The quantity of illicit drugs that comes into Nigeria by sea is frightening and if urgent steps are not taken by the government, the country may soon turn into a drug haven. The prospect is terrifying and portends great danger to the stability and prosperity of Nigeria.

Last Friday, officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) who were drafted at the Tincan seaport in Lagos, South West Nigeria, intercepted 450.4 kilogrammes of cocaine valued at over N4 billion after a tip off.  The drug, the second largest seizure ever made in Nigeria, was shipped from Chile. The anti-narcotics agents had kept tab on the illicit powder which passed through Peru, Bolivia, Belgium and other African countries before it reached Nigeria.

According to Ahmadu Giade, NDLEA Chairman, the drug was neatly concealed in customised floor wood inside a container which was cleared at Tincan seaport and taken to a private warehouse at Iganmu, a suburb of Lagos.  The agency said that two Chinese and their Nigerian clearing agent have been arrested in connection with the seizure.

In 2006, NDLEA agents intercepted 14.2 tons of cocaine at the same port. Nobody was arrested then because the drug had not been cleared when the officials struck. There is fear that similar quantities of cocaine or heroin may be entering the country daily undetected by the ill-equipped NDLEA officials at the five Nigerian seaports.

Even NDLEA admits that it is impossible to know the amount of illicit drugs that enters Nigeria daily. “You can’t know the quantity of drug coming into Nigeria, but cocaine comes from South America while Heroin comes from the Far East,” says Mitchell Ofoyeju, NDLEA’s Head of Public Affairs.

Although Giade described last Friday’s drug seizure as a breakthrough in the fight against drug trafficking and abuse in the country, we believe that it has again highlighted the need for container scanners at our seaports. Without container scanners at the five Nigeria’s seaports, the war against drug trafficking and abuse in the country will, ipso facto, remain unsuccessful. The Federal Government pays lip service to providing equipment and other crime fighting tools to security agencies that is why weapons illegally find their way into the country, thus resulting in the current high state of insecurity everywhere. What would it cost to provide scanners at the seaports where arms and ammunition, drugs and other toxic materials are shipped into the country?

With container scanners, NDLEA officials will only need to scan consignments before they leave the seaport as it is almost impossible for them to open all the consignments at the port in a bid to detect illicit drugs.  That is how it is done in other countries.

Imagine a situation where hundreds of kilogrammes of cocaine or heroin enter the country via our seaports and only a few dozens are seized at the airports? It will be like a drop of water in the ocean.

We call on the Nigerian government to immediately purchase five container scanners and train those who will use them if the war against illicit drug must succeed in Nigeria.