By Orkula Shaagee, Abuja
The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Narcotic Drugs, Dr.
He said the earlier the Federal Government begins to see narcotic drug addiction as a national emergency, the better for country.
Media Adviser to the lawmaker, Mr. Andrew Agbese, in a statement said Dr. Ottah made the call at a pre-budget meeting with the chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and top management officials of the agency at the National Assembly complex, Abuja.
Dr. Agbo, who represents Ado/Ogbadigbo/Okpokwu Federal Constituency, said the fight against narcotic drug addiction is so huge that it cannot be left for one agency alone to handle but must be supported by all to achieve the desired result.
The lawmaker, who lamented that the NDLEA is underfunded, underequipped and understaffed, stressed that these challenges make the agency a toothless bull dog.
He regretted that the NDLEA still uses civil war weapons to chase drug traffickers.
“As we speak, NDLEA still uses weapons used during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, in the whole of Nigeria, we have only eight sniffer dogs even these dogs were donated to us by the Germans, we have very few scanners and all of these lack, hamper the smooth operation of the agency and only increased finding can bridge this gap,” the chairman noted.
Dr. Agbo, who is the spokesman of the minority caucus of the House of Representatives, said the House Committee on Narcotic Drugs is doing its best to empower the NDLEA to carry out its functions effectively and has proposed a restructuring of the laws establishing the Police Trust Fund Act to include the NDLEA as a beneficiary.
“We all recall that the NDLEA was established to investigate arrest and prosecute drug offenders, so it’s a policing institution.
“And we feel that one of the ways to make it have more resources for it to bark and bite is to include it as a beneficiary of the Trust Fund,” he said.
Hon. Agbo also said the NDLEA should be listed among the security agencies in the country.
He said, “If you look at the responsibilities of the NDLEA, you will agree with me that it is also a security agency.”
Dr. Ottah Agbo said the drug problem threatens all segments of the country especially the youths, and stressed that, “if we say the youths are the leaders of tomorrow then we must secure the future now by defeating illicit drug or else there may be no country that we can proudly call our own tomorrow, except all hands are on deck to fight this scourge.”
He said the problem of drug addiction poses existential threat to Nigeria more than corruption.
“We keep saying at the level of our committee here that if we fail to kill narcotic drug addiction, it will destroy Nigeria,” he added.
He assured the agency that all its estimates in the 2021 budget proposal would be dealt with expeditiously and passed on time for the agency.
A member of the committee, Mohammed Shamsudeen Bello, urged the agency to maintain close relationship with the committee to work out solutions to the challenges facing the agency.
He said the onus lies on the agency to work out a proper road map for making the agency more effective.
Chairman of the NDLEA, Col. Mohammed Abdullai (rtd), thanked the committee for the support to the agency and expressed hope that its staff strength would be boosted when it receives the go ahead for the second and third tranches of the recruitment exercise it has received approval for.
He said that will go a long way in addressing the shortfall in personnel in the agency.
The NDLEA boss said Nigeria has a big problem in its hands as it has overshot the global average of drug addiction which stands at five percent to 14 percent.
He said, “There is a big problem which we pretend not to know and hoping that a miracle will happen, this miracle will not happen, we must do something about this our 14 percent of our drug dependent cases.”
Col. Mohammed Abdullai (rtd) disclosed that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in the US which has existed for many years had in the past years, lost 39 personnel in line of duty while the NDLEA in five years, has lost 65 men in line of duty due to lack of equipment.