The acronym NDLEA stands for The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency. It is a Federal agency in Nigeria responsible for the elimination of the production, processing, selling, exporting, and smuggling of hard drugs.
Over the years, the Nigerian government has tried in many ways to address the growing availability of illicit drugs and its use. The agency was, therefore, another effort of the government, established by the promulgation of Decree Number 48 of 1989, now Act of Parliament.
Functions of the NDLEA and brief History
The NDLEA was founded with the aim of eliminating illicit drug trafficking and consumption in the Nigerian society. NDLEA agents are often seen at international airports, seaports and at borders. This is to enable them to carry out their functions effectively. The agency also tries to eradicate cannabis by destroying narcotic plants and substances. The NDLEA also targets dealers of narcotics as well as money laundering organizations. The agency has its head office in Ikoyi, Lagos state.
Obstacles in Performing roles and Functions of the NDLEA
The NDLEA has over 7600 staff operating at different levels to help carry out its functions. NDLEA agents investigate and prosecute all crimes related to drug trafficking. They also partner with international drug agencies and units to enforce drug laws. Over time, the agency has recorded some obstacles to its functions. These include the problem of unguarded zones on the borders which makes it easy for drug dealers and barons to trade contrabands. Another is the corruption and injustice where criminals are able to go free, escaping the hands of the law.
The functions of the NDLEA are listed below:
- The investigation of drug-related crimes: The primary task of the NDLEA is to regularly find measures and means of finding out drug-related crimes which are the cultivation, trading and use of narcotic drugs and substances.
- Prosecution of criminals: The NDLEA is responsible for bringing criminals and suspected individuals to justice.
- Enforcing drug laws: There are several units outside the NDLEA with the responsibility of enforcing rules and regulations regarding drugs in the Nigerian constitution. The job of the NDLEA is to partner with these other agencies so as to enact drug laws.
- Tracing proceeds from illegal drug trades: The NDLEA is responsible for finding out drug barons and dealers. Tracking illicit financial flows and seizing such proceeds
- Patrolling public places such as seaports, airports and borders to prevent the importation and exportation of hard drugs.
- Partnering with international agencies to fight drug trafficking: Though a federal agency, the agency has international obligations. Its role is to oversee all drug-related affairs both within and outside Nigeria and enforce international drug laws.
- Destroying narcotic plants and substances: The agency many times has to start from the root problem, the cultivation of hard drugs. The agency has the power to destroy narcotic plants and trees. By doing this, the agency will succeed at stifling the demands for these substances.
- Leading in efforts related to drug-related researches: The agency serves as a technical and scientific unit in studies and experiments related to the use of narcotic substances. Since new substances are being adapted to form illegal substances, the NDLEA has a leading role to play in gathering these activities.
- Educating the public on the narcotic substances; dangers and abuse.
Vision/ Mission of the NDLEA
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency aims at becoming the foremost and leading Drug Law Enforcement Agency on the Continent and equally in the world. It tries to achieve this through the prohibition of the supply of illicit drugs and control of its demand. Through this, the agency hopes to help create and maintain a good image of Nigeria all over the world.
The agency puts to use all its means and resources for the total elimination of illegal drugs. It does this through investigation of all drug-related cases and recovery of proceeds acquired from drug trades
Drug cultivation in Nigeria
Alhaji Ahmadu Giade, the former Chairman of the NDLEA described illicit drugs as “foreign property” to Nigeria. However, Cannabis is now domestically grown in most states of the federation. It is said that this was introduced to the country by foreigners.
Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug both in the world.
Nigeria, Canada, Zambia and the United States are the top countries with the highest use of cannabis among adults as of 2018.
The Country Representative of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Miss Dagmar Thomas reported that Nigeria was one of the largest cannabis growers in Africa, with over 8% of the population abusing the use of cannabis.
Cannabis seizures increased from 126 metric tonnes in 2005 to 210 metric tonnes in 2007.
The South-western region of Nigeria is also described by the NDLEA to be one of the major centres for illicit drug production in the country.
In 2008, 196.5 acres (0.795 km2) of farmland in the South-western was discovered to have been used for the growing of Cannabis and was destroyed.
Edo State, in particular, has the highest rate of seizure of cannabis in the country.
6.5 tonnes of marijuana were confiscated from the home of a man in Ogun State in April 2009.
The NDLEA reported destroying a 24-hectare Cannabis Plantation in a forest reserve in Osun State in September 2009.
Also in January 2009, the NDLEA publicly burned 5,605.45 kilograms of drugs seized from traffickers in the historic town of Badagry, Lagos. Items destroyed in the fire included 5,157.56 tonnes of cannabis, 71.46 kilograms of heroin and 376.45 kilograms of cocaine.
Controversies and Allegations against the NDLEA
There have been credible allegations of drug-related corruption at the Nationa Drug and Law Enforcement Agency itself.
In late November 2005 NDLEA Chairman Bello Lafiaji was sacked by President Olusegun Obasanjo due to allegations of corruption. However, after proper investigation, it was realized that he was setup. This was because he had sworn to bring down drug merchants and barons and they connived with some third party to frame him up. He was later fully discharged and acquitted on November 22, 2011. However, reports have been issued of senior NDLEA staff and members involved in drug-related crimes themselves by striking deals with drug barons and illegally letting them go free.