Opening Remarks by Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (Rtd.), Chairman/Chief Executive, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, on the occasion of Public Destruction of Exhibits by NDLEA, Kogi State Command on April 4, 2019 in Lokoja, Kogi State
I am delighted to be in the Confluence State today on this occasion of public destruction of drug exhibits. Permit me to welcome you all and thank you for your show of solidarity with the Agency in this task of removing illicit drugs from the country.
This occasion calls for high sense of solemnity rather than formality because human lives are involved. The havoc that these drugs would have caused is better imagined than experienced if they are not seized and destroyed as we are here to do today.
A total of 18, 083.787 kilograms of Cannabis sativa and psychotropic substances seized by the Kogi State Command within a period of four years is to be destroyed this morning. Kogi State is not one of the major States where Cannabis sativa is cultivated in a commercial scale. However, our trend analysis shows Kogi State is a transit route for Cannabis trafficking. This is because of the location of the State as a link to all geographical regions of the country. Most of the drugs were intercepted either as they make their way into the State or out of the State. I salute the vigilance and industry of officers and men of Kogi State Command.
As it is characteristic of transit routes for drugs, Kogi State must ensure that it does not slide into a user State as some of the drugs that enter the State can easily get trapped and can be abused by the populace. I am very confident that Kogi State Government is rising to the occasion as evidenced by supports by the State Government for the work of the Agency in the State.
Kogi State is one of the few States with a functional Drug Abuse Control Committee and a Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre courtesy of His Excellency, Executive Governor, Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello. The Governor has equally supported the Agency with operational vehicles and other logistics. This is commendable because supporting drug control is a practical way of de-escalating the challenge of insecurity in the country.
We would like to enjoin other States to emulate the exemplary commitment of Kogi State because practically every State of Nigeria is being confronted with the challenge of drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking. The Nigeria Drug Use Survey recently released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC came up with findings that are striking and alarming on the pervasive drug use problem in the country. The report puts the drug use ratio at 14.4 % among age group of 15 to 65 years of our population. This calls for concerted efforts to mitigate the negative consequences of this menace on the health, socio-economic and security of our nation. In order to address this ugly situation, the Agency is strengthening its drug demand reduction strategies to improve its visibility in clearly identified places such as market place, motor parks, schools and places frequently used or visited by youth out-of-schools. This will enrich and improve our sensitization to all the vulnerable groups of our communities.
At this juncture, permit me to encourage all the stakeholders in drug control chain to foster a more responsive synergy and maintain a stronger foothold in our onslaught against the nefarious drug merchants who are becoming increasingly violent. About a month ago, an attack was launched against our staff in Ondo State leading to loss of lives of four of them. This came barely one year after a similar incident in Okene in Kogi State where the Agency lost three of its staff to some unknown gun men. May we observe a minute silence for the soul of the departed personnel who died in the line of duty. “May their soul rest in perfect peace.” Investigations are ongoing and I am confident that the killers will be brought to justice.
Let me seize this opportunity to clarify the issue of cultivation of Cannabis for medicinal and wellness purposes in the country. The law prohibiting Cannabis cultivation or dealing has not been repealed, hence the cultivation and dealing in Cannabis still remain an offence. Contrary to reports, the Agency has not granted license or approval to any person or corporate organization for the cultivation and production of medical cannabis oil and powder.
The issue has, however, dominated global discourse in recent years and in reaction to this, the Agency has been approached by several organizations with proposals for the development of cannabis industry in Nigeria for medicinal oil and industrial purposes.
In line with the mandate of the Agency under the enabling Act, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30 LFN 2014 which includes “the facilitation of rapid exchange of scientific and technical information and the conduct of research geared towards eradication of illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances,” the Agency gave a letter of “No Objection” to some companies to import Seeds of industrial cannabis for research purposes. This is with the concurrence and approval of relevant government agencies needed to import Seeds into Nigeria.
it is important to note that under the United Nations Convention, a drug may be deleted from schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention if researches reveal its therapeutic advantages. Cannabis plant or its resin or extract with THC content lower than 1 % is considered as CBD (medical) cannabis and not psychoactive. The WHO proposes 0.2 % THC content cannabis as maximum that should not be internationally controlled.
Notwithstanding the global trend, we currently lack the capacity and expertise to properly ensure that only cannabis of 0.2 % THC is grown in the country. The resources to distinguish between cannabis farm of 0.2 % THC and below internationally approved and those above 0.2 % THC is also not available to us yet.
In the light of the above, the Agency will act in the interest of the nation on this issue and will thread softly to ensure that approval to cultivate medicinal Cannabis passes through all legal and procedural requirements.
On this note, I wish to reiterate that cultivation of Cannabis remains a heinous offence under our law, and the Agency will continue to exert its efforts to take all illicit Cannabis off the streets in the country.