By Chris RICHARDS, Abuja
Charges NASS to legislate for a drug free Nigeria
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN has expressed the need for better funding of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for better service delivery of the Agency, assuring that his Ministry would ensure adequate allocation to it in the 2017 budget.
A statement by Salihu Othman Isah, Special Adviser to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice on Media and Publicity disclosed in Abuja over the weekend,
that Malami gave the assurance when he received in audience last Thursday, members of the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Drugs and Narcotics led by Senator Joshua Lidani, who were accompanied by the Chairman, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), retired Col. Mustapha Mohammed Abdallah.
According to the statement, the Minister also assured that his Ministry would have to make a special case for the Agency by including it in the supplementary budget presentation, the NDLEA’s specialized needs..
Malami, represented by the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Taiwo Abidogun also appealed to the National Assembly to guarantee necessary legislations that will engender a drug free nation.
He observed that adequate funding is fundamental and strategic for effective performance by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) especially NDLEA, which he described as an institution charged with the onerous responsibility of combating the drug menace nationwide.
Malami, who expressed delight with the manner of presentations and contributions by the legislators, lamented that the normal trend in the country was for allocations to be approved on the basis of funds rather than on the needs of the nation as articulated by the MDAs.
He pledged to do his best to ensure that the areas that need to be improved upon in the Agency for optimal performance are met, regretting that at some point there was a disconnect.
Speaking earlier, Senate Committee Chairman on Drugs and Narcotics, Senator Joshua Lidani explained that the Senate is aware that the NDLEA was in dire need of greater funding to enable it function optimally and to deliver on their constitutional mandate to confront the drug menace.
He described as worrisome the high level of drug trafficking in the country and the inadequacies of the Agency to confront the scourge adequately as a result of shortfall in manpower and transportation especially operational vehicles, boats and aircrafts.
According to him, when the joint Committee approached the Head of Service to request for staff increase for the Agency, they were told there is no cash backing to employ additional staff, saying that while the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC) got approval to recruit 7,000 staff recently, just like some other para-military outfits, the NDLEA was left out.
Also speaking, Honourable Azodo Eucharia, chairman, House Committee on Narcotics lamented that the Agency currently have 4,900 officials to cover the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, also describing as disheartening a situation where NDLEA officials go to effect arrest drug peddlers with motorcycles popularly called Okada.
‘’If you share this figure among the 36 states and the 774 Local Government Areas in the country, it is nothing to write home about’’, adding that the rate at which married women are consuming drugs was appalling.
She revealed that only N114 million was appropriated to NDLEA as capital expenditure in the 2016 budget with a paltry allocation of N100,000 to each State Command monthly to defray operational cost which she described as grossly inadequate.
Other committee members who spoke such as Honourable Iboro Ekanem reiterated further that the Agency was under funded, under staffed with dilapidated building virtually in all the state commands, lack operational vehicles and requiring capacity building through training and retraining.
“National Drug Law Enforcement Agency is presently having staff strength of about 4,900 to police 36 states and FCT including 774 local councils in the country, allocates N100,000 to each state command monthly to defray operational cost which is grossly inadequate. Regrettably, only N114 million was appropriated to NDLEA as capital expenditure in 2016 budget”, he reaffirmed.
Chairman of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Col. Muhammed Mustapha Abdallah (retd) while speaking, noted that the Agency he inherited from his predecessor needed to be transformed in terms of human and material resources to enable him and his men meet up to their expectations.
Immediate past NDLEA Chairman, who is currently the Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the Federation on Narcotics and Psychotropic Drugs, Alhaji Aminu Giade also lent support to the trend that the Agency is under staffed.
The Agency ex-boss said for NDLEA to carry out its statutory functions effectively nationwide about 20,000 staffs are required and also advocated for training and re training of staffs of the Agency to be able to grapple with the antics and tactics of the dare devil drug barons and others in the ring.
He lamented that it was only the early recruits of the Agency that were trained but has not benefited from follow up training due to lack of funds before his exit.