TEXT OF A PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE CHAIRMAN/ CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, NATIONAL DRUG LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY, NDLEA, BRIG. GEN. MOHAMED BUBA MARWA(RETD), OFR, AT THE UNVEILING OF THE PROGRAMME OF ACTIVITIES FOR THE 2022 UN INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST DRUG ABUSE & ILLICIT DRUG TRAFFICKING, AT THE TRANSCORP HILTON HOTEL, ABUJA, ON MONDAY, 20TH JUNE, 2022.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to this press conference which formally kickstarts the weeklong activities lined up in commemoration of this year’s United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking on June 26th.
We all are aware of the significance of the date. The 26th of June is the day when the global community ponders and prioritises illicit drug matters from a specific perspective for another year.
For this year, the theme is “Addressing Drug Challenges in Health and Humanitarian Crises.” Given the recent global experience with COVID-19 and the prevailing circumstances around the world, and especially in our country, you will all agree with me that the theme resonates well with our current reality.
While the world has been grappling with the illicit drugs conundrum for over three decades, changing dynamics in the decade have forced a paradigm shift and re-adjusted perspectives that allow for drug narratives to be seen as exacerbating factors in multidimensional situations.
That has brought to the fore the imperative of looking at the drug problem through the lens of public health and also tackling such as a broader social problem rather than through the conventional, narrow, criminal matter approach.
It has, therefore, also become prudent to initiate mechanisms and measures that are proactively extenuating. In our case, the National Drug Control Master Plan (NDCMP) 2021-2025, launched last November, has incorporated components that tend to the health concerns of drug abuse.
Some of the activities lined up for this week are reflective of the realignments in our approach to the illicit substance problem.
The weeklong programme of activities, starting from today, Monday, 20th of June, will be held as follows:
● Later today, at 12noon, there will be a Symposium on Drugs at the Congress Hall here at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
● On Tuesday, 21st of June, we will be attending some media programmes.
● Wednesday, 22nd of June, is NGO Day, set aside for all Non-Governmental Organisations working in the drug abuse prevention/advocacy spectrum to hold their various activities in celebration of UN Anti-Drug Day 2022.
● On Thursday, 23rd of June, there will be Youth Out of School Programme in the six (6) Local Area Councils in the FCT. This will take place at two (2) motor parks and two (2) markets in each of the area councils.
● On Friday, 24th of June, there will be a special Juma’at service in commemoration of the UN Day at the National Mosque, Abuja, while the premiere of two movies: ‘High is the New Death’ and ‘TRAP’ holds in the evening.
● Saturday, 25th of June will feature an advocacy Walk Against Drugs in Abuja organised by MTN in collaboration with NDLEA and UNODC.
● On Sunday, 26th of June, there will be thanksgiving service across designated Churches.
● On Monday, 27th of June, the grand finale of the celebration of this year’s World Drug Day will hold at the State House Conference Hall, Presidential Villa. The ceremony will feature goodwill messages, guest lecture, presentations of prizes and keynote addresses by special guests.
● And on Tuesday and Wednesday, 28th and 29th June, we shall in conjuction with our partner, the UNODC, conduct a sensitization training on Drug Prevention, Treatment and Care (DPTC) for Governors’ Wives.
This year’s theme for the UN Day has beamed the light on an area of the drug problem that has until recent years been on the backburner of the drug discourse.
For us at the Agency, we are abreast of time and trends as shown by the priority accorded treatment and care. In 2021, about 8,000 drug users were counselled and rehabilitated, in most cases through brief interventions. We continued the effort in the first five months of 2022, whereby an additional 3,523 were also counselled and treated in NDLEA facilities. Simultaneoulsy, we have continued to shut the tap of illicit flow of drugs with the arrest of over 17,647 offenders including 10 drug barons between January 2021 and May 2022; more than 2,369 convicted and jailed within the same period while 154,667.339kg drugs have been seized in the first five months of this year alone.
Similarly, our Drug Demand Reduction Department has been galvanised and working non-stop to ensure that the health aspect of the drug abuse calculus is getting adequate attention.
In the same vein, the Agency’s policy of Drug Integrity Test is predicated on getting help to drug users suffering in silence because they cannot seek the needed health treatment due to social stigma and discrimination. This is why in a short while from now, we’ll be unveiling the NDLEA Call Centre that will be manned by professionals and experts in counselling, psychotherapy, psychology, psychiatry and more to offer help to drug users who will make use of our tollfree lines to seek counselling 24/7. This will also enable those afraid of stigmitisation to be able to seek help without necessarily being seen or identified by anyone.
Even as we rev up our drug supply reduction offensive, it is certain that we are not relenting on getting help to those suffering from drug use disorder.
The forthcoming sensitization training on Drug Prevention, Treatment and Care (DPTC) for Governors’ Wives will bolster the effort to ensure that the consequences of drug abuse are nipped in the bud and prevented from snowballing into a public health problem that would overwhelm our society in the long run. This year’s theme will go a long way in directing our attention to an area that requires collective effort to stave off future catastrophes.
As an anti-narcotic agency, our capacities are being daily optimised to face the continuously changing threats of illicit drugs. In the last 16 months, officers and men of NDLEA have been through a series of training facilitated by UNODC and allied partners.
Still, the best solution to the drug problem remains a preventive approach, which is one of the big goals of our War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) campaign presently being rolled out across the states of the federation.
Ladies and gentlemen, we can say that we have made some gains in our collective effort to tame the drug menace. There is an obvious change in society’s posture towards the abuse and trafficking of illicit substances. In this regard, we want to thank every one of us for playing positive roles.
I want to especially thank His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, for his unwavering support for the Agency.
I also want to thank UNODC for the continuing support that gives us leverage in areas that were once difficult grounds for us.
NDLEA also thank our sister agencies, stakeholders, foreign partners and the media for their support. Our partners in the NDCMP, including the Ministry of Health, NAFDAC, and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) whose roles are critical to the success of the ongoing anti-drug campaign.
While we still have a long way to go in our objective of a drug-free country, we are nonetheless happy with the progress made thus far; it is an indication that our desire for a wholesome society is not farfetched, but a legitimate desire that is achievable.
Thank you and God bless.