By Victor Nwachukwu
Owerri, Jan. 1, 2021 The year 2020 has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging not only for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), in Imo but for Nigeria in general.
This is obviously as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown that took a better part of the year.
The command did not however, relapse into inactivity, it rather braced up with the challenges and consistently carried out its constitutional responsibility of responding to the problems of drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking in the state.
NDLEA commander in Imo, Mr Nse Inam told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Owerri that in the year 2020, the command was however, able to record notable achievements in various areas of operations even though there was a slight decline from those of 2019, no thanks to COVID-19.
Inam said the command arrested 165 suspects including 145 males and 20 females adding that youths between the age brackets of 17 and 35 formed the highest number of those arrested.
Also, the command seized 959.677kg of hard drugs such as cannabis sativa, cocaine tramadol, methamphetamine, heroin and diazepam.
He said the worrisome situation is the increasing abuse of metamphetamine, popularly known as mkpuru-mmiri in Imo by more than 10 per cent.
The attendant consequences of this, Inam said, could not be overemphasized, a reason why the command did not relent in constantly sensitizing the public.
The command defied the pandemic to conduct public enlightenment in various parts of the state including secondary and tertiary institutions, market places and rural communities.
According to him, the command sensitised no fewer than 3,444 persons on drug related issues and ways to curb the menace in the society.
He said the command organized trainings for 2,700 students of the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri, Community Secondary School, Mbieri, Girls Secondary School, Ifakala and Army Day Secondary School, Obinze.
The command also sensitised about 674 persons at Ogwunama autonomous community in Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Area and Ugiri community, Isiala mbano LGA of the state.
“In all, a total of 3, 444 persons directly benefitted from the command’s public enlightenment workshops,” he said.
Inam emphasized the need for all hands to be on deck with a view to keeping the state safe from illicit drug use and trafficking.
“We call on parents, guardians and all well meaning Nigerians to join the fight against drugs and substance abuse. Our concerted efforts will certainly yield positive results.
“These programmes will definitely be consolidated upon in 2021 and we will focus on young ones who happen to be the major players and victims of drug abuse” he said.
In the area of prosecution of offenders, the command successfully prosecuted and secured the conviction of 24 accused persons in court. They were sentenced to various jail terms. A lot of cases are however, ongoing in courts.
The command said it also counseled 97 drug users who were arrested during raid operations and rehabilitated three drug addicted persons while two others were currently undergoing rehabilitation.
The command however, recorded some losses in the course of discharging its duties.
“We lost one operative during a face-off with suspected kidnappers. Two other operatives were seriously wounded,” Inam said.
The NDLEA commander, whose achievements in the state earned him promotion to the rank of Assistant Commander General of Narcotics, thanked other security agencies and residents of Imo for their support during the year under review.
He also thanked the state governor, Sen. Hope Uzodinma for his support while saluting journalists in the state for their efforts in the fight against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking.
“I commend all our worthy partners in this onerous task for being there for us throughout this challenging year and sincerely hope that you will increase the tempo in 2021 with a view to making our society better than before.
“We intend to spread our tentacles further, carry out increased sensitization, complete ongoing rehabilitation of persons and start fresh ones as well as continue pending prosecution proceedings,” he said.