When armies go to war, success depends on the mobility and capacity of the troops, but a lot also depends on the commanding officers. So it has been also for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) which recognised and awarded 141 officers and 13 commands for their exemplary commitment and dedication to their duties in 2023.
Among those commended on February 8, were some commanders of the agency whose operations optimised the agency’s renewed War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) in the period under review.
In 2023, the agency arrested 13,664 offenders, 15 of whom were drug barons. Out of those arrested, only 3,412 convictions were recorded, about 25 per cent of the suspects.
In this report, our correspondent spoke to three commanders of the agency who excelled in actualising the mission of NDLEA in the year under review.
NDLEA Ondo State Commander, Kayode Raji
The Ondo Command of the NDLEA emerged top as the command with 60 convictions – The highest in 2023. The convictions represent 26 per cent of the 230 arrested suspects arrested during the year.
The commendation, detailing the command’s diligence in the prosecution of suspects, came as a surprise to Kayode Raji, the Ondo State NDLEA Commander who did not expect the honour.
The command in 2023, had only one active court, restraining its capacity to function optimally,
Stating his command’s mode of operation, Raji said, “There was no one of our case that was discharged, we prosecuted diligently, but the fact is before we go for arrest, we have all our facts.
“We do not just arrest first and then go for our facts later. We have all our facts, we do our intelligence and surveillance before we swoop in, and once we swoop in, we get you arrested and the investigation starts.”
According to Raji, the command strongly upholds due diligence before securing arrests, and its findings are often “almost incontrovertible” when suspects are challenged with them. He said, “When we get to court, we always get convictions”.
These procedures are “difficult”, Raji said, but the command’s major challenge is the lack of adequate Judges in the state to preside over prosecutions.
Raji said, “I was surprised with the award because we have only one court. Ondo State has two courts, but one of the judges was transferred and for the whole of last year, it was only one court that was operating compared to other commands that have eight courts, and 12 courts. I was surprised we still beat them and I think it boils down to our determination for success.”
While Raji hopes that the Ondo command maintains the lead in this category and others, he also hopes for more judges in his state to expedite the prosecution and conviction of suspects, noting that the command has lined up cases it is investigating.
NDLEA DCN Tincan Special Area Command, Ramat Mohammed
The Ondo Command may have been honoured for its diligent prosecution of cases, but the Tincan Special Area Command got a commendation for rejecting bribes to the tune of $22,900 in 2023.
The chairman of the agency, Mohammed Marwa, in a letter of commendation, specifically acknowledged the Deputy Commander of Narcotics (DCN) Tincan Area Command, Ramat Mohammed for his outstanding performance and dedication to duty.
Speaking to THE WHISTLER in an exclusive interview, Mohammed said the agency’s zero tolerance to corruption is one of the core values driving his command.
According to him, those engaged in illicit substances possess the resources to sabotage the system by bribing their way to the top, but the danger trickles to the teeming youths who get involved in illicit drugs and self-destruct while also increasing the crime rate in society.
“The people and men of the underworld have what it takes to bribe whoever is willing and ready to play games with them.
“But when you look at the danger associated with the drugs if allowed to have gone into the society, that money that they brought to bribe us will still not solve the problems of our teeming youths that will get themselves engaged into taking such kind of hard drugs,” he said.
When asked about his motivation for rejecting bribes, Mohammed said, “I am a Muslim, and my religion does not tolerate bribery and corruption in whatever way. And, if I take this, what is it going to amount to me? It won’t solve my problems.
“We all want to make money but we want money legally and legitimately not in the aspect of bribery and corruption.”
DCN Mohammed hopes that all men and officers of the command uphold the tenets of their religion and the agency while executing their duties, noting that there was no guarantee of any benefit to the use of illicit drugs in society.
NDLEA FCT Commander, Kabir Tsakuwa
The NDLEA Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Command emerged as co-winner alongside Lagos State Command, in drug supply and reduction.
Abubakar Wali who only became the NDLEA’s Lagos State Commander in December 2023, was inaccessible for an interview.
However, the FCT Command, having intercepted 7,345.209 kilograms of drugs worth N125.71m in 2023, was commended on its outstanding commitment to the fight against drugs across the city.
Speaking to THE WHISTLER in an exclusive interview, Kabir Tsakuwa sees the feat as a spur for more action. He said, “The FCT command has been consistent in terms of our supply and reduction, even though the demand is not left out of place.”
Speaking on the challenges encountered in the nation’s capital territory, Tsakuwa cited community cooperation and intelligence gathering as a challenge.
He said the residents are unwilling to share relevant information to clamp down on drug supply, reduction and demand.
“The truth of the matter is that we need everybody to come on board because the issue of drug abuse and trafficking cannot be done by NDLEA alone.
“The challenges we have always been having is that people do not give us the information we require and NDLEA cannot be everywhere. We rely on people to give us the information to enable us to reach people who have been seen with drugs.”
The narcotics officer further assured residents that their identities would be protected when they shared information with the agency.
“I want to assure the public that their identity is secured when they give information. We currently have a call centre where people can call. They are not obliged to give their names or addresses.
“On the strength of that information, it will get back to us and we will work on it. I want to assure them that their safety is well secured.”
When asked about the plans of the command for 2024, Tsakuwa said, “We want to open more commands, and by doing so we will be closer to the community and the public.”