The Deputy President of the Senate, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege (APC- Delta) has called for an increase in the funding of the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency to tackle drug abuse in Nigeria.
Omo-Agege, who decried the growing trend of drug abuse among the youth, also called for establishment of more rehabilitation centres across the country.
Yomi Odunuga, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Deputy President of the Senate, in a statement on Wednesday said Omo-Agege made the call in Abuja when he hosted two associations.
The associations, according to Odunuga, are League for Societal Protection Against Drug and Sexual Abuse in Nigeria as well as the Youth and Poor Association of Nigeria, led by Amb. Mariam Hassan.
Omo-Agege expressed serious concern about the ugly trend of substance abuse and called for concerted effort to curb the development.
Responding to request from Hassan to place NDLEA on first line charge to ensure prompt and direct release of appropriated funds, Omo-Agege said: “This will be considered if it becomes difficult to ensure early release of funds to the agency.”
He was, however, upbeat that with the adoption of the January to December budget cycle by the Ninth Assembly, early release of funds to the agency would be guaranteed.
“I agree with you that the funding of NDLEA is inadequate. This is a very serious issue. And they provide very serious services.
“We need to make everyone understand how important it is and give them adequate funding. We will look into the issue.
“If there are no ways to achieve early release of appropriated funds to the agency, then we may look at the option (First Line Charge) you articulated just like we are doing for the Universal Basic Education Commission.
“But before we do that I think we should explore to see if we can ensure early release of funds to them.
“Let me also point out that it becomes easier because of the position we have taken here in the Ninth Senate to resort to the January to December budget cycle; with this, I believe prompt release of funds will now be guaranteed.
“Kano will get more rehabilitation centres because it appears to be the epicenter of this challenge.
“So, you have the backing of the National Assembly to address this concern. You can count on the National Assembly to do everything to bring this issue to the spotlight,” he said.
Emphasising the need for more awareness on the menace of drug abuse, the senator noted that besides government, parents, schools, religious centres, corporate and non-governmental organisations all have roles to play in addressing the situation.
He also gave the commitment of the National Assembly to amend the extant laws against drug abuse for stringent punishment for offenders.
This, he explained, would serve as deterrent to would-be offenders.
Omo-Agege lauded the associations for bringing the issue to the front burner, even as he recalled that there had been several motions on the floor of the Senate dealing with drug abuse and inadequate rehabilitation centres across the country.
“I must confess that even though this is a serious matter that has been there for so long, this is the first time I am seeing a concerted effort by a group of young people to take the challenge to arrest this menace.
“This is the first time I am seeing an organised group outside the National Assembly make this case and I commend you for that.
“You are not alone in this; you have the support and backing of the National Assembly.
“In a nutshell, the diagnosis that you have made, everyone acknowledges that.
“You have rightly identified what the problems are. All that is left right now is how do we address them?
“I can give you that commitment that we are going to amend that law to address the issues you have raised like stringent punishment for offenders to deter potential violators.
“We will make it so stringent that any violation could take them out of business,” he added.
Earlier in her remarks, Hassan had lamented inadequate funding of the NDLEA.
She also made a case for the agency to be placed on first line charge.
This, she noted, would ensure direct and early release of funds to enable the agency to be proactive in its drive to eradicate drug abuse in the society.
She expressed worry over the increasing rate of drug abuse among the youth which, according to her, is responsible for the upsurge in the rate of crime in the society.
High point of the visit was the presentation of an award to the Deputy President of the Senate and decoration with a medal for his legislative interventions and bipartisanship in addressing national issues.