23 years after leaving the military in his mid-forties, Mohammed Buba Marwa is back in the headlines in a very different role from combatting armed robbery or addressing food contamination to making a high-profile impact in a prominent public position in the nation’s drugs fighting agency.
Mohammed Buba Marwa stepped into the Nigeria Drugs and Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) as the Executive Chairman. Within 24 months of assuming office, he has improved the commitment and will of the Agency in rising to the challenge of its mandate in eliminating the cultivation, processing, manufacturing, sale, trafficking, and use of illicit drugs and psychotropic substances.
As a Military Officer, Mohammed Buba Marwa was the subject of heroic tales of exemplary leadership. Those who experienced him readily argued that he was one of the shining examples of good leadership when the military was in charge of the country.
The story of how he turned around Lagos by breaking the stranglehold of robbers and taming the lawlessness of the Area Boys resonates now and again. And like true legends, there were legacies to his name; too many to mention in one breath, including the famous Keke Marwa and the reinvigoration of Operation Sweep.
On January 15, 2022, when President Muhammadu Buhari appointed the retired Brigadier-General Buba Marwa as the new Chairman and Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA.), pundits and the media were agog, rekindling old memories.
Several polls conducted, including that of the foremost and leading civil rights organization; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) have shown a clear consensus that Mohammed Buba Marwa is one Nigerian who has personally and officially affected the news and lives of Nigerians the most in recent times, with his very aggressive but human rights-based approach to drug policy.
In just 24 months, Marwa has not just earned the image of the protagonist of the most topical political and developmental issues within the period in review but as well distinguished himself as a courageous and insightful leader who understands the urgent need to embrace a multi-dimensional and holistic approach that aims to mitigate the harm done by drug use instead of the retrogressive traditional just-say-no-ism of past Chief Executives.
Very innovative and hardworking, Marwa believes in pushing the boundary. This could be seen in the present transformation of NDLEA, especially in the Agency’s War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) advocacy.
In many areas, the NDLEA has been seen to be blazing the trail in drug law enforcement and the approach adopted by the Marwa-led administration is winning the confidence of Nigerians both at home and in the diaspora.
One of the approaches adopted by Marwa is the collaboration with the Nigerian movie industry in the drug war. In his view, millions of young people watching Nigerian movies, even as they admire star actors, will be easily sensitised on the dangers of drug abuse through didactic stories.
To achieve this, NDLEA opted for the United Nations Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking to release engaging flicks that will aid their work. For the second year in a row, NDLEA has celebrated the UN Special Day with new movies.
However, the agency took the collaboration much higher this year by premiering two great movies titled: ‘Trap’ produced by actress, Jumoke Odetola, and ‘High Is the New Death’, produced by Sule Momodu, a staff of the agency.
At the high-powered premiere held at Silverbird Cinema Abuja on Friday, June 24, 2022, Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari led a long list of dignitaries to the special screening.
While noting the important lessons to be learned from both movies, the visionary Marwa urged parents to watch out for changes in their children while expressing hope that the films which showcased the negative impact of the use of banned substances will see young people not picking up the drug use habit in the first place.
Again, the seizure of a massive crack cocaine haul in September, which was described by the spokesperson of the Agency as “the biggest singular cocaine seizure in the history of Nigeria’s premier anti-narcotic agency” tells volumes about the new life Marwa has breathed into the agency.
Also, the arrest, detention, and ongoing prosecution of the highly decorated policeman; DCP Abba Kyari, who seemingly lived a secret life of serial criminality while allegedly fighting crime is the defining initiative of NDLEA under the former military governor’s watch.
The revelation of Kyari as a top player in an international drug syndicate along with the release of the video of his attempt to bribe NDLEA officials, the seizure of his properties linked to drug dealing, and the robust prosecution of the ‘fallen hero’ underline a level of determination and thoroughness that is not common in public agencies at this time.
The speed with which the highly connected Kyari was neutralized also confirms that Marwa is a master of the matrix of effective leadership with public performance. No doubt, NDLEA seems to be stealing the shine away from EFCC and ICPC in the public rating of the agencies involved in combatting economic crimes.
Beyond the high-profile cases, NDLEA under Marwa has been making a strong overall impact. His every action has been very strategic and calculated to deliver results. An example is his Offensive Action operation launched a few days after he became the helmsman of the anti-narcotic agency.
A fact-finding mission by HURIWA revealed that 19,341 drug traffickers were arrested between January 2021 and September 31, 2022, in addition to securing 3,111 convictions, and seized 5,451,000kg of illicit drugs within the same period.
Also, cash and drugs worth N420 billion were forfeited to the agency, while cannabis farms of 714 hectares were destroyed within the period under review.
More so, the agency is prosecuting over 3,232 cases in court and has also counseled and rehabilitated 12,326 drug addicts within the same time frame.
Significantly, in a country where issues are profoundly politicized and achievements of public officers are viewed with cynicism and analyzed for ulterior motives, Marwa has proven to be an exception.
Nigerians both home and in the diaspora from all walks of life, across political divides, from different religious leanings, and of diverse ethnicities, are in one accord in their appraisal of him, his reforms, leadership, and transformation of NDLEA – a testament to the Nigerian dream.
It is not surprising that in recognition of his contributions to the development of Nigeria and the empowerment of humanity, General Marwa has as about 19 chieftaincy titles across the country.
These include Aare Atunluse of Yorubaland; Atunluse of Ikorodu; Aare Agbaakin of Lagos; De Nukonga Gbedite of Badagry; Ochi Oha I of Umuozzi in Enugu; Ochinigwe of Igboland; Soludero of Egbaland; Mayegun of Ibadanland; Turakin Angasawa (Pankshin).
Others are Akinrogun of Osogboland; Babalaje of Ijeshaland; Ciroman Zah (Adamawa State); Apesin-Ola of Saki; Aare Atayese of Ayetoro (Ekiti); Atobase of Okeho; Mene-Yereba 1 of Ogoniland (Rivers State); Fagachin Adamawa; Aare Jagunmolu of Ogidi Kingdom (Kogi state); Otene Ete, Egbura (Koton Karfe), Kogi state and Santuraki of Abaji Kingdom, FCT.
Debates about him always narrow down to the question of what makes him tick as a leader. But more than that, he has been revealed as the ideal 21st-century leader who irrespective of extenuating factors, has shown noticeable commitment to democratic ideals and issues of development
If the situation calls for a radical step, Marwa doesn’t hesitate. This, he demonstrated when he expanded the NDLEA by creating six new directorates, 14 zonal commands, and a tactical unit of Strike Forces, among others.
A great visionary and team player, his philosophy has always been that organisational goals are easily achieved when the workforce gives its best and that the best can only come from happy workers.
In respect of this, he has continued to advance a pragmatic approach to giving the NDLEA workforce improved work conditions. So far, there have been promotions, payment of allowances, and other constructive developments that give hope to the Agency’s staff.
When on November 3rd, 2022 he appeared before the house of representatives committee on narcotics to defend his agency’s 2023 budget, Marwa hinted at the need for barracks for the Agency personnel to prevent drug traffickers from targeting NDLEA staff living among them due to the “very aggressive” manner the Agency is going against drug traffickers.
Very focused and assiduous, Marwa has been described as a man who plans. His tenure as Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA), which laid the groundwork for the total overhaul of NDLEA, ensured he arrived at NDLEA with a blueprint.
This could explain why his tenure is different in the annals of the Agency. Within 24 months, his plans are taking shape and it is obvious to the public that he and his management team are caught in a historic moment and process of rebuilding NDLEA into an institution that will stand the test of time.
Having said all, it is only reasonable to conclude that Mohammed Buba Marwa is the most influential Nigerian in 2022. He has officially and personally affected news and lives more than any other Nigerian during the period considered, from whatever standpoint one looks at it.
Given his antecedents and achievements, Mohammed Buba Marwa as the Executive Chairman of NDLEA has been instrumental in aligning Nigeria’s drug policy with human rights. He is therefore HURIWA’s Human Rights Man of The Year 2022.
written by EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO For HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).