Has The NDLEA Become A Nest Of Killers? -By Kene Obiezu

Nigerians know a thing or two about what it really means to have a close shave with law enforcement. In 2020,it was reactions from the manhandling of a man in Sapele, Delta State that triggered the unprecedented wave of protests which rocked Nigeria to its core.

Since Nigeria returned to the path of democracy in 1999, there have been many instances of extrajudicial killing of Nigerians by agents of the state. Unfortunately, many of these killings have gone unpunished. It speaks volumes about a situation that has become a nightmare for human rights that more than three years after innocent protesters were mauled at the Lekki Toll Gate, no single soldier or police officer has been prosecuted.

In a country where killers usually get away, it is no surprise that men of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) are rapidly gaining notoriety for the lethality of their triggers rather than the efficacy of their operations. The deadly incidents have been especially heartbreaking.

On Thursday, July 13, 2023  when NDLEA officers stormed the Okpanam area of Asaba Delta State, in a drug raid, two-year- old Ivan Omorhiakogbe was killed, and his younger brother was injured to leave a young family devastated.

The carnage carriage moved to the Idioro area of Mushin Lagos on Wednesday, July 26, 2023   when 22-year-old Gafaru Yusuf  and one Emmanuel Olomowe we were killed by operatives of the agency. According to the report, men of the agency were in the area to raid a drug den when their indiscriminate shooting snuffed the life out of the deceased. The families of the victims have cried out for justice to thrust the NDLEA  firmly into a public storm for no good reason.

There is no doubt that in the face of a raging drug abuse epidemic in Nigeria, the NDLEA has seen its hitherto difficult job become almost impossible. The availability and proliferation of cheap narcotics is leaving  Nigeria with an entire generation of drug addicts to grapple with.

As the government agency charged with confronting the deadly malaise, the NDLEA is undoubtedly under a lot of pressure, but there must also employ a lot of caution and circumspection.

Firstly, many Nigerians believe that many of the NDLEA operatives at the lower cadre level are drug users themselves. This creates a credibility crisis to start with.

Then, there is the very present danger of the NDLEA going the way of the Nigerian police and, very recently, the Department of State Services in preferring lawlessness to lawfulness.

The NDLEA Is a creation of the NDLEA Act which is a statute of Nigerian law. Invariably, for the agency’s actions to be at once legal and valid, it must strictly colour within the lines of the law. There is no other way around it.

Unfortunately, in Nigeria, there is a tendency for overzealous government agencies to overstep their bounds in a bid to do their jobs properly.

The agency recently revealed that a staggering 14.3 million Nigerians use drugs. This invariably means an extensive network of dealers and users. There is no doubt that it is a serious nightmare for the men of the agency.

The danger when those who represent the Nigerian state do not show pristine professionalism in their operations is that they not only bring a bad name to the government they represent but, invariably, they suffer a loss of credibility. In an age where collaboration and communication are indispensable to any proper law enforcement work, this can be fatal.

There must be consequences for the tragic killings of innocent Nigerians. Even if the killings can be excused for being without any intention, the agency must be made to improve its rules of engagement, especially with everyday Nigerians.

There can be no proper law enforcement without pristine professionalism. Accountability and transparency are key, especially when it has to do with law enforcement.

It Is from the people that every state and agency of state must draw its credibility and legitimacy. There is no gainsaying the fact that people won’t buy in until they see that they can trust those who supposedly work for them.

The EndSARS protests of 2020 which broke out over police brutality and ended in such tragic fashion at the Lekki Toll Gate, showed that there is an extent to which people can tolerate the excesses of power.

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