…As Marwa Says Drug Smuggling Higher On Waterways
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
The leadership of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) Wednesday, recommitted to its earlier pledge to continue to partner with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to rid the ports of drugs.
President General of MWUN, Prince Adeyanju Adewale who made the declaration while speaking on the theme “Towards a Drug-Free Port Environment”, during a Town Hall Meeting organized by the JournalNG in Lagos, recounted how the union has met with the anti-drug agency on the need to partner for effective monitoring and surveillance on drug distribution, consumption and arrest of culprits.
Comrade Adeyanju said in as much as the union will continue to look out for the freedom and wellbeing of all its members and maritime workers, it will disown any member found to be involved in drug related offences and smuggling; noting that the union will not relent in building capacity and network to achieve its pledge in other to make Nigeria better for everyone.
This is even as the Chairman//Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NDLEA, Brig Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa disclosed that the nation’s waterways has become a major smuggling route for drugs with a total of 4,349.25 kilograms of assorted drugs seized by the agency and other statutory agencies within the Lagos inland waterways alone, between January to May, 2022.
Adeyanju who was at the town hall meeting with all branch presidents and entire executives as a demonstration of his leadership commitment to the war against drug smuggling and illicit drugs distribution, hinted that the union had also met with the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT), in furtherance of his anti-drug war stance, and readiness to work with similar minded entities, including the narcotic agency.
He said, “World drug report 2021 clearly shows that there is much work to be done to confront the harm inflicted by the use of illicit drugs on the health, development, peace and security of peoples in all regions of the world.
“The report also says that an estimated quarter of a billion people, or around 5% of the global adult population, used the WHO drugs category at least once.”
“In response to this challenge, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria has reached out to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) with a view to jointly building one of the strongest counter-narcotics enforcement capacities for and around our ports.
“On which note, I wish to especially thank the Buba Marwa led NDLEA for doing the yeoman’s job of curtailing drug trafficking in our ports. I also would quickly seize this opportunity to extend our hand of fellowship to the NDLEA for a collaborative alliance to stem the distribution and trafficking of illicit drugs through our ports.
“We were recently in a town hall meeting with members of the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) which had in attendance all our shop floor stewards starting from officers from the Units through the Districts and to the branch and national. At that interactive meeting, the union informed all and sundry that it had zero tolerance for illicit drug peddlers and therefore will not condone any member is found culpable. Such member automatically loses his/her membership of the union.”
While explaining that the union has also held several press conferences to sensitize its members and the general public on the dangers of illicit drug use and its trafficking portend for society, Adeyanju announced plans to undertake yet another public sensitization programme to draw attention to the harm effect of of illicit drug trafficking.
“The programme will kick-start from Lagos ports and will be taken to all ports and terminals in the nation. We expect to involve all stakeholders and well-meaning port users and even our international affiliate-International Transport Workers Federation (ITF).
“At MWUN, we will leave no stone unturned to ensure that we join hands with our security infrastructure to continue to combat the menace. We affirm our conviction to keep zero tolerance to drug peddling and to use our front line advantage to sustainably consolidate our credibility and build the port we want.
“We must therefore move from a catalogue of good intentions and collectively step up responses to cope with these challenges, it is our hope that this plan of action will redirect our efforts towards addressing the drug peddling problem in our ports,” Adeyanju noted.
Also, the anti-drug agency boss who was represented at the town hall meeting by Ameh Inalegwu, new NDLEA Commander, Apapa port, listed offensive pharmaceutical seizures to include 74.119 kilograms (451, 807 tablets) of “jihadist drug” known as Captagon at the Apapa Port.
He said, “Drug abuse, like the motor accident does not just happen. It is caused by a number of factors, chiefly: availability, affordability and accessibility.
“Incidentally, the Maritime Industry is at the heart of these components. Several arrests and seizures have been made aboard vessels laden with huge quantities of illicit drugs at the ports. Apart from cannabis sativa that is known to be cultivated in commercial quantities, the seizure of pharmaceutical opiates like Tramadol being exported from Nigeria points at something
“How did these large quantities of drugs get into Nigeria? We can say with certainty that a huge portion of these drugs come into the country through the water ways.”
Citing a 2018 survey, Inalegwu stated that drug prevalence in Nigeria cut across all ages, adding that 14.3 million Nigerians between ages 15-64 years use psychoactive substances. We now have to adopt a whole-society and a joined-hands approach.”
He continued: “We must therefore set the machinery in motion to aggressively reverse the trend and to achieve this, we need to activate both demand and supply reduction measures. We must see drug control as a shared responsibility and every facet of the society must take ownership.
“The good news is that the drug supply reduction strategy that we initiated in the last one year is succeeding in crushing the drug supply chain thereby creating scarcity of the illicit substances and curtailing availability.
“NDLEA has equally resolved to maintain a strong presence at the Ports which explains the monumental drug seizures and the series of engagements of stakeholders, ranging from Bonded Terminal Owners/Operators, Shipping Lines and Agencies and other critical stakeholders within the Maritime Sector.
“The task of keeping the Ports drug-free is the primary responsibility of the operators in the Maritime Industry. For this to happen, we must realize the fact that the economy and security of the nation rest heavily of the shoulders of Maritime Industry, whereas the nexus between the economy, security and drugs is well documented.
“Stakeholders at the Ports must be able to resist the lure of lucre viz-a-viz the temptations of what illicit drug traffickers offer. No amount of money is compared with the sanctity of human life. Maritime operators need to elevate their level of collaboration and cooperation with NDLEA. The intelligent hints on the clandestine activities of these unscrupulous elements who depend on the movement of ships to ply their trade will go a long way in exposing and frustrating them.”