By Emmanuel Onwubiko
The etymology of the fantastically decorated and widely celebrated phrase ‘coat of many colours’ can actually be traced to an ancient story told in the Old Testament.
But in the contemporary period, a popular musician from the United States of America Miss Dolly Parton popularised the phrase in her award winning song ‘Coat of many colours’.
But this reflection has nothing to do with either the sacred scripture nor with the fascinating song sang by the ebullient American musician, Dolly Parton.
The write up that is unfolding before us, is a talk on how the criminal enterprise of trafficking of hard drugs, illicit and prohibited substances and mind altering chemicals have become the business of all kinds of persons. There was also a time in the history of Nigeria that dealing in hard drugs was looked upon as a business that confers the edge of invincibility on the practitioners and it almost got to a very ugly apogee or rather climax whereby most boys on the streets, night clubs, beer parlours and other social and convivial activities and meeting points almost saw drug traffickers and their masters and mistresses- barons, as celebrities. That was in the days when the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency was in the hands of top officials that lacked zeal, patriotism and charisma. That chain was ironically broken by the current administration by the appointment of the famous erstwhile military administrator of Lagos State Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa and he then set up a group of top managers heading diverse departments but who realised the collective need to launch a massive Worldwide campaign against involvement of Nigerians in hard drugs trafficking and addiction.
And so, with the massive war going on since the last one year and half since the emergence of retired Military General Mohammed Buba Marwa as the Chief executive of the National Drugs law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), it has become very obvious that the crime of engaging in the global wide trafficking of hard drugs is not necessarily that of members of street gangs, and hoodlums even if some of those agents dealing directly with the marketing of hard drugs in most cities and towns in Nigeria are actually those we can correctly describe as undesirable elements.
Shockingly, the barons and most of the people already caught allegedly trafficking in those hard drugs are actually people belonging to all walks of life including professionals, clergy, scientists and engineers. Traffickers already prosecuted and jailed by the Marwa-led management of NDLEA are drawn from all kinds of professional genre including some of those hitherto adored by their ignorant adherent in their religious communes and communities. Some of those paraded include medical practitioners, lawyers, beer parlour patrons and matrons, hotel owners, businessmen, teachers and owners of thriving companies with turnovers of several billions.
And because the hard drugs industry in Nigeria has become a business of a cross section of Nigerians who can’t actually be regarded as a purely jobless bunch of people, we can as well call the crime of hard drugs the coat of many colours.
Stretching the meaning of that phrase further, particularly if we draw inspiration from the sacred scripture and what eventually happened to the beneficiary of the Biblical coat of many colours, we can as well see that the consequences of not waging war against hard drugs and eradicating it minimally from the streets, is that unprecedented violence would become a daily occurrence. It actually dawned on us that hard drugs consumption had reached unbearable heights before President Muhammadu Buhari boldly searched for who the shoes fit and then found a charismatic leader of men/women and institutions who had served in different capacities in the past and retired very young from the Army after a very colourful career. Opinions are almost unanimous that NDLEA is doing well in the fight against hard drugs and exposing hidden secrets about the trade.
As i stated earlier regarding the interpretative approaches some scholars had taken on that concept of coat of many colours, what is repeated in all of these interpretation is the fact that the gift of the Coat of many colours led to probably the earliest recorded case of fratricidal murder.
An analyst whose brief work we will rely on to tell us more about this Coat of many colours before we will draw correct analogy with the expanding frontiers of terrorist attacks and violent crimes caused by intake of hard drugs by crime suspects in Nigeria, is identified as Yehuda Shurpin who is said to have authored the work. “What was the Coat of many colors? ”
The analyst wrote that: “We learn in the Torah how Jacob loved his son Joseph more than all his other sons and made him a ketonet passim, commonly translated as a “coat of many colors.”
This ended up being a source of jealousy, which contributed to the brothers eventually selling Joseph into slavery, saya the analyst.
Ketonet translates as “cloak” or “garment.” But what does passim mean? And why did Jacob give this gift to his son in the first place?
On a basic level, Rashi and other commentaries explain that the ketonet passim was a fine woolen garment.
Alternatively, some explain passim to mean that the garment was made of silk.
Others connect the word passim to pas, meaning “palm,” since the garment was made of such fine material that when folded, it could fit in the palm of one’s hand.
Design, Color and Length, the analyst stated.
Besides, other commentaries explain that passim describes the color or design of the garment. The word passim can be variously translated as “colorful,” embroidered,” “striped” or “illustrated.”
Alternatively, it refers to the length of the garment. The word pas, meaning “palm,” is a reference to the garment reaching the palms of the hands.
An Ancient Garment
Most commentaries follow the plain meaning of the verse, which states that Jacob made the garment, implying that it was new.
At first glance, the analyst affirmed that it seems like Jacob showed poor judgment by giving the garment. As the Talmud states: “One should never differentiate between children. For it was because of this coat that Jacob gave Joseph over his other children that caused their jealousy, which eventually led to the entire nation going down to Egypt.”
So why did Jacob do it, the analyst asked? Some say it signified that Joseph was to be the leader.Another commentary says the fancy garment, normally worn by someone who was involved in superficial matters, was meant to mask the fact that Jacob was learning deep secrets of the Torah specifically with Joseph.
From a very broad perspective, the simple lesson we can draw from the above explanation concerning the scriptural story of the Coat of many Colour is that, although the giver intended that the receiver should play the leadership role but the other member of the receiver’s household was overcome by jealousy and then unleashed violence.
On the issue of hard drugs as Coat of many colours, we mean to state that the factual involvement of persons belonging even to other groups of citizens that the society expect exemplary leadership as career minded practitioners, but the inordinate and selfish ambitions to make quick money by foul means, has eventually evolved into the unacceptable level of violence and terrorism that are tearing apart the societal fabrics in Nigeria.
The direct consequence of allowing the circulation of hard drugs amongst the most productive section of Nigerians- the Youths, is that, this habit apart from precipitating violence of a heinous nature, will also render those youngsters involved in it, less productive and vulnerable to being caught and sent to detention. We can now re-emphasize that the vigourous war against hard drugs by General Marwa-led management of NDLEA, has now changed the narrative that hitherto contextualise hard drug barons as some colourful celebrities that are seen in the society as members of the elitist club. With Marwa and his warriors using the law to combat hard drug trafficking, the trade is now looked upon as very risky and the practitioners are viewed rightly as persons who destroy the youths with their articles of trade- hard drugs.
As stated earlier, with the frenetic and patriotic zeal that the NDLEA carries out an all out war against drug trafficking and addiction in the last few months of the inauguration of the General Marwa-led management, has made it possible for Nigerians to now see that pregnant women, Billionaires, Clergy and all kinds of persons belonging to the variety of strata of the society, have been intercepted allegedly trafficking all kinds of hard drugs.
Then comes the question, why should these individuals in the different profitable careers, abandon their training in making legitimate incomes, to pursue easy wealth through the trafficking of drugs?
It may be so difficult to draw conclusions from the confessional statements made by some of the agents that help big time barons to traffick drugs all over the World, because most of them blame poverty for their crime. If truth be told, some persons we may call members of the club of the wretched of the earth in the words of Frantz Omar Fanon the Francophone Afro-Cartibean Psychiatrist, political philosopher and Marxist (1925-1961).
But why then do we find billionaires alleged to be involved in drugs trafficking? With the aforementioned poser, it has become evident that there is no straightforward answer.
To expound further our framing of involvement in hard drugs by all kinds and genres of people as a coat of many colours, we only need to read a media release from the NDLEA on their most recent catch.
The media statement disclosed that the NDLEA intercepted drug consignments in winter jackets, body lotion at Lagos airport and that the law enforcement institution arrested a Lekki businessman over illicit cargo from US; pregnant woman, cripple in Edo; female undergraduate in Ogun. The blind, the rich, the not so rich, the poor, have all been arrested in the past few months.
This latest media release disclosed that consignments of Tramadol, Rohypnol, Ecstasy (Designer drug) and Cannabis concealed in winter jackets and bottles of body cream have been intercepted by operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja Lagos.
The psychoactive substances were recovered at the new terminal of the airport on Friday 14th April following the arrest of a passenger, Joshia Sunday who was traveling on a Qatar Airline flight via Doha to Oman, Middle East.
A thorough search of the suspects two black bags led to the discovery of 4.80 kilograms of cannabis concealed in three winter jackets and various quantities of Tramadol, Rohypnol, Ecstasy (Designer drug) hidden in bottles of body lotion. Preliminary investigation revealed that the suspect came into Nigeria from Oman on April 7, and was returning exactly a week after.
In the same vein, a Lekki Lagos based businessman, Cyril Chidiebere was on Friday 14th April arrested along with two of his freight agents: Mejabi Peter Sunday and Oyeyinka Babatunde over their involvement in the importation of twelve (12) parcels of Loud, a strain of cannabis, weighing 6.50kg, which was part of a consolidated cargo brought in from the United States of America.
The arrest and seizure followed a three-day intelligence led operation. Following the arrival of the cargo at the NAHCO import shed of the MMIA, its movement out of the airport was closely monitored in a sting operation until the actual importer, Cyril Chidiebere, was arrested in his house at Abraham Adesanya estate, Ajah, Lekki area of Lagos. Both Mejabi and Chidiebere have made useful statements to confirm that the latter has been involved in dealing on illicit drugs in the past.
Meanwhile, a pregnant woman, Rabetu Abdulrasak, 24, and a cripple, Shehu Adams have been arrested by NDLEA operatives in Agbede, Etsako West LGA, Edo state while over 14 kilograms of assorted illicit drugs including cannabis, methamphetamine, tramadol and swinol were recovered from them on Saturday 15th April.
A 22-year-old HND 1 female student of Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, Ogun state, Isoyo Iveren Susan was on Saturday 15th April arrested opposite 2nd Gate of the institution for dealing in illicit drugs. Recovered from her include 1,100ML of codeine-based cough syrup and 283grams of cannabis. This is just as operatives in Lagos arrested two suspects: Nonso Peter, 21, and Bright Chibike, 23, with 43.4kg cannabis at Ile-Epo, Abule Egba area of the state on Friday 14th April.
In Katsina state, no less than 1,730 bottles of codeine-based syrup were seized from a suspect, Bishir Saadu in Katsina metropolis on Sunday 9th April just as Muhamadu Yusuf was equally arrested same day with 8,000 capsules of tramadol inside a commercial bus along Kano – Katsina road. In the same vein, NDLEA operatives in Kaduna on Thursday 13th April raided a clandestine laboratory where mist potassium citrate was being produced in a residential apartment at 16 Sabon Gari, Zaria. The owner of the lab, Christopher Agodi was arrested and 102 cartons containing 2,448 bottles of the substance recovered. While a suspect, Salisu Abdullahi, 25, was arrested along Abuja-Kaduna road with 11.7kg cannabis concealed in two jerrycans, which he was moving from Port Harcourt to Kano, operatives also on Saturday 15th April nabbed one Atiku Abubakar, 22, on the same road with 50 blocks of cannabis weighing 28kg while travelling from Lagos to Shinkafi in Zamfara state in a commercial bus.
Similarly, anti-narcotic officers acting on a tip-off, arrested two suspects: Aminu Saudi, 45 and Abdullahi Sani, 35, at Ogbese, Ondo state, with 11 jumbo bags containing 211kg of cannabis concealed in rice chaffs. This was closely followed by the destruction of six hectares of cannabis farm in Uso forest in the state on Thursday 13th April.
Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) has commended the officers and men of the MMIA, Edo, Ogun, Lagos, Katsina, Kaduna and Ondo Commands of the Agency for the arrests and seizures of the past week. He urged them and their compatriots across the country to remain focused and continue the current drug supply reduction and drug demand reduction efforts simultaneously. The media statement was endorsed by Mr. Femi Babafemi, Director, Media & Advocacy, NDLEA Headquarters Abuja, Sunday 16th April 2023.
A 2013 publication picked up from the National Library of Medicine stated that there is a close relationship between drug abuse and crime. Drug abusers commit crimes to pay for their drugs and this inflicts damages to the society. Moreover, many criminals are under the influence of drugs while committing crimes. Drug trafficking is another outcome of drug abuse.
Citing a research in the United States in 2010, 70% of male prisoners were drug abusers which is significant compared to the 11.2% rate of drug abuse in the entire male population (2). Alcohol has the highest relationship with aggressive crimes. According to reports, criminals who had abused drugs and alcohol simultaneously committed 21.4% of aggressive crimes. Among individuals who were arrested in Australia during 2004, 82% had a history of drug abuse, 69% had abused drugs at least 6 months before their arrest and 62% frequently abused drugs (3).
This cross sectional descriptive analytical study was designed and carried out to determine the relationship between the type of crime and the drug abused by addicted prisoners. The statistical population consisted of all 923 addicted male prisoners in Zahedan central prison who were under methadone maintenance treatment in prison. They were selected by census. The information collection tool was via a questionnaire and an interview. Research data was analyzed with the SPSS 19 software using descriptive indicators of statistical analysis. Apart from demographic factors and the individual’s addiction history, the type of crime was investigated as well.
The average age of the prisoners, it said, was 33.84 years, the average age of addiction to drugs was 20.77, involvement duration was 11.94 years, 69% were married and 31% were single. Abused substances were Iranian crack, opium syrup, methamphetamine, heroin, psychotropic pills and cannabis. The crimes of opiate drug abusers (opium syrup, opium, heroin and Iranian crack) in order of priority included: drug related crimes (crack 63.7%, heroin 52.4%, opium 43.8%, opium syrup 40.5%), robbery (crack 63.3%, heroin 52.4%, opium syrup 22%, opium 21.6%), murder (opium 21.6%, crack 18.30%, opium syrup 14.5%, heroin 9.7%), armed robbery (heroin 25%, opium syrup 22%, crack 21.1%, opium 12.4%) and kidnapping (opium 4.3%, opium syrup 4.2%, crack 2.6%, heroin 2.4%). The crimes of hallucinogenic drugs (hashish, psychotropic pills, glass or methamphetamine) included: robbery (glass 53.2%, pills 36.6%), drug-related crimes (hashish 33.3%, glass 21.6%, pills 9.1%), armed robbery (hashish 33.3%, pills 9.1%, glass 5.4%) and murder (pills 18.2%, hashish 16.7%, glass 8.8%).
Finally, it disclosed that there was a direct relationship between the level of drug abuse and the type of drug and committed crimes. With increased drug abuse, delinquency rate and its intensity increased. Addicts are forced to commit crime to acquire drugs. Addicts are not hired. As a result, they don’t have an income to fulfil their needs. That’s why they turn to illegal activities such as smuggling, drug dealing, theft and prostitution. Thus the cycle of poverty, addiction, and crime is repeated. The necessity of developing preventive strategies is felt more than before.
According to Kofastudy.com, there are various reasons why people engage in drug trafficking in society. They include: Greed: Many engage in drug trafficking due to greed, the desire to make money, and to live a lavish life. They are usually not content with whatever they have. Unemployment: Many unemployed graduates without jobs are lured into drug trafficking. They engage in drug trafficking to earn money to fend for themselves and their family.
The third suggested reason is Poverty: When someone comes from a poor background, there are even fewer opportunities available to them, for example education and jobs, which can lead to desperation. As a result, such people might take the easy and quick route of trafficking drugs, to generate income.
Then comes Ignorance: Lack of knowledge and ignorance has made many fall victim to drug traffickers. People end up trafficking drugs knowingly or unknowingly. The drug trafficker might be a friend of a family that tricks the unsuspecting person into carrying illicit drugs for them. Some get involved without knowing the consequences of what they are getting into. Finally, this website proposed profitability as a fundamental reason why otherwise career minded people do deviate and get involved in the hard drug trafficking and trade. It explained Lucrative as a reason because trading in drugs is highly profitable. The dealers make a lot of fortune in a short period of time. This attracts people to engage in the illegal act of drug trafficking.
The truth is that, Nigeria can’t afford to wind the hand of the clock backwards but must focus on making NDLEA more powerful and capable of breaking the formidable walls of hard drugs trafficking and trading in these illicit substances. Nigeria needs to sustain the tempo of the massive war against drugs going on now including providing support for public enlightenment so kids are made aware if the dangers of these toxic products.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.