Educate your workers, seafarers on drug abuse, treatment for affected staff, NDLEA tells maritime stakeholders


… As NAGAFF charges NDLEA on stricter discipline as it clocks 30

As the world commemorates the 2020 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking today, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has called on the maritime stakeholders to endeavor to give their workers and seafarers drug abuse education and treatment for affected staff.

The Director Seaport Operation, NDLEA, Omolade Faboyede who made this call in a goodwill message to mark the day with the theme, “Better Knowledge for Better Care”, stated that drug trafficking through the sea had been a security problem for all countries of the region as it involved the movement of large quantity drugs.

Faboyede noted that the trafficking of narcotic drugs by sea had virtually become an industry comprised of many individual enterprises of varying size and organization adding that it was an attraction for major international criminal organizations and terrorist.

She added that commonly trafficked drugs include Cocaine, Heroin, Morphine, Cannabis Sativa and Crystal Methamphetamine even as she noted that drugs were trafficked by air, land and sea.

“Criminality in the Gulf of Guinea include maritime piracy, armed robbery, trans-organized crime such as illegal fishing and associated crime such as drug smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, illegal dumping of toxic waste and other sea based crimes. Since mid-2000, West Africa has emerged a transit point for trafficking of Cocaine from South America to Europe. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that $1.25 billion worth of cocaine passed the region in 2010 alone. Recent drug trafficking has witnessed a massive movement of Cannabis Sativa from Ghana to Nigerian waters at an alarming rate.

“Over 90% of goods are transported globally by sea and constantly changing trading patterns between emerging and developing countries create new opportunities to shift goods. Drugs are sometimes transported via indirect routes as main routes become better policed; traffickers select countries with weak enforcement or corruptible officers. Drugs are usually concealed in bulk cargoes, containers, cargo of cars, freight vehicles, trailers or coaches, ship hull and speed boats. Smuggling of drugs is possible through vessel without the knowledge of the crew. It is also possible that port staff may be involved”, she said.

On the effect of drug abuse and illicit trafficking on the individual and the nation at large, she said, “Drugs are chemicals that affect the body and brain. Some effects of drugs include health consequences that are long lasting and permanent. They can continue after a person has stopped using drugs. Drugs can eventually change how the brain works and interfere with a person’s ability to make choices, leading to intense cravings and compulsive drug use. Over time the person becomes dependent or addicted.

“More than 7 million people suffer from illicit drug use disorder and one in four deaths can be attributed to alcohol, tobacco and illicit prescription of drugs. People suffering from drugs and alcohol addiction are victims of unintentional injuries, accidents and domestic violence. They are paranoia, aggressive, hallucinate, impulsive, loss of self-control and their judgments are impaired. The good news is that a drug user can be treated, rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society. The maritime stakeholders should endeavor to give their workers and seafarers drug abuse education and treatment for affected staff.

“Drug trafficking tarnishes the image of a country, impact negatively on the security, economy and the well-being of such country. It is a tool for terrorism financing, corruption inducement, political instability and undermines economic development. It increases the level of insecurity and drug related crimes. Nigeria must have the political will to tackle the issue of drug trafficking, the supervising agency; National Drug Law Enforcement Agency must be strengthen and adequately funded to combat drug abuse and trafficking in Nigeria.”

She further observed that this celebration was a clarion call to all maritime stakeholders to support inter-agency cooperation, synergy, collaboration, sharing of intelligence and sharing of information to dismantle drug smuggling network in the region.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has charged the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to endavour to ensure more discipline among the rank and file of its officers as a paramilitary organisation.

NAGAFF made this charge in its goodwill message to NDLEA which turned 30 years recently, saying that though indiscipline is not at an alarming rate, but a “stitch in time saves nine.”

It added that it was its belief that NDLEA’s operations at the Ports should be intelligence-driven to avoid distressing compliant importers.

Noting that the NDLEA has achieved many feats that stemmed drug abuse and trafficking in the Country, NAGAFF however, advised that the Agency intensifies efforts towards currying the support of the Nigerian people it has committed itself to serve while also improving its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

NAGAFF also advocated the setting up of a Human Rights Desk so that issues of violations of human rights can be addressed once and for all as this will curb the prolonged detention of suspects.

It also charged NDLEA to endeavour to protect its ‘territory’ according to the power given it, especially in the fight against psychotropic substances, citing the example of the issue of ‘Tramadol,’ which by law should be between NDLEA and NAFDAC, but which the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is also trying to be involved in. “NDLEA should mobilise stakeholders towards fine tuning the law to protect its powers in the regulation of such substances,” it said.

“It must get closer to the people, and be friendlier.  The management also needs to fortify its Public Relations activities, and improve on its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Above all, it must cement a formidable rapprochement with Freight Forwarding Associations. This is because more success for the Agency requires credible information and intelligence from members of the public, which can only come when the people see the Agency as their friend

“It is trite that NDLEA is a creation of the National Assembly by virtue of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act, LFN 2004. As we observed earlier, the agency has effectively risen to the challenges of stemming the tides of illegal use of drugs, drug trafficking and related matters. NDLEA has been a beacon of hope for the nation by bringing offenders of its laws to justice, but there is need to critically examine the overzealousness of some of its officers particularly as they relate with arrestees against the tenets of fundamental human rights. We have a situation where suspected drug users/carriers are being treated as if they are already convicted by the court of law. At times drug arrestees are detained beyond the statutory limits stipulated by the Constitution. This situation of prolonged detention is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.

“We therefore suggest the setting up, of a Human Rights Desk so that issues of violations of human rights can be addressed once and for all. Furthermore, when arrestees are being arraigned in the courts, there is need to make sure that the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 are strictly adhered to particularly in the area of adjournment of cases. By virtue of the Act, adjournments must not exceed 14 days at any given time. This is important so that there can be quick dispensation of Justice, because ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’

“We are aware that the sentencing guidelines for drug offenders is already in the pipeline and we want NDLEA to expedite action on it so that Judges can have a hands-on booklet with which to sentence offenders proportionate to the weight of the offence,” the message read in part.

The Freight Forwarders association expressed gratitude to the current Director, NDLEA Seaports Operations, Mrs. Omolade Faboyede, who widened the freight practitioners’ scope with regards to psychotropic substances other than cocaine/heroine, hitherto known to the public.

It implored NDLEA continue to engage the Organised Private Sector and other responsible partners with a view to achieving its core mandate, to the glory of God and mankind.

It pledge its continued support to NDLEA as it marches on in the service to the Country while acknowledging the level of industrial harmony between NAGAFF and the NDLEA officials deployed at the Ports and border locations of Nigeria where most of freight forwarders operate.

“In summation, the NDLEA deserves 30 big cheers because the past 30 years have been a catalogue of success stories with a record of clipping the wings of drug offenders, both local and international; smashing and truncating international networks of drug cartels and removing the name of Nigeria from the black book of notorious drug nations towards making Nigeria a drug free and crime free society,” the message further stated.

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