Convicted Drug Baron, Traffickers To Forfeit Assets To FG As UNODC Raises Alarm Over Surge In Illicit Drugs

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has disclosed that there are plans to ensure that drug barons would forfeit their assets to the Federal Government as part of the measures against illicit drugs and cartel activity in the country.

The agency disclosed this during a press briefing to kick off the week-long activities to commentate the 2024 International Day Against Drugs and Illicit Trafficking, scheduled for June 26.

The commemoration is in partnership with other stakeholders like the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) also represented at the briefing by its Country Deputy Representative, Danilo Campisi.

The briefing was led by the Chairman/CEO of the NDLEA, Brig.-Gen. Marwa Bawa (retired), represented by the agency’s Secretary, Shadrach Haruna.

The agency noted that aside from ensuring that suspects found guilty of illicit drug activities are convicted, it pointed out that the “assets of the convicts used as instrumentality of the crime or the proceeds derived from the crime would be forfeited to the federal government.”

The agency noted, “A civil action in rem could be maintained against assets reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime in which case the burden of proving the licit origin of the asset would be on the defendant who claims ownership of the asset.”

Haruna also spoke on the occasion of the 2024 International Day Against Drugs and Illicit Trafficking with the theme: ‘The Evidence is Clear: Let Us Invest in Prevention’, where he emphasised the relevance of prevention as an aspect of the effort to curb the menace of abuse of illicit drugs in society.

He added that the theme for this year emphasises the importance of preventing people from falling into the danger of experimenting with illicit drugs and subsequently falling into the trap of dependence on psychoactive substances.

The UNODC while giving its remarks noted that the 2024 campaign against drug use recognises that effective drug policies must be rooted in science, research, full respect for human rights, compassion, and a deep understanding of the social, economic, and health implications of drug use.

Its country deputy representative, Campisi cited the 2019 National Drug Use Survey for Nigeria that revealed an estimated drug use prevalence of 14.4 per cent, which was at the time, three times above the global prevalence of drug use.

Reacting to the data, Campisi said, “I do not think it would be an exaggeration to describe this as a national emergency.”

He added, “We know from the 2019 National Drug Use Survey for Nigeria, that the youth prevalence of drug use in Nigeria is considerably high.”

The development appears worrisome given the prevalence of drug use among young people between the ages of 25 and 39, as indicated in the survey.

“Further, projections show that by 2030, there will be a 40% increase in the use of drugs in Africa, based on the population of young people. This is extremely concerning if we consider that 2030 is only 6 years away.

“If the country is to take on the challenge of this projected increase in drug use, it is imperative that it adopts scientific evidence-based approaches that prioritise Prevention and Treatment,” Campisi added.

Meanwhile, the NDLEA noted that to commemorate the 2024 campaign on drug use in the country, it will observe a Juma’at Service at the National Mosque in Abuja.

By June 22, the agency would embark on its usual Walk Against Drugs in collaboration with MTN and other stakeholders, from the Old Parade Ground as the take-off point by 7 am to the Garki Market.

On June 23, the agency said it would hold a thanksgiving church service at the National Christian Centre, that is the Ecumenical Centre, by 10 am.

On June 24, the agency said it would hold the grand finale of secondary schools’ essay competition.

“The NDLEA essay competition is a nationwide contest conducted among secondary schools, with the entries whittled down to the final six,” the agency noted.

“That same day, Monday, June 24, is earmarked as NGO Day when our partners will have their activities. The following day, Tuesday 25, we will be in markets and parks in the Federal Capital Territory area councils for a programme for out-of-school youths.

“Finally, on Wednesday, June 26, the World Drug Day commemoration event will be held at the State House Conference Centre, beginning at 9 am, where all stakeholders will gather to formally unveil the new global policy direction for tackling illicit drug problems,” Haruna noted.

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