On Friday, the government of the United States took Nigeria off its list of major drug traffickers where its National Drug Law Enforcement Agency had first placed this country in 1991, during the administration of President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida.
According to the NDLEA, the president of the United States acknowledges that, though our country used to be a focal point for the global drug trade, it has taken a number of bold steps to fundamentally alter that state of affairs, making counter narcotics a major national security issue.
According to the report, Nigeria, Brazil, and Paraguay were recently removed this year from the list because they no longer meet the criteria for placement according to US law. Indeed, for many years, Nigeria was at the centre of a narcotics trade that transcends national boundaries.
The government has got this impressive result based on a mixture of imaginative measures including drug interdiction; effectively blocking off exit entry points, relentlessly pursuing drug barons and dealing with this problem with an admirable dispatch and professionalism.
Reacting, Ahmadu Giade, the Chief Executive of the NDLEA, claimed credit for his bureau – as he should. In news reports almost daily, there is a steady stream of information about drugs seized at airports, in aircraft and in other hideouts. Evidently, the anti-narcotics squad has been working steadily -this result is not some accident or stroke of good luck; it is the culmination of consistent and committed efforts towards engaging this problem.
It brings to mind something Nigerians do forget – that a lot has changed in Nigeria. At times of frustration, certain Nigerians – understandably – begin to cry for the ‘good old days’ of military rule. And there are indices that can encourage such thinking – certainly the naira, for instance, was stronger in years past. And the economy was on much surer footing.
However, it is easy to forget just how bad it was, just how much of a pariah nation our country had become, and how there was a near breakdown of law and order. Drug trafficking, the near-industrialisation of advanced fee fraud and forgery (including, for instance, the evolution of places like the Lagos centre of forgery called Oluwole or the rise of counterfeit products in Aba) are living examples.
All of this went largely unchecked because the country was held hostage by a revolving door of bandits who found little to fear from the country’s law enforcement agencies, and managed to confound international crime detectors too because of the ease with which they operated here.
All that changed with democracy – one of its consequences being the opening of the civil space, and the response to the needs of the populace as well as concern for the country’s place in the comity of nations. The consequence of this is that successive governments especially – and to his credit – that of Olusegun Obasanjo – began to aggressively tackle this problem with the establishment of new anti-corruption agencies, as well attention to as the importance of transparency and the rule of law. Above all, giving true authority to the agencies fighting these crimes helped in no small way.
In addition to this, there is the transparent fact that with democracy has come the renewed flourishing of enterprise. New industries have grown – from telecoms to entertainment – that have ensured viable alternatives for creative hands. It might not be enough and there is still a whole lot to be done, but there has been appreciable growth.
This news give us a certain re-assurance, that though our politicians continue to fail and that some of those given charge of the commanding heights of the economy continue to abuse our trust, there are certain bright spots where dedication and a concrete vision can make change happen.
As Mr. Giade said, “It is a call to duty that demands higher commitment on our part.”