Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa (retd), said, yesterday, that drug barons were killing the agency’s operatives for vengeance, in the fight against drug trafficking in the country.
Appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Drugs and Narcotics to defend the agency’s 2022 budget performance and 2023 proposal, Marwa advocated the provision of barracks for the operatives to save their lives.
He said the agency had acquired land in Adamawa, Abuja and Lagos for the barracks, adding that the building of the facilities would be under Private Public Partnership, PPP.
Marwa also disclosed that the agency was on the verge of constructing three rehab centres, two forensic laboratories and purchasing of security equipment, but decried the slashing of the budget earmarked for the project.
According to him, while N24 billion was allocated to the barracks project in the 2022 budget, it was later slashed to N13 billion in the 2023 budget proposal, requiring additional N10 billion for the projects.
The NDLEA boss said: “The barracks issue is very critical to us because as we all know the NDLEA is very aggressive now against drug traffickers and the drug barons and when you arrest and prosecute them and send them to jail, they are not happy.
”So they come after our personnel and with our personnel living in the town and cities and among them, we have been recording casualties and assassinations against them.
“Like I said earlier the President had graciously approved the construction of barracks for the Agency last 2022. The barrack project is ongoing and the sum of N13 billion has been captured in the 2023 budget proposal.
”Last year it was N24 billion. Actually 24 billion cannot build a barrack, complete barracks. But we had to figure out certain key priorities in selected areas, bearing in mind the need to go round all the geopolitical zones and this year, we have been able to look at four zones. We have touched Lagos but it still needs more to be done.
“We pray that with more money for the barracks, because N13 billion would probably build half a barracks, but if we are able to achieve another 10 billion or more on this barrack, then we would be able to add three more of the geopolitical zones for us to complete six.
”Hopefully as the years go by and we have other chairman, the struggle for barracks would continue.”
Speaking on arrest of drug offenders, Marwa said 19,000 persons had been arrested since January 2021, among whom were barons being prosecuted.
The chairman further said that 5452 metric tonnes of illicit drugs, with a street value of N420 billion were seized.
He added that over 3000 convictions had been secured, while more than 12,000 suspects had been counseled in rehabilitation centres.
He also stated that NDLEA had so far destroyed cannabis farms of 714 hectares, revealing that the agency made a seizure of 2.1 metric tonnes of pure cocaine.
Marwa said the NDLEA has appropriated a total of N38.93 billion for 2022 and recruited 5000 additional personnel from the total number of 15,000 approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“So even though the recruitment started last year, the training was concluded this year. The 15,000 approved by the president has been segmented into three phases of 5000 each. So we did 5000 last year, completed it this year.
”The second 5000 has received Mr President’s approval and is in the process. We hope that within the next quarter or so, funding would have been released for it and we would fully engage ourselves in the process of the next 5000.
“In the course of 2022, I am glad to mention that the agency made history by recording the largest seizure ever of pure cocaine weighing over 2.1 metric tonnes, which is worth $315 million or over N230 billion.
”We have received a court order and have already destroyed it. This was a unique operation because we were able to arrest the five barons involved who were located in different parts of Lagos, practically to the second, without firing a shot.
”We had to coordinate it properly so that none would be arrested one minute earlier than the others because they will alert the others and they would escape. But we were able to do it clinically for those five at the same time in one night.
“We have arrested and are prosecuting so far 28 barons with seizures worth billions of naira. Indeed, one of the barons had 103 bank accounts with a total balance of over N20 billion which we have frozen,” he said.
Marwa said NDLEA was allocated a sum of N40.11 billion, of which N16.61 billion was for recurrent personnel cost; N2.1 billion for recurrent overhead cost, while N21. 44 billion was for capital expenditure in the 2023 budget proposal.