The new National Drug Control Act 2008, approved by Parliament yesterday, proscribed a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for drug offenders.
The bill was sent to parliament with a certificate of urgency signed by the President Ernest Bai Koroma.
The bill though also proscribes drug abuse and trafficking as clause 7 of the bill prohibits the production, cultivation, manufacture, importation and exportation of drugs, which is aimed at controlling or eliminating sources of drugs and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Explaining the Bill entitled the National Drug Control Act 2008, the Internal Affairs, Local Government and Rural Development Minister Dauda Kamara said the Act was to establish the National Drug law enforcement Agency to provide for the control and prevention of the abuse of Narcotic Drugs and to implement the provisions of international drug control and to provide for other related matters.
The Minister explained that drug trafficking, especially in narcotics, has become a worldwide concern, more so with recent events at the Freetown International Airport.
He stated that at the end of the war, Sierra Leone witnessed an alarming rate of drug trafficking and abuse which compounded negative effects of the war.
To address that, he explained that the police play a significant role in maintaining law and order, but there needs to be an established body to fight drug trafficking. “These are the reasons why this bill seeks to establish the national drug law and an agency which will be headed by an executive Director to be appointed by the President to be approved by parliament.”
He also said the bill provides for the protection of people who voluntarily give information leading to the apprehension of drugs traffickers and abusers.
Responding to the bill, Hon Tamba Khabenje of SLPP said the bill should have been in parliament long ago and that it caters for the youths and their protections.
Hon Dr Moses Sesay of APC explained how drugs were abused during the war periods and also the consequences of taking drugs. He said drugs affect the cells and reduce the chemicals that supply the brain, causing people to act abnormally.
Hon Sheka Musa Sama of PMDC reiterated that drug abuse and misuse increases crime rates and affects the youths more so at the present economic hardship in the country. He cautioned that the bill should not have any political hypocrisy and questioned the fight against the present cocaine scam where he said the names of some people have been mentioned but those people are still serving in their various capacities whilst investigations are ongoing.
Hon Dr Brima Kamanda of SLPP cited instances where countries and their presidents are known to be dealing in narcotics for which it is not so in Sierra Leone. He called on Government to put a premium on the country’s airspace and to critically look into the circumstances that led to the landing of the cocaine plane at the Freetown international Airport at Lungi.
The deputy majority leader Hon S.B.B Dumbuya of APC spoke that, with the bill, drug traffickers shall think twice before engaging in drug trade. He described drug trafficking as a monstrous act for which affirmative action needed to be taken. Parliament took the whole day from 10: 30 am to about 6:40 pm debating the bill.
By Ishmael Bayoh and Yu Nakayama