By Abdul-Rauf Musa
Irked with preponderance of drug abuse in the country and the attendant consequences on the future of Nigerian youth, President
Muhammadu Buhari on December 11, 2018, appointed Brigadier-General Muhammadu Buba Marwa (rtd) as chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA).
The committee was saddled with the responsibility of working towards reducing the level of drug abuse in the country.
As a retired general, Marwa, with a rich pedigree in public service, took the gauntlets of proffering solutions to this cancerous phenomenon that wreaks havoc and ruined many once peaceful households.
This multi-faceted problem that affects both the young and old people of different backgrounds, and puts the very future of the country in serious jeopardy needs an upright yet capable man whose towering pedigree and commitment to service are enough pointers to nip the menace in the bud, once and for all.
As a product of regimented and structured system – the military – General Marwa criss-crossed the entire nook and crannies of Nigeria for ten months; he first-hand confronted with the menace, met the victims and therefore got the raw data, and information on how deep the scourge has eaten into the fibre of our lives.
With these in hand, it wasn’t surprising that his committee submitted a far-reaching report to the president on October 2019.
“We have given our recommendations which, we believe if implemented, this problem will be solved. The key thing is the will of the president, which he has,” Marwa disclosed this soon after tendering the report.
“In the course of our trips across the country to engage with the state and local communities,” he continued, “two areas stand out at this time: In Kano, I had to engage with drug addicts from the most drug-ridden local government area. And there, we were addressing about 500 drug addicts in the room and that was quite a scary and noisy session.
“It has to start with the declaration of emergency on drug abuse. It has got to that point. Over the years, things have continued to get worse, which led to the establishment of the committee to face and tackle this problem.”
And while trying to paint the clear picture of the problem, Marwa gave a staggering figure of 10.6 million Nigerians who smoke cannabis, and that the rate of drug abuse in Nigeria is thrice the global figure!
“There are scientific methodologies now, so there are no guesswork in this business. It was found that whereas the global prevalence was
5.6%, in the case of Nigeria, within the ages of 15 and 64 the prevalence was almost triple at 14.4%, which actually translates to
14.3 million Nigerians. We also found that 1 in 4 drug abusers in Nigeria is a woman.
“More than that, the impression was that drug abuse was worse in the North but evidence suggested a contrary.
Actually, the prevalence is higher in the south and I think there are reasons for that. Nationally, 10.6 million Nigerians smoke cannabis, since it is grown in the South, I will think that would be the reason why the prevalence is higher.”
Marwa said his team recommended “crop substitution” where illegal drugs grown on a farm will be cleared and replaced with legal crops.
He said the team also recommended the creation of counseling centres in local government areas as well as the establishment of rehabilitation centres in each senatorial zone.
But despite this near hopeless trajectory in the country, the former military governor threw in the glimmer of hope when he added that the family plays a crucial role in solving the problem of drug abuse.
“There is a need for more care, love, guidance and counselling.”
This, without any footnotes, translates that the burden and the bulk of the responsibility rests largely with the parent before any individual or government agency.
Having been briefed and the magnitude of the scourge laid bare, the president could not hold back.
And the visibly-elated president welcomed the findings and the recommendations wholeheartedly, which showed his readiness to stamp it out of the young and old Nigerians.
Now, with the far-reaching and holistic recommendations submitted by the Gen. Marwa-led committee, the president lamented that the use of drugs particularly by youths constitutes a major public health and social concern.
The president reasoned that the best way to confront this problem is by appointing the same person who inter-faced, engaged and interweaved with the victims, the addicts and proffered the solutions.
The president’s known trait, the extraordinary trait of marching words with action led to the announcement of the appointment, on January 15, 2020, of General Marwa as chairman and Chief Executive of the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA),
The appointment, many experts in drug abuse related fields such as African Council on Narcotics (ACN), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), both national and international, described as the one of the best and well-deserved appointments made by the president.
“There is no question about the fact that this is one of the best national appointments that has been made by the present administration.
“To say your appointment is more than well-deserved is an understatement given your known track record of excellent performance in all your previous national appointments,” said the president of ACN.
Upon assumption of duty, Gen. Marwa wasted no time and hit the gas from the off.
In a clear and unmistakable intent, Marwa started fashioning out
policies, programmes, strategies and mission of making the Nigeria safer from drugs abuse and drugs-related crime that ravaged the entire country.
According to him, the overhauling and expansion will be in line with
the recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse, PACEDA, which he served as its chairman.
He said: “Together, by the grace of God, we will resuscitate and reposition NDLEA to full active life, to be effective, respected and feared by concerned criminals. Nigeria is the only country we have, we cannot fold our arms. We can, will and must eliminate the drug scourge.”
Born on September 9, 1953 in Kaduna, Buba Marwa attended the Nigerian Military School, Zaria and the Nigerian Defense Academy, Kaduna.
Later, while in the army, he studied at the University of Pittsburgh, where he obtained a master’s degree in International Relations, and again obtained a master’s degree in Public Administration from Harvard University.
From 1996 to 1999, Marwa was Military Governor of Lagos State. During his administration, he implemented programs such as “Operation 250
Roads” which greatly improved motoring conditions. He revamped public health institutions, and ensured that free malaria treatment was made available to all. His administration upgraded infrastructure in poor neighborhoods. He proclaimed an edict to regulate rents, stopping the infamous “Jankara” method of eviction of tenants and ensuring that due process was followed.
Marwa became a household name and well respected in Lagos because of “Operation Sweep”, a joint police and military venture that helped reduce Lagos’ notorious crime rate.
After retiring from the Nigerian Army at the end of his term as Lagos
State governor, the then Brigadier General Marwa founded Albarka Airlines and the Buba Marwa Endowment.
In September 2003, Buba Marwa gave up his position of Chairman / Chief Executive Officer of Albarka Airlines. In 2007 he was appointed Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the Republic of South Africa.
Marwa, then, ventured into politics and in 2011, he was the gubernatorial candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in his Adamawa home state against the then incumbent governor Murtala Nyako.
He later decamped from APC due to complaints of unfair treatment of his followers after his party CPC merged with ANPP and the ACN, following the decamping of Governor Nyako to the same party.
In June 2015, Marwa returned to the APC with his followers following the swearing-in of President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29.