Lapses in Interdepartmental Colaboration: NDLEA/Customs Service Disagree Over Usurpation of Roles

Oluseyi Dasilva




The lack of understanding of roles between Parastatals and agencies of government had always been a matter of concern  over the years causing hick ups in their operations most at times manifesting either as strive or competition resulting in conflict instead of mutual collaboration to achieve security ends.

Despite the difference in laws establishing each agency with limitations in their line of duties, sometimes, the agencies step outside their official lines encroaching on each other’s jurisdiction.

Sometime in February, 2020 at a press briefing the Kwara Command of the Nigeria Customs service showcased some large quantities of drugs, 3,593 kilograms of Indian Hemp (Cannabis Sativa) seized from suspected drug dealers in Kwara state.

The command promised to handover the said drugs to a sister agency, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, whose duty it is to conduct further analysis to determine next line of action over the seized drugs. The Customs said that arrests made had been transferred to appropriate agencies for prosecution but as there was no further feedback, our correspondent and other journalists approached the NDLEA to confirm if the interagency transfer of said drugs had been conducted, a close inside source reveal that no such transfer was ever made. Rather, the source hinted that the agency might be soon destroying some quantities of drugs seized from criminal elements over time.

The above position calls for questioning from the NDLEA therefore our correspondent contacted, the Kwara state Commander NDLEA, Mr Ambrose Umoru who declined comments on the incident.

He however said , “I don’t want to comment on what is happening on the incident but what I know is that no seized drug has been transferred to this Area Command.”

As stated in relevant sections of the law establishing the NDLEA, particularly Section 3(b) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 provides that the Agency (NDLEA) shall coordinate all drug laws and enforcement functions conferred on any person or authority including Ministers in the government of the Federation, by any such laws. Section 3 (q) of the NDLEA Act is more elaborate and self explanatory in defining the Agency’s functions devoid of all ambiguities and avoiding encroachment and misunderstanding from any quarters.

However an inside source revealed that the raised matter had been generating correspondences between the agencies over usurpation of authorities. In a leaked letter, the Customs Area command had invited the NDLEA to witness the planned burning of the drugs in question contrary to laid down rules.

The source reveals a document,  “Letter of invitation” written to the Commander, NDLEA, and signed by Z. Chado, Public Relations Officer on behalf of Customs Area Controller, the Comptroller General of Customs. The letter had indicated that direction had been given that the seized drug be burnt on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 in Ilorin at 11am.

According to the letter: “As part of our efforts to reduce influx of dangerous drugs into the country, the Nigeria Customs Service, Kwara Area Command has intercepted two buses; Renault and Jumper Citron conveying 48 sacks containing 3,593 kg of Marijuana (Cannabis Sativa) concealed in second hand clothing.

“In view of the above, the Comptroller General of Customs  has directed that the seized drugs be jointly destroyed with your agency and other relevant agencies.

“The destruction is slated as follows-: date-Wednesday, 6th May, 2020.

Time- 11am.”

From observations and feelers from  the NDLEA command, the invitation might not be honored as a way of protesting the usurpation of its constitutional duties by the Customs Service  in a situation that portend needless cold war between two sister agencies if roles are not usurped with either ignorance or deliberate acts. A letter written in reply to the Customs invitation pointed towards this.

The letter dated April 30,2020 signed by M. O. Odeleye, Principal Staff Officer, Prosecution and Legal Services of NDLEA written to the Nigeria Customs Service stated: “The fight against drug trafficking and its ancillary functions which include the destruction or disposal of seized illicit drugs and any property or properties incidental thereto, is the exclusive responsibility of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.

Our source at the NDLEA said that in the line of duties, the narcotic officers had arrested armed robbers in times past and after disarming them, handed them over to the police as stipulated by law for further prosecution, asking “why should another sister organization delve into NDLEA roles as if we are not on ground

It is expected that in future dealings, the headship of the agencies need to spell out functions to their outposts to prevent this manner of avoidable conflicts.

Though the NDLEA had expressed official appreciation of the efforts of the Customs in it collaboration in the war against trafficking in illicit drugs, but maintained that the destruction of the illicit drugs was not within the purview of the Customs Service.






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