The National Assembly has pledged commitment to amending the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Act as part of effort at tackling increasing trafficking, production and abuse of drugs in Nigeria.
The Chairman, Senate’s Committee on Drugs and Narcotics, Sen. Joshua Lidani, made the promise on Friday at the closing of a three-day workshop on drug control in Uyo, Akwa Ibom.
The workshop was organised for members of the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Narcotics and Drugs by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) with support from the European Union.
Lidani, who decried the increasing link between drug trafficking, terrorism and money laundering, said that the national assembly would not rest on its oars until drug menace was brought under control.
According to him, a bill to amend the NDLEA Act has already scaled second reading in the senate, gone for public hearing and will soon be laid before the Senate for passage.
He said that the committee was working with major stakeholders to ensure a thorough job that would help to tackle emerging trend in the drug business.
“We have a lot that we are taking back home and this will definitely enhance our work in the Senate.
“This is in terms of making of laws, oversight functions, budgetary exercises and other things that we, as committees in the senate, are expected to do.
“We are going home more knowledgeable and more aware of a lot of issues that we will be eager to take on in the committees of the Senate and House of Representatives.
“We discussed extensively on balanced, evidence-based and human rights-based drug control in line with the three UN drug control conventions,’’ he said.
The lawmaker assured that both committees of the national assembly would work towards ensuring a balanced approach to drug response in line with priority areas listed in the National Drug Control Master plan 2015-2019.
He said that the committees would ensure that funding for NDLEA was put on first-line charge.
“There is a need to ensure drug demand reduction through sensitisation, awareness, education on drug issues to communities, professionals, families, religious leaders, traditional rulers among others.
“There is equally a need for professional training that is continuous for drug counsellors, social workers, doctors, nurses and other professionals.
“Also, there is an urgent need to expand treatment through establishment and maintenance of treatment centres with focus on community-based treatment, detoxification, counselling and rehabilitation.
“We intend to pursue these key areas the moment we get back to the National Assembly. We will also continue to engage ministries and technical agencies, UNODC, EU and other key stakeholders.
“We intend to pay advocacy visit to the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the Presidency,’’ he said.
The lawmaker urged the executive to improve the staff strength of the NDLEA to enable it to combat rising trend in drug trafficking and abuse effectively.
He commended the organisers of the workshop for their effort in ensuring that drug control was effective in the country.
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Drugs and Narcotics, Rep. Eucharia Azodo, equally assured that the National Assembly would work with NDLEA and other stakeholders in ensuring the success of drug control measures.
The lawmaker, who expressed concern on the increasing cases of drug abuse, particularly among the youth, assured that the House of Representatives would work with the Senate in finding a lasting solution to the problem.
She commended UNODC and EU for organising the workshop, saying “it created a platform for interaction and exchange of ideas for the legislators and other stakeholders’’.
In her remarks, Country Representative of UNODC, Ms Cristina Albertin, urged the legislators to do everything within its powers to help in tackling drug trafficking in the country.
She said that the global trend in drug trafficking, which had links with terrorism and money laundering, was worrisome and required concerted effort by all stakeholders.
“We all know that the drug problem is globally evolving every day. This is why we also have to tailor our responses to that problem specifically.
“That does not only have to happen at the international level but it has to happen at the local level as well and this is why we organised this specific event for legislators in Nigeria,’’ Albertin said.
She laid emphasis on a holistic strategy to tackling the problems, which included use of illicit drugs.
According to her, there is a need for evidence-based and human rights-based drug control.