Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jail Evasion Cartel and the Drug War

The screaming headline in one of the weekend papers of April 18, 2009 reads ‘FG Uncovers Jail Evasion Cartel in NDLEA’. The report said 197 convicted drug barons and couriers had been illegally set free while 14 lawyers, 11 NDLEA officials and 11 prison wardens are involved. However, a news report on April 22 and advertorial on April 27 by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) debunks the involvement of members of the NDLEA. Rather the spokesperson of the agency said “the true position is that sometime in August 2006, acting on information that drug convicts manipulate themselves against serving jail terms with the connivance of some persons, NDLEA Chairman/ Chief Executive, Ahmadu Giade, ordered the Directorate of Inspectorate Services to investigate the allegations. “He also directed that all drug convicts sentenced between 2005 and 2006 be investigated with a view to confirming if they had served their full jail terms”. According to the NDLEA, “the outcome of the internal investigations was shocking, as it was discovered that a total of 101 drug convicts for 2005 and 96 drug convicts for 2006 were never taken to prison to serve their jail terms”. The report was alleged to have indicted two staff of the Federal High Court and 10 staff of the Nigerian Prisons Service as being the masterminds of the cartel. The finding was said to have been reported to the then Attorney-General of the Federation on August 18, 2006 in which the agency recommended to the Attorney General thorough investigation of all the convicts serving in Nigerian prisons. Whether it is the earlier news report or the reaction of NDLEA on the scandal, one thing is clear, the cartel truly exist. It has taken three years to unearth the existence of the referenced reports in the advertorial and yet it is unclear if the culprits responsible for this scandalous act of disservice to the nation have been prosecuted.How are we sure that all those notorious criminals the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) boasted to have put behind bars, all the human traffickers National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) claimed to have brought to justice or many other well connected criminals ever spent a day of their jail term in prison?The fact that the drug barons know that they can buy justice and escape punishment is responsible for the upsurge in the number of drug couriers and barons. At a recent media briefing, NDLEA boss said that in the first three months of the year (2009), the agency arrested 38 persons at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos alone. The import of that figure comes stronger in the agency’s disclosure that it arrested a total of 6,308 suspects in 2007, and 7,899 in 2008, an increase of 1,591 cases representing 20.14 per cent.It is laughable that when other countries are administering more punitive measures to prosecute their drug wars, the few who get caught are able to manipulate the system to escape punishment in Nigeria.It remains to be seen when the much-touted police, prison and judicial reforms will be concluded to give social justice a true meaning. Good people, great nation, indeed!