An insider revealed there is a boom in Nigeria's hard drug business with serious lapses in suspects' prosecution. "It is well known that a cartel operates within the courts, the prisons and at the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to assist drug convicts to evade jail terms," a source disclosed.
Recent media exposure of cartel's activities triggered the inauguration of a panel charged with examining the activities of the anti-drug agency and headed by Justice Gilbert Obanya. However, acoording to the source, the cartel succeeded in killing the report of the Obanya panel, using contacts in high places.
Encouraged by the simplicity with which they repressed the Obanya report, Nigeria's major drug barons have devised new strategies to get away with their deeds: a combination of bribes, blackmail and threats to frustrate their prosecution and avoid jail terms.
When Justice Ibrahim N. Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos, assumed duties in 2012, the crisis deepened even more. The judge was overwhelmed to find out that more than a hundred accused drug barons granted bail on liberal terms by Justice Liman had jumped bail. An investigation revealed that the situation was the same in several other courts.
The judge, clearly frustrated with the situation, has repeatedly scolded the NDLEA in court. He has also issued several orders to the agency to re-arrest suspects -- but to no avail.
"The latest tactics by these big shot drug dealers is to contract special defense lawyers to handle their cases," said another source within the judiciary, adding: "These big name lawyers know the judges who are favorable and those that are tough. They then use dubious court officials to manipulate and make sure that their client’s case is assigned to a favorable court."
According to the sources, the notorious judges then grant bail to the suspects on liberal terms, with the stipulation that the NDLEA must verify the sureties. "Within the NDLEA organization, the job of verifying sureties is done by the same group of people who would endorse any arrangement made by the defense lawyers," one source said. Such arrangements enabled drug barons to continue to thrive, according to him.
The scenario was confirmed by yet another source: Justice Buba's no-nonsense approach changed the game and made life tough for drug crime bosses.
"Now, the Honorable Justice Buba's court is avoided by defense counsel like the plague," he said.
Two sources inside the NDLEA accused the agency's chairman, Amadu Giade, of failed leadership. One source said Mr. Giade was indifferent to the acts of corruption and collusion with drug dealers that go on inside the agency. "He appears to take pleasure only in attending international meetings. He has turned a blind eye to the state of affairs at the NDLEA."
The other NDLEA source claimed that Mr. Giade has come up with no response to the problems at the agency because of sheer incompetence. "The fact of the matter is that, until a competent, knowledgeable and highly disciplined appointee is brought in, the drug war will continue to be a sham," said the source.