By Habila Darofai
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Monday said to have a total of 17, 647 drug offenders and 10 barons have been arrested in the past 17 months.
NDLEA Chairman/Chief Executive, Brigadier-General Mohamed Buba Marwa (retd) stated this during a press conference in Abuja, saying that over 2,369 convicts were jailed with more than 11,000 drug users counselled and treated within the same period.
His remark is to kick start activities to mark this year’s UN day against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking under the theme: “Addressing Drug Challenges in Health and Humanitarian Crises”.
“For us at the Agency, we are abreast of time and trends as shown by the priority accorded treatment and care,” Marwa said in a statement by the NDLEA spokesman, Femi Babafemi.
“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.
“Simultaneously, 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.”
According to the NDLEA boss, changing dynamics have forced a paradigm shift that encompasses a balanced approach to tackling the drug problem in the country.
While stating that the agency’s 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, Marwa said other measures are being taken to strengthen the process.
He added, “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 toll-free lines to seek counselling 24/7. This will also enable those afraid of stigmatisation 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.”