NDLEA: A year of intensive war on drugs, by Emmanuel Onwubiko


For us, the commitment to the fight against drug trafficking and substance abuse is not just a matter of policy; it is a moral imperative. We recognise that a population at war with drugs is not a dividend but a liability. We believe that the future of our youth, the strength of our institutions,  and the well-being of our communities depend on our ability to eradicate this threat—President Bola Tinubu.

As President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration marks its one-year anniversary, various sectors of Nigeria’s national life come under scrutiny to evaluate the progress made and the challenges that remain. Among the myriad aspects of governance, one agency stands out for its remarkable performance; the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). Under the robust leadership of Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa (Retd), the NDLEA has emerged as a symbol of unprecedented success, exemplifying how focused leadership and unwavering support from the presidency can yield outstanding results in combating the pervasive drug menace.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) was established by Decree No. 48 of 1989. Its creation was a response to the rising tide of drug abuse and trafficking that threatened the social and economic fabric of Nigeria. The agency was mandated to combat drug trafficking and reduce the demand for illicit drugs through comprehensive enforcement and prevention strategies. Over the years, the NDLEA has faced numerous challenges, including inadequate funding, lack of modern equipment, and corruption within its ranks. However, under Brigadier General Marwa’s leadership, significant strides have been made to address these issues and revitalize the agency.

When President Tinubu assumed office, he inherited a highly effective NDLEA leadership under Marwa, a leader whose commitment to eradicating drug abuse and trafficking has been resolute. Recognizing the critical importance of continuity and stability in achieving long-term objectives, President Tinubu provided full support to the NDLEA, ensuring that Marwa’s strategic initiatives were not only sustained but also expanded. This strategic decision has paid off immensely, as the NDLEA’s performance over the past year has been nothing short of exemplary.

Under Marwa’s leadership, and with the support of President Tinubu, the NDLEA has orchestrated a series of high-impact operations that have significantly disrupted the activities of drug cartels and traffickers across the country. The agency’s tactical operations have led to record-breaking seizures of narcotics, arrests of high-profile drug lords, and dismantling of extensive drug networks. These successes are not mere statistics; they represent a substantial blow to the drug economy that funds other criminal activities and threatens national security.

The NDLEA’s operational success is further highlighted by its intelligence-driven approach, which has enhanced the agency’s ability to anticipate and thwart drug-related crimes before they escalate. This proactive stance has not only curtailed drug trafficking but has also instilled a sense of fear and caution among potential offenders, thereby acting as a significant deterrence.

One of the cornerstones of the NDLEA’s success is its investment in capacity building and professional development. Recognizing that a well-trained and adequately equipped workforce is essential for effective drug law enforcement, the agency has undertaken extensive recruitment and training programs. These initiatives have brought onboard professionals, including doctors, lawyers, and psychologists, who provide specialized skills and support in various aspects of drug enforcement and rehabilitation.

Additionally, the NDLEA has established numerous rehabilitation centers across the country, ensuring that those who fall victim to drug abuse receive the necessary support and treatment to reintegrate into society. This dual focus on enforcement and rehabilitation underscores the agency’s holistic approach to tackling the drug problem, addressing both supply and demand side issues.

The NDLEA has also made significant strides in enhancing its operational infrastructure. The construction of new barracks and office complexes has improved the living and working conditions of its personnel, boosting morale and operational efficiency. These infrastructural developments are a testament to the agency’s commitment to providing a conducive environment for its workforce, which in turn enhances their effectiveness in carrying out their duties.

Additionally, the media has played a crucial role in shaping public perception of the NDLEA’s efforts. Positive coverage of the agency’s major operations and successes has helped to build public support and awareness. News reports highlighting the significant drug seizures and the arrests of high-profile traffickers have reinforced the message that the NDLEA is a formidable force in the fight against drugs.

Moreover, the agency’s proactive engagement with the media has ensured that its achievements are widely publicized. Regular press briefings, detailed reports, and media tours of NDLEA facilities have kept the public informed and engaged. This transparency and openness have further enhanced the agency’s credibility and public trust.

While the NDLEA’s achievements are commendable, it is essential to consider the broader legislative environment that impacts its operations. Recently, the National Assembly has proposed amendments to the NDLEA Act, which include the introduction of the death penalty for drug trafficking offenses. While the intention behind this proposal is to deter drug trafficking through stringent punishment, it raises significant human rights concerns.

Nigeria is a signatory to various international treaties that oppose the death penalty, and implementing such a measure would contravene these commitments. Moreover, from a moral and ethical standpoint, the death penalty is a draconian response that fails to address the underlying socio-economic factors driving individuals into the drug trade. Instead, a life sentence coupled with comprehensive rehabilitation and reintegration programs would be a more humane and effective approach to dealing with drug offenders.

Looking ahead, there are several areas where the NDLEA can build on its current successes. Strengthening community outreach and preventive education programs will be crucial in reducing the demand for drugs. By raising awareness about the dangers of drug abuse and providing alternatives for at-risk populations, the NDLEA can further mitigate the drug problem at its roots.

Moreover, increased funding and operational autonomy will empower the NDLEA to expand its reach and effectiveness. Ensuring that the agency has the necessary resources to sustain and enhance its operations is vital for maintaining the momentum in the fight against drugs. The government’s role in providing an enabling environment for the NDLEA to thrive cannot be overstated.

International collaboration is another key area. Drug trafficking is a global problem that requires a coordinated international response. Strengthening partnerships with international law enforcement agencies and participating in global initiatives against drug trafficking can enhance the NDLEA’s capabilities and ensure that Nigeria is not isolated in its efforts.

In evaluating President Tinubu’s first year in office, the NDLEA stands out as a beacon of effective governance and exemplary performance. The agency’s remarkable achievements in drug law enforcement, capacity building, and infrastructure development are a direct result of the steadfast leadership of Brigadier General Marwa and the unwavering support from President Tinubu. The NDLEA’s success story underscores the importance of continuity, strategic vision, and robust support in achieving national objectives.

As Nigeria continues to grapple with the multifaceted challenges of drug abuse and trafficking, the NDLEA’s model of operation provides valuable lessons for other sectors. By fostering a culture of excellence, accountability, and innovation, the NDLEA has set a high standard for what can be achieved with the right leadership and support. Moving forward, the agency’s gains must be consolidated and expanded, ensuring that the fight against drugs remains a top priority on the national agenda.


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