The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is advocating for all public office-holders in Nigeria to undergo drug integrity tests before assuming duties. Addressing media professionals in Abuja, last Wednesday, the Agency’s Chief Executive, General Buba Marwa (retd) called on political parties in the
country to make drug integrity a fundamental component of their screening checklist for aspirants seeking to become party flagbearers for elections. Marwa argued that the ample pressure and huge sense of responsibility which political offices demand of their holders make it necessary to ascertain if they are already
drug addicts/users who might spend all the money for governance to consume
cocaine to the detriment of society. The nation should heed the admonition
because, first, it is coming from a pragmatic result-oriented former public officer of repute who has since his current appointment introduced several innovations to NDLEA that are fast yielding great results as opposed to several years of the Agency’s mundane operations
Nigerians would also quickly agree with Marwa because since the restoration of
democracy to their country in 1999, they have observed many inexplicable actions
and statements from persons in power. It is perhaps in order to name a few recent activities that have led people into wondering if some political leaders in Nigeria
are fully well-balanced. In 2020, the House of Representatives proposed a law, the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill with many bewildering provisions. For example, Sections 55 & 56 of the bill authorized the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) or the Police to enter and search without warrant, any premises where a suspected outbreak had taken place. The bill also raised the penalty for a breach in the old Quarantine Act from N500 to between N200, 000 and N5m. Although Speaker Gbajabiamila took steps to
withdraw the bill as a result of the public disgust it created, there were Nigerians who questioned the level of sanity of their lawmakers.
Indeed, some somber legislators confessed that they had neither seen nor read the bill they approved for second reading! To make matters worse, the proposed law to sanction those who might in future refuse vaccination was being robustly pursued well before the nation got any vaccine. At the same time, no law was proposed for compulsory palliatives for the poor; and as usual in Nigeria where the privileged
embezzle huge sums they hardly need, the meagre palliatives available were
diverted by the wealthy who could easily procure such items in abundance. Another legislation which placed the cart before the horse resurfaced last week to punish stranded people who follow the only available existential option. Here, I refer to the quest by the Senate for a law prohibiting the payment of ransom “to abductors, kidnappers and terrorists for the release of any person who has been wrongfully confined, imprisoned or kidnapped.” Many Nigerians were really miffed considering that some political leaders had admonished people to defend themselves in such circumstances. How does a man who is told by government to defend himself go about ensuring the release of his kidnapped wife?
If Nigerians have cause to question the lucidness of any of their leaders, focus ought to stretch to executives elected to manage political parties because of their tendency to make outlandish claims concerning the numerical strength of their parties. Of course, it is an open secret that no Nigerian political party has any viable membership register. The man who should know, Prof Mahmood Yakubu,
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) hinted at a
likely disaster when he reminded the parties of the requirement of the new Electoral Act for each of them to submit its membership register to INEC not later than 30 days before party primaries commence. The last time membership registers
were thoroughly examined by an electoral body in Nigeria was during the military era. At that time, the verification revealed a plethora of spurious claims. It is hoped that the current membership registers which are said to contain millions of names of members were not compiled by the same type of deranged recorders
Party leaders who always defend the indefensible would vigorously defend party figures. Hòwever, the APC did well last week with its prompt explanation that the huge sums of dollars reportedly stolen at her headquarters didn’t belong to her. She also clarified that it could not have been proceeds from the sale of nomination forms payable in naira and not dollars. What no one is sure of now is the exact figure of the missing money which several versions have differently valued and why its owner identified as a South East Zonal official of the party brought such huge sum in dollars to the party’s national headquarters. The story reverberated like that of most political aspirants who enjoyed the pretence that some people, mostly the unemployed, bought their nomination forms to persuade them to run.
Recent activities involving individual political leaders should therefore interest the
NDLEA. After the former Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu
Dogara was removed by a Court for defecting from one party to another, many
assumed that defections in the legislature would cease. But the Deputy Minority
Whip of the Senate defected thereafter for what he called multifaceted crisis (though unknown to the public). Another PDP member was remanded at the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre for allegedly leading some cultists to disrupt activities at the state party secretariat. Although the accused claims that the allegation was fabricated, it is tragic that a federal legislator is a suspect in such an offence. Perhaps a more demeaning finding is PDP’s disqualification of a supposed Senatorial aspirant in Kogi state who did not register as a voter in the District where he intended to contest election.
The call for drug integrity test is however applicable to many Nigerians. In Lagos,
one Chikere Obieshi was fatally shot at a birthday party by a police operative who has since fled. The story is that the officer who was said to be drunk shot at those dancing at the party whereas he only wanted to shoot into the sky. This confirms that the police urgently need to patronize the NDLEA if not already doing so. It is also getting clear that some traditional rulers ought to be watched. This conclusion naturally flows from media reports that two Emirs in Zamfara state were deposed over alleged links with bandits. Those involved were the Emirs of Zurmi and Dansadau as well as the district head of Birnin Tsaba. While the accused are now facing prosecution, it is obvious that drug integrity test may have to be elevated to the point of general application to several authorities.
In fact, it may shortly, become applicable to many more cases, a good example being the Hunters and Forest Security Guards of Benue state who last Monday went around the major streets of Makurdi forcefully shaving persons they found with either
dyed or overgrown hair. This they did with unsterilized scissors thereby throwing
the city into a frenzy of protests. Governor Samuel Ortom has since ordered their arrest. But the bizarre disposition of the Hunters is in no way more dangerous than that of Nigeria’s miracle workers. In Ekiti State, police have arrested one Nuah Abraham, a pastor who was collecting from his congregation, the sum of N310,000 each to prepare them for the end of the world. Those who are able to raise Nuah’s nomination fee would, from their religious camp pass through the gate of heaven opened for them.
Nuah Abraham is certainly one of the many Nigerians the NDLEA should reach
soonest. That is not to say that drug integrity test alone can ascertain the suitability
of persons for office just as the ability to produce N100 million is not a guarantee
that it is wealthy contestants that can best manage Nigeria’s heterogeneous
communities. But without the integrity test, we may elect persons who may during periods of banditry and kidnapping, reverse our most cherished constitutional provision by
making party primaries and electioneering the primary purpose of government.