…How He Earned His Place in Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Train

Brig.Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (retd), Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has something of a Midas’ touch. He turns every position of responsibility he occupies into (not gold, but) a resounding success. From his military service duties to his days as Military Administrator of Lagos State and now as NDLEA boss, Marwa’s name has been associated with outstanding performances. It is, therefore, no surprise that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu decided to retain him as NDLEA boss amidst the gale of leadership changes taking place at Federal Government agencies since June last year.

Marwa was appointed the 11th Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA on January 15, 2021 and assumed office three days later, hitting the ground running with the launch of Offensive Action.

 His previous stint as Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA) (2018-2020), prepared him for the turnaround task at the NDLEA. It helped him to introduce a raft of reforms aimed at resuscitating the agency.

Like a general in battle, he has been leading the NDLEA workforce in a purpose-driven campaign against the drug underworld, a full spectrum offensive action that has seen 38 drug barons currently facing prosecution. Today, Nigeria is in a new epoch of drug law enforcement that has made the country the cynosure of the international community.

Within a short time, Marwa invigorated NDLEA with a ramped-up drug supply reduction campaign which in 10 months delivered over 10,000 arrests, 1,000 convictions and over three million kilogrammes of assorted drugs and cash seizures valued at over N120 billion. He also embarked on a strategic restructuring of the Agency to bring it up to the standards that would meet the challenges of modern drug law enforcement. These include expansion of the directorates, institution of a performance reward scheme and other career incentives and repositioning of the agency for efficiency and visibility. His efforts were rewarded with results that attracted commendations from governments of foreign countries and the agency’s strategic partners who have shown renewed trust in NDLEA in words and action. In his first year in charge, NDLEA gained international recognition as a regional force in drug law enforcement and attracted partnerships from similar agencies around the world.

At a point, an impressed former Pesident Buhari, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, was quoted as telling Marwa, “You have demonstrated over and again that choosing you to lead this fight against wicked merchants of death whose sole aim is to endanger and truncate the future of our youth is a very good choice. Please keep up the good work. I deeply appreciate the work that you have put into the eradication of the drug menace. It gladdens my heart as I continue to follow the successes achieved under your leadership.”

The presidential commendation came on the heels of Marwa’s “highest cocaine seizure,” worth over 278 million dollars.

These and other imprints at NDLEA, have earned Marwa many accolades, including  awards from notable media organisations. The Vanguard Newspaper honoured him with the 2022 Distinguished Public Service award while another well-deserved honour was the Public Servant of the Year Award for 2022 from Independent Newspaper.

Today, because of his effort, Nigeria is witnessing a new dawn in the drug war and his string of successes in the tough battle against drugs has projected the nation in a more positive light.

In just a few years, Marwa could be on record as the first drug czar to embrace a multi-dimensional and holistic approach and lead the agency to arrest thousands of drug offenders, including notorious barons across the country.

Born in Kaduna on September 9, 1953, Marwa, an indigene of Adamawa State, is a scion of a military family. His father, Buba Marwa, and grandfather, Buba Yola, had served in the Nigerian Army, and Marwa did not deviate from that path. He had his primary school education across Nigeria in Enugu, Zaria, Abeokuta, and Lagos (1960-65) and went on to attend the Nigerian Military School (NMS) Zaria (1966-70). Subsequently, he completed a regular combatant course at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and was commissioned into the Nigeria Army Recce Corps, NARC, in June 1973.

He had a meritorious military career where he served in many important positions across the military formation including the Brigade Major, 23 Armoured Brigade; Academic Registrar, the Nigerian Defence Academy; Deputy Defence Adviser, Nigerian Embassy, Washington DC; and Defence Adviser, Nigerian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, New York.

He was at first Military Governor of Borno State (1990-1992) and later Military Administrator of Lagos State (1996-1999), where he earned a reputation as a turnaround manager and management guru.

After retirement, Marwa who has Masters in Public and International Affairs (University of Pittsburgh, 1985) and Public Administration (Harvard, 1986), also served as Nigeria’s ambassador to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.