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The NDLEA is a shadow of its old self. It has been described by many as a ‘doped giant’. How ironic! Never mind all the captivating press releases and media razzmatazz staged by the Agency. The Agency is indeed comatose, with a good chance of going kaput if care is not taken. The NDLEA was established under Decree 48 of 1989 as the solution to Nigeria’s ‘drug problems’. At its inception, the whole world including the United Nations had bet on it as the icon of Drug Law Enforcement in Africa. It was to be modeled after the renowned DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) of the United States of America. As to whether it has lived up to expectations, your guess is as good as mine. It remains a matter for the discerning mind, in spite of the bush-beating, can-drumming, lip-service, and eye-service of the various Chairmen of the Agency (especially the geriatric incumbent).
Needless to say also that the NDLEA remains the most jaundiced Government Security Agency in today’s Nigeria. As it is often said in medical parlance, it will require a tremendous degree of ‘shock treatment’ to revive this ailing Agency. Today, the question in every Nigerian’s mouth is ‘why has the PDP government retained a non-performing Chairman for 10 good years in public office, despite various allegations of corruption (the latest coming from CACOL Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders)’. To make matters worse, the recent appointment of Roli George (Bode George’s wife) as DG of the battered Agency is nothing but preposterous. It further rubs salt on a festered injury, especially in these days of Boko-Haram insurgency, knowing fully well that drug peddling is one major way of funding criminality. Common sense dictates that such sensitive jobs should be reserved for consummate professionals, and not mediocres or dabblers in the name of political gratification.
The Agency (NDLEA) has had nothing to show for its over two decades of existence, as it has since groped in the twilight of gross uncertainty. Thanks to its catalogue of kleptomanic Chairmen, who have shown no commitments to the job and officers of the Agency whatsoever. It is no exaggeration to say that they have been mostly ignorant of the job, and therefore simply bid their times before exiting in controversial circumstances. The Agency has seen the era of eight (8) Chairmen/Chief Executives. They are as follows:
(1) Fidelis Oyakhilome (January 1990-March 1991).
(2) Fulani Kwajafa (March 1991-October 1993).
(3) Bappa Jamari (October 1993-February 1994).
(4) Musa Bamaiyi (April 1994-December 1998).
(5) Ogbonaya Onovo (December 1998-May 2000).
(6) Iliya Lokadang (May 2000-July2000).
(7) Bello Lafiagi (October 2000-November 2005).
(8) Ahmadu Giade (November 2005-Date).
Out of the above eight (8) chairmen, the North has produced six (6). Of the twenty five years of its existence, persons of Northern origin have headed the Agency for twenty-two years (22), as opposed to only three (3) years by Southerners, namely Oyakhilome and Onovo. The Northern States in question are Bauchi (2), Kebbi (1), Katsina (1), Plateau (1), and Borno (1). In these days of Zoning, this would be considered to be nothing but gross marginalization.
Having said that, there are more pertinent reasons why the appointment of the next NDLEA Chairman would require utmost prudence, and transparency. It is common knowledge that none of the above Chairmen/Chief Executives is trained in the field of Drug Law Enforcement. They have always been politically imposed upon the Agency by successive governments. Whatever they claim to know about the job was taught to them by the trained officers of the Agency. A Chairman would usually take an average of two years to learn the ropes before settling into the job. As a result, the job suffers a great deal. As if this is not enough, nepotism and tribalism thrive well within the Agency. Meritocracy is jettisoned for mediocrity, due to lack of real commitment/allegiance to the job by successive Chairmen. To date, the fact remains that none of the trained officers/professionals of the Agency has ever aspired to the position of Chairman of the Agency. This has been considered a no-go area, because of government ‘interests’. Expectations were therefore high for the PDP dispensation to break the jinx, but unfortunately it seems to be entrenching this anomaly.
Like any other Security Agency, Drug Law Enforcement is indeed a specialty/specialization. Part of the NDLEA training curriculum was structured and delivered by the American DEA. Officers must spend a period of their early career at the Regional Training School in Jos, before being posted to the field. The present scenario in NDLEA is corollary to heading the Nigerian Police with an Immigration Officer, or a Road Safety Officer. It will not work. The fact that this repertoire of dabbling Chairmen often come from the police, army, and indeed SSS, accounts for why they have blundered so badly in the past. Even though these professions all border on Investigation and Intelligence, we must take into cognizance the distinctive peculiarities in them. It is therefore incumbent upon the Federal Government to review this awful trend immediately. To say the least, this is responsible for the ultimate suffocation of professionalism and candor in the ailing Agency. Imposing Chairmen and DGs based on Party partisanship is, to say the least, a gross dis-service to the Nigerian people.
As the Jonathan regime prepares to face the 2015 landmark in the polity of our great nation, there is wide expectation that the NDLEA and its malaise will take a front burner, lest we get left behind in the dynamic world of today. The issue of drug enforcement is of such paramount international importance in world politics that every country must strive to place such intricate portfolio in the hands of competent professionals, and not dabblers…all in the name of ‘political appointment’. Drug Law Enforcement is serious business, and must be seen thus. In addition to bank robberies, and International money laundering, drug is a vital source of criminal funding. The proficiency and efficaciousness of its (NDLEA) leadership can make or mar the credibility, and reputation of a nation like ours. As a key player in the African continent, and world politics, the search light is on Nigeria to PERFORM. The NDLEA’s ‘cup of inequity’ is NOW full. It needs a serious shake-up. The PDP Government must act. Keeping a man in office for ten (10) years is tantamount to encouraging corruption.
Chief CHARLES EBUN-AMU
(criminologist/security analyst, UK)
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