Governor Akeredolu runs into trouble
OpenLife Nigeria reports that, for the umpteenth time, President Muhammadu Buhari has warned governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State that he risks going to jail if he continues with his policy direction that is antithetical to the federal government’s commitment to decency and normalcy.
This indication emerged on Saturday, June 26 when President Buhari identified drug trafficking and abuse as more threatening to the stability of the nation than banditry and insurgency that are prevalent in some parts of Nigeria.
In contrast, governor Akeredolu has been a leading apostle of the official adoption of cannabis in Nigeria, arguing that its commercial value in terms of medicinal contents cannot be over-emphasized.
Already, the Ondo governor is in high-level talks with foreign countries known for cannabis on how fast cannabis plantation can commence in Ondo.
But Buhari, on the other hand, declared that drug abuse has become so endemic in the country now that it already stretches across three generations of grandparents, parents and their wards.
Ironically, Governor Akeredolu does not see it that way.
Also, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), has disclosed that within the last five months, no fewer than 2,180 suspected traffickers including five drug barons had been nabbed across the country.
President Buhari, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, spoke at the launch of the War Against Drug Abuse (WADA), an initiative of the NDLEA to mark the United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking themed: “Share Facts on Drugs. Save Lives.”
The President emphasised that the anti-drug war was more deadly than the insurgency in the Northeastern part of the country or the acts of banditry in the Northwest or the acts of kidnapping that transcends all the geopolitical zones of this country.
According to him, it is a war that is destroying three generations, because there were clips of some grandparents on drugs, parents on drugs, and by extension, their wards and children had also taken to drugs.
“So, this is a war that is targeting three generations in a stretch. So, it is more deadly than even the security challenges that we are having in this country and I believe strongly that every effort must be put in place to ensure that we deal with the issues of substance abuse and trafficking and manufacture so that we can get to the root cause of the mirage of insecurity problems that are confronting this nation and I believe strongly, with every bit of conviction, that if we are able to deal with the issues of drug abuse, substantially, our security challenges will drastically reduce as we walk towards a drug free, Nigeria”.
The President also charged the NDLEA to intensify efforts at ridding the vast forests of the Southwest and South-South regions of the country of criminal elements, who had made the places their hideouts, from where they launch criminal onslaughts as well as for farming marijuana.
President Buhari said: “I am directing the NDLEA to develop a robust risk-communication and community engagement strategy that will not only disseminate the four pillars of the plan to responsible entities, but also deal with destroying production sites and laboratories, break the supply chain, discourage drug use and prosecute offenders as well as traffickers, rehabilitate addicts and enforcement of relevant laws.
“I want to particularly draw the attention of the agency to the fact that the use of many of our forests as criminal hideouts is because large swathes of cannabis plantations are hidden deep within those forests, especially, in the Southwest and the South-South.
“You may, therefore, need to drive these criminal elements from such hideouts, because they use it for the growth of these plants and also as a repository for criminal elements to conclude and plan their adventures on our people”.
He, however, called on all families, schools, civil society organisations, professional associations, religious organisations, the academia, community leaders and individuals to work for the common good in order to rid their communities of drug use and trafficking.
“As your President, I will continue to address underlying causes of drug abuse, including poverty reduction, for which my pledge for lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years and strengthened by the recently developed National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy signposts my unwavering commitment.
“I would like to appreciate our stakeholders and international collaborators, especially, the European Union, and the United Nations Office for Drugs and Control, for their unwavering support to our drug control efforts, including the development of our roadmap. Also appreciated are the members of the inter-ministerial committee on drug control, civil society organisations, the academia, for their contributions and efforts to our National Drug Control initiatives.
“The war against drugs is a war that must be fought by all, it is therefore my pleasure, to declare on behalf of the good people of Nigeria, a War Against Drug Abuse (WADA), not just as a slogan, but a call for civil action for all Nigerians to take active part in this war”.
Shedding more light on their current efforts, Chairman of the NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd) put the cash value and drugs seized in the past five months since he assumed office at over N90 billion adding that over 2,180 traffickers had been arrested, including five drug barons controlling different cartels across Nigeria.
Incidentally, this presidential position, in the estimation of public affairs analysts, is a direct warning to governor Rotimi Akeredolu to apply caution in his cannabis campaigns.
The Governor has announced plans to start cultivating medical cannabis in controlled plantations. Akeredolu claims that the international medical cannabis industry will be worth $145bn by 2025 and that Nigeria is well placed to capitalise on this market.
Beginning from the early days of his administration, the Governor disclosed plan by the state government to grow marijuana, also known as Indian hemp or cannabis or Igbo as locally known, for economic reasons.
His cannabis revolution was announced on Monday, May 13, 2019, when he was in Thailand for a programme on medicinal cannabis extract development.
Taking to his Twitter account, the governor said Nigeria would be short-changing itself by not tapping into the economic value of marijuana, said to be valued at $145 billion in 2025.
He said the enterprise, under the supervision of the NDLEA, would create thousands of jobs for Nigerians if seriously considered by the Federal Government. “I strongly implore the Federal Government to take this seriously as it is a thriving industry that will create thousands of jobs for our youth and spur economic diversification.”
It remains to be seen how far governor Akeredolu can go with his cannabis initiatives.