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Drug Trafficking: Death As Reward. Blessing Aseminabo

Drug trafficking, an illegal trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances subject to drug prohibition laws, remains a global menace that has eaten deep into the fabric of our society with the old and young being guilty of the crime.

All over the world the trade in hard drugs is a serious felony punishable by law. In Nigeria, under the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act of 1989, any  person who without lawful authority exports, transports or otherwise traffics in drugs popularly known as cocaine, LSD, heroine or any similar drugs is liable to life imprisonment. While in countries like Saudi Arabia, china, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, capital punishment (death Sentence) is the reward for drug trafficking offences.

Despite various harsh drug laws around the world, Methamphetamine, Amphetamine, Cannabis, Heroin, Opium, Cocaine, Ecstasy and Hallucinogens (which are all hard drugs) continues to be smuggled and supplied on a daily basis by unscrupulous individuals through various channels including airplanes, ships, animals, tunnels, sandbag bridges and human beings without fear of the consequences involved.

Sadly, Africa particularly Nigeria occupy an ignoble position in the malady.

In 2007, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) produced a special report on cocaine trafficking in West Africa, which began with the sentence “West Africa is under attack”, noted that “drug money is perverting fragile economies and rotting societies”, and concluded that several states in the region were at risk of being captured by foreign or local criminal networks.

No doubt the aforementioned is the case of Nigeria where the emergence of drug cartels and couriers have attracted a great attention of global authorities.

In 2018 alone, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) recorded a total of 5,377.125 kilograms of drugs impounded at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), in Lagos, compared to 1,266.40 kilograms seized in 2017.

A Nigerian woman, Kudirat Adesola Afolabi, was executed by the Saudi Arabian government early this month for drug peddling in the country. But a more disheartening report was that of Wahid Somade, who was also arrested in Jeddah airport, Saudi Arabia, shortly after Kudirat was executed, for smuggling about 1,138g of cocaine, which is an obvious sign that such a person as in the case of most traffickers place lust for easy money above value for life.

Besides, the question of how these smugglers were able to beat Nigerian securities to get to Saudi Arabia without detection needs be answered.

It could be recalled that in September, 2016, three Nigerian Hajj pilgrims were arrested in Medinah, Saudi Arabia for being in possession of cocaine, which provoked suspicion and resulted in the ban of lifting of intended pilgrims from the Ilorin International Airport in 2017, which according to investigation was identified as the major staging point of drug trafficking from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia.

Reports indicate that more than 20 Nigerians are still on death row in Saudi Arabia, even as eight had been executed.

No doubt greed and lust for quick money has turned desperate individuals into drug peddlers and tarnishing Nigeria’s image in the global village especially with the fragility of our economy.

However, it is imperative to note that poor security checks and airlines/ground handling firms at our international airports also contribute to the  menace.

Although scanners exist at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos; and Mallam Aminu Kano International airport, Kano, investigation reveals that other airports lack such screening facility. In most cases, checks on passengers and luggage are carried out manually. Besides, most of the scanners employed to check drug trafficking have become obsolete, thus, traffickers device various means to take advantage of such weakness.

It is also necessary to state that traffickers do not work in isolation as they find allies in some airports and ground handling firms Staff to push through and compromise security checks.

A recent preliminary investigation has revealed that some airline staff collude with baggage handlers to tag names of innocent travelers on bags containing illicit drugs on out-bound flights, leading to the arrest of innocent passengers by security agencies on arrival at their destinations.

According to Brig-Gen. Buba Marwa (retired), chairman, Presidential Advisory committee on Elimination of Drug Abuse (PASEDA) during a stakeholders meeting at the Murtala Muhammed International airport, Lagos, on Thursday, 11th April, regarding a recent incident at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), where a passenger who was arrested in Saudi Arabia denied ownership of a bag.

“There exists a criminal syndicate collaborating with greedy officials of some airlines at MAKIA, notably Ethiopian and Egyptian Airlines, who connive to check in drug-laden bags, using passenger’s particulars without their consent or knowledge”, he said.

Thankfully, through the closed circuit television camera at the Kano airport, the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) officials were able to discover the said criminal practice with proofs that the victim who was already detained in  Saudi Arabia was innocent.

It is therefore necessary for more stringent measures to be employed to sort out these bad eggs and for justice to take its cause. There is also need for airport security facilities to be fitted with high technology scanners capable of detecting hard drugs, which will help reduce interface between passengers and officials of agencies at airports in order to curb corrupt practices while also improving service delivery.

Aggressive advocacy on the implication of drug trafficking should be launched. Nothing should be left out in the fight against drug trafficking in order to save Nigerians, rewrite Nigeria’s sad narrative on illicit drug peddling.

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