Brig-Gen Mohammed Buba Marwa (Rtd), chairman & CEO, National Drug Law Enforcement
Agency (NDLEA), raised new hopes for curbing a ravaging national drug abuse crisis when he
was appointed to lead the battle in January 2021. The hopes drew from his respected character
as a disciplinarian capable of ushering in a new phase of decisive actions and strategy in fighting
the illicit drug crisis in the country.
His appointment was therefore read with appreciation of the Buhari’s administration in taking a
bold step to empower NDLEA to rid Nigeria of the scourge of drug abuse and trafficking of illicit
substances. He came to the scene at a time that scourge of drug abuse was actively driving an
upsurge in various crimes across the country. A structural overhaul of the agency’s approach to
drug law enforcement had become quite imperative.
Marwa could appreciate the enormity of the task before him as well as the need for swift and
effective responses to deal with the situation. He retorted that “having 14.3 million Nigerians
abusing drugs with 10.6 million addicted to cannabis portends grave consequences”.
He quickly embarked on reforms of the organisation, embracing a multi-dimensional and
holistic approach under which new directorates and zonal commands sprang up for an effective
and coordinated confrontation with drug offenders. He considered the reforms quite timely in
view of the dire findings of the National Drug Use and Health Survey of 2018 that a further
delay was an invitation for a national catastrophe.
Within the short period he has pursued the mandate of ensuring a drug-free Nigeria, Marwa has
gone a long way in rewriting the history of Nigeria’s war against illicit drugs and trafficking. He
has re-energized NDLEA to outmatch the activities of drug peddlers with major successes to
The numbers from NDLEA show that as at July 2022 – one and half years of Marwa’ leadership
of the organisation, the agency had arrested over 18,940 suspected drug traffickers, comprising
17,444 males and 1,496 females, including 12 barons. Within the same period, it recorded 2,904
convictions as well as seizures of over 3.6 million kilograms of narcotics and other psychotropic
substances. Also, it has seized up to 286 assets and 600 bank accounts and blocked more than
600 bank accounts of drug offenders and contributed to the Consolidated Account of the
federation through asset forfeiture.
In assessing the performance of NDLEA under his stewardship at the end of 2021, the general
said the effort had led to drug supply reduction, interdiction and reformation of the agency. He
stated that the agency’s achievements in 2021 surpassed the records of any given year in the
past 30 years.
NDLEA’s major operations and spectacular drug seizures since 2021 include the largest single
cocaine seizure in its history – a prodigious amount of cocaine, weighing in the region of 1.8
tons and worth about N195 billion or over $278 million in street value. Four drug barons,
including a Jamaican and the warehouse manager, who are part of an international narcotics
ring under investigation since 2018, were apprehended in various places around Lagos State.
The records also include what Marwa described as the biggest single drug seizure from an
individual in 15 years – 26.84kg of cocaine smuggled from Brazil, 24.05kg of heroin, another
27.95kg of cocaine and another 26.15kg of heroin.
The agency has destroyed 406 hectares of cannabis farms, seized 230 tons of cannabis in Edo
State and over 100 tons of psychotropic substance across the country as well as counseled and
rehabilitated over 11,000 drug users in its facilities across the country. The approach involves
both recovering drug abusers as well as discouraging people never to get involved in drug abuse
in the first place. In pursuit of the latter, Marwa has engaged the Nigerian movie industry in the
drug war in sensitizing viewers on the dangers of drug abuse through didactic stories.
There have been seizures of 451, 807 captagon tablets, weighing 71.119 kg, 1,994,400 capsules
of tramadol, 144, 400 bottles of codeine syrup and 32.9 kg of cocaine all at Apapa seaport,
Lagos. The records include 43.11kg of cocaine and 22,590kg of codeine syrup seized at Tin Can
seaport, 4,996,200 capsules of tramadol, weighing 2,498kg seized at Onne port and another
interception of 100,000 (100ml) bottles of codeine cough syrups weighing 15,325kg seized at
the same port.
Giving account of the upscale battle with drug offenders, Marwa stated that “in December 2021
alone, over 34,000 kilograms of cannabis smuggled from Ghana were intercepted at the Eko
Atlantic City beach while more than 8.3 million capsules and tablets of tramadol were seized in
Lagos a week before Christmas”.
He added that about 1.5 million capsules of the same drug loaded in Onitsha, Anambra State,
heading to Kebbi and Kano States, were intercepted by his men in Edo State.
Part of Marwa’s success strategy is the deployment of a special task force across the country to
track and dismantle drug cartels behind the production and distribution of methamphetamine,
also called mkpuru mmiri, being abused by the youth in parts of the country.
NDLEA’s heightened records of drug seizure arrest and prosecution of drug peddlers have
registered a historic blow to illicit drug traffickers in Nigeria and the international cartels to the
point that Nigeria can no longer serve as their safe trading ground. The successes flash a fierce
warning to drug peddlers that it is no longer business as usual under the flaming sword of
Every kilogram of drug seized is one kilogram less on the street; every asset seized decapitates
the drug business; every drug trafficker arrested weakens a link in the drug supply chain and
every conviction is a tool lost to drug syndicates. This defines a clear roadmap to the future of
the agency and the nation under Marwa’s leadership.
A destruction of over 560,068kg of assorted illicit drugs in Badagry marked the largest single
quantity of drugs ever destroyed by the agency. Marwa, said the exercise is a strong message to
drug barons and cartels that their criminal trade and investments will end up in ruins in Nigeria
so that they back out and look for legitimate businesses to do.