CHAIRMAN of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Mohamed Marwa has revealed that a total of 17, 647 drug offenders and 10 barons have been arrested in the past 17 months.
Marwa equally disclosed that over 2,369 drug offenders were convicted and jailed within the same period, while more than 11,000 drug users were counselled and treated.
The NDLEA chairman disclosed this at a press briefing in Abuja on Monday.
The press briefing was organised to kickstart activities to mark this year’s United Nations day against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking on the theme, ‘Addressing Drug Challenges in Health and Humanitarian Crises’.
He said, “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.
“Simultaneously, we have continued to shut the tap of illicit flow of drugs with the arrest of over 17,647 offenders including ten 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.”
Marwa added that the changing dynamics had forced a paradigm shift that encompasses a balanced approach to tackling the drug problem in the country.
“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.”
He said it has become necessary to be prudent and initiate proactively extenuating mechanisms.
“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,” he said.
According to Marwa, the Agency’s Drug Demand Reduction Department has been galvanised and is working non-stop to ensure that the health aspect of the drug abuse calculus gets adequate attention.
Marwa said several other measures are being taken to strengthen the process.
“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,” he said.
Marwa disclosed that in a short while from now, the NDLEA will be unveiling a Call Centre that will be operated by professionals and experts in counselling, psychotherapy, psychology, and psychiatry to offer help to drug users.
In his remarks, the Country Representative of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Oliver Stolpe urged governments at all levels in Nigeria, candidates for political offices and international partners not to lose sight of the country’s public health crisis caused by drug use.