful to the society.
According to the Director General (DG) Lanre Ipinmisho, the agency as a way of reintegrating illicit drug offenders back into the society, has since established a Rehabilitation and Counseling Centres, even as it also carries out awareness campaigns in all the six zones of the country, on the dangers of illicit drugs, and the need for the country’s youth to shun the act.
From all indications, to actualize the country’s dream of having a drug-free Nigeria, all hands must be on deck. And for those still nursing the idea of making quick money by trafficking in drugs, they should have it at the back of their minds that once they are caught, especially in foreign lands, they may have no opportunity to live again. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
The writer can be reached on Graceoyenubi@gmail.com