The Executive Director of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Sim Turay says that the rate of dealers in harmful drugs such as cocaine and cannabis certiva (Diamba) has dramatically increased over the years.
He also said this has continued with little or no effort by authorities to curb the appalling situation.
The Executive Director, Lieutenant Colonel (Rtd) Sim Turay made his submission to members of Parliament constituting the Committee on Internal Affairs, during a familiarization visit to his office situated along Walpole Street.
In a tone of bitterness, the Director pointed out that the agency has, since its establishment in 2003, been rendered lame, in the discharge of its mandate as prescribed in the 2008 Act. Without the institution’s effective function, he noted, the rate of drug addiction and the cultivating of Diamba and the illegal importation of harmful drugs such as cocaine among others, has steadily increased, with no remedial action taken to arrest the situation.
With a total of eleven personnel including one driver, he said that the agency has found itself in a quagmire of not having the capacity to foster any form of meaningful collaborative working relationship with other agencies of complementary mandates, and as a result, has seen itself in the periphery of the country’s intelligence community.
He said that NDLEA has never been able to deliver on its parliamentary mandate throughout its over 11 years history, needless to talk of prosecuting a case under the National Drug Control Act of 2008. The reason for this, he said, is that the agency has never been provided with an operational infrastructure, in terms of personnel, vehicles, motorcycles, equipment and the right level of recurrent expenditure to enable it have the capacity to fulfill its statutory role, especially when the agency’s national budget is perennially pegged at three hundred million Leones (300,000,000), while the budget of other institutions of complementary mandates, such as the Office of National Security (ONS) far surpasses theirs.
To this end, he lamented, NDLEA remains the only institution in the public security sector without a management structure.
He advanced that latest research and empirical evidence has revealed that diamba cultivation and consumption has seen a rise to the extent that it has become a new phenomenon. He said, the export of diamba to neighboring Guinea and Liberia has seen a dramatic rise.
This, he said, is against the backdrop of Sierra Leone being one of the key distribution or transit zones along the West African coast for South American trafficking organizations, establishing safe havens for receipt, storage and transshipment of large consignment of cocaine destined for European markets. The Director expressed in no uncertain terms that the reason for the sheer neglect of the agency boils to the fact that “there are people in high places who are trading in drugs, and are likely those who are going all out to prevent our access to resources that will enable our operation.” If I am tempted to name names, it will be a tsunami in this country” he muttered.
He said that there has been no funds provided for the institution for the past five months now, and that Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has given no amount to the institution since the commencement of this financial year.
As a result, the Executive Director expressed his total displeasure over the Office of the Chief of Staff for listing them as the “worst performing institution” for the year reviewed. He argued that considering the “undisputable” fact that NDLEA is unable to operate let alone perform because of its lack of operational capacity, the COS should justify the inclusion of the agency in a Presidential Performance Contract.
The Director maintained that their operational ineptitude has resulted in the usurpation of their mandate, as the transnational drug control unit has over the years been performing their own duty because they have the manpower, resources and equipment- a negative development his agency views with disdain.
Lending credence to the issue of rampant drug trade in the country, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Francis Munu, during the visit of the Internal Affairs Committee at their Headquarters, noted that people have considered the cultivation of diamba more profitable than rice.
Such was a response, when members of the committee, especially the Honourable Paramount Chief from Moyamba District, Hon. PC Joseph Ali Kavura-Kongomoh II reported to the IGP that there is a large acreage of diamba farm in the district, of which he has got no knowledge of who planted it.
Another MP from Kambia District, whose constituency borders Sierra Leone and Guinea testified that there is an increase of importation of diamba from Sierra Leone to Guinea and back, as a result of the border porosity in that part of the country.
However, the Deputy Chair of the Committee on Internal Affairs, Hon. Tamba Entochema Ebba noted that the need to raise the capacity of NDLEA in the rise of drug malaise in the country cannot be over-emphasized. He supported other MPs who suggested that the Ministry of Finance should be approached with regards the disbursement of necessary funds to enhance the operation of such vital institution, instead of waiting until the situation simmers to a deteriorating point.
By Poindexter Sama
Monday May 19, 2014