NIGERIA Senate yesterday asked the Federal Government to restructure the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to enable the agency tackle the challenges of evasive drug traffickers. The upper chamber also urged the Nigerian Police Force, NDLEA, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria and other relevant agencies to be part of efforts towards curbing drug use and abuse.
It mandated its Committee on Drugs and Narcotics to consider an urgent amendment of Section 23 of the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria Act, to include the sale of prescription pills over the counter as an offence punishable by the Act. The resolutions followed a motion by Senator Gbenga Ashafa (Lagos East) and 21 others, entitled: “Nigerians involvement in illicit global drugs trade and increase in domestic drug abuse by Nigerian youths”.
Ashafa, in his lead debate, noted that the Malaysian authorities have again issued a strong statement that 40 per cent of foreigners arrested in the country for drug offences were from Nigeria. Thirty of 80 foreign students arrested in the country in 2015 were also Nigerians.
The Lagos East lawmaker observed that in their desperation, “these Nigerians are disguising as ‘university students’, colluding with drug syndicates (predominantly outside Nigeria) there to undermine the visa system and gain entrance into Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and other drug traffic routes”.
He noted that on getting to their destination, they abandon the education agenda and get busy with their illicit and illegal drug business activities; trading in opiates, cocaine, heroin, cannabis and amphetamines.
The senator added that the colleges/universities have been told to keep a look out for those who sign up for courses and don’t turn up.
Ashafa added that he was worried that the involvement of Nigerians in the dangerous enterprise was tarnishing the country’s image.
He noted that some of the countries believe that the Federal Government has not swung into strategic action to curb the menace of drug couriers and their sponsors – both in and out of Nigeria.
Ashafa said he was aware that the incidence of drug trafficking from Nigeria had reduced.
Those involved in the illicit trade, he said, have found a way of picking up the narcotic substances while in transit, “considering that most flights from Nigeria to some of the countries like Thailand and Indonesia are not direct flights”.
He said in April 2015, Indonesia, another Southeast Asian country that imposes the death sentence on drug traffickers, executed four Nigerians despite pleas for leniency by Nigeria, the United Nations (UN) and Amnesty International.
The four were among the 11 Nigerians facing execution for drug offences.
Ashafa added that apart from the cases in Malaysia and Indonesia, at least one Nigerian is on the death row in Singapore for drug-related offences.
He said the situation in China, which also punishes drug trafficking with death penalty, is alarming.
“Two Nigerians were executed in China in April 2015, but 120 other Nigerians are still on the death row for drug-related offences, with 74 of them being held in Guandong and Guanxi provinces.”
Senator Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central), in her contribution, said the government should take the issue seriously.
The lawmaker prayed the Senate to ask the Federal Government to establish drug rehabilitation centres in parts of the country to rehabilitate and give those hooked on drug a second chance.
She noted that drug rehabilitation centres are established in most advanced countries to assist drug addicts and give them second chance.
Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki asked the Senate Committee on Drugs and Narcotics to expedite action on the amendment of the Act 23 of the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria.
Saraki noted that the increase in drug abuse was a recurring problem and that if not nipped in the bud, it would escalate.