Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd), the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has noted the need for a collective endeavor to establish an enduring alternative source of living for individuals involved in illegal drug trafficking. Addressing the NDLEA Special Purpose Committee gathering focused on the Alternative Development project in Nigeria, held in Abuja, Marwa said stakeholders must join forces in eliminating drug trafficking while safeguarding communities from exploitation by ruthless drug cartels. Marwa argued that by offering illicit drug traffickers sustainable alternative sources of income, it could effectively reduce both the production and trade of illegal drugs within the nation.
With the current dwindling influence of illegal drug dealers, attributed to intense crackdowns on their activities, there is a possibility of them going into various other criminal activities. Hence, it is imperative that we establish an alternative engagement, thereby preventing a perpetual cycle of these drug dealers. As part of the Alternative Development Program, Marwa emphasized the crucial utilization of crop substitution and education as key strategies. Our primary focus is to offer sustainable alternatives to illicit drugs, placing emphasis on the well-being and interests of individuals. Alongside this objective, we will establish robust systems to educate people about the hazards associated with cultivating and producing illegal drugs, particularly in relation to security and the environment.
Illicit drug cultivation poses threat to natural ecosystem.
The chairman’s representative, Lanre Ipinmisho, Special Adviser on National Drug Control Master Plan to the chairman, said the crop substitution initiative encompasses developing strategies to attract investments into Alternative Development projects through public-private partnership, especially in the agricultural sector. Moreover, he stated that illicit drug cultivation and production pose significant threats to both national and global security, causing disruption to the natural ecosystem. Meanwhile, the repercussions are apparent in the form of environmental deterioration, which in turn has had adverse effects on both the climate and human well-being.
Marwa pointed out the agency’s remarkable accomplishments, demonstrated through their remarkable confiscations of illegal drugs, elimination of cannabis plantations, shutdown of secret laboratories, apprehension and legal action against prominent individuals involved in drug trafficking, as well as the confiscation of valuable assets. Drawing attention to the necessity of establishing long-lasting alternative sources of income for those engaged in illicit drug trade, Marwa said it is essential for communities to collaborate in effectively addressing the issue of illegal substances. According to him, accomplishing this task requires involving individuals at the grassroots level, as well as targeting youths and women associations, traditional and religious leaders, and other influential figures from public and private sectors.
Pursuit of alternative development is a strategic approach.
According to him, successful collaboration is crucial to attain the desired outcomes in the execution of alternate development. Dr. Jorrit Kamminga, a consultant on sustainable livelihoods at UNODC in Vienna, Austria, praised NDLEA for integrating Alternative Development into their efforts to combat the illegal drug trade. He is optimistic about Nigeria’s potential to assume a prominent position in Africa, highlighting the significance of demonstrating the efficacy of alternative development programs and similar livelihood initiatives in addressing not just illicit cannabis cultivation but various other drug-related issues.
He explained that Nigeria possesses the capability to lead the way and demonstrate to other African nations, excluding Morocco, which possess inadequate familiarity with alternative development. In his opinion, Nigeria could also assume a prominent position by acknowledging the significance of the environment and biodiversity from the outset. Kamminga affirmed the relevance of the NDLEA’s pursuit of Alternative Development as a strategic approach, aligning with the commemoration of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Alternative Development’s 10th anniversary. He said inclusive strategies should be incorporated to ensure the long-term viability of the program.
Encouragement of social interconnectedness is a key factor.
Building effective resilience against poverty, conflict, and instability lies in fostering social harmony, diversity, and collaborative actions that transcend traditional family structures. A key element that has proven successful in driving alternative development towards this objective is the active encouragement of social interconnectedness. He stated that the role of producers’ associations or farmers’ organizations is crucial in helping farmers transition to legal crop cultivation. These organizations also play a vital role in safeguarding farmers’ future economic interests from harmful incentives that may arise from short-term, unsustainable profits.