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Drug abuse poses serious threat to national security

- TOCU officer

September 23, 2015 By Memunatu Bangura

An officer at the Transnational Organised Crime Unit (TOCU) has opined that drug abuse could pose a serious threat to national security.

Ismaila Samura was speaking yesterday during the launch of the Development and Drug Policy Network-Sierra Leone chapter (DPN-SL). He attributed the prevalence of violent crimes, including armed robbery, to the misuse of drugs by the country’s youths.

However, Samura said the problem is not unique to Sierra Leone alone as a study had indicated that the West Africa sub-region is used as a transit point for drugs from Latin America to Western Europe.

He further disclosed that cannabis sativa, known locally as ‘diamba’, is widely cultivated in the four regions of Sierra Leone, and that the development poses a serious threat to food security.

While officially launching DPN-SL, country director of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Joe Hindovei Pemagbi, underscored that drug trafficking poses a serious threat to good governance, peace and stability, economic growth and public health in West Africa.

He said West Africa is experiencing new and emerging problems associated with the drug trade, adding that OSIWA believes that learning from past successes and mistakes is an effective response mechanism to drug trafficking in the sub-region.

He stated that civil society organisations, alongside the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WADC), could play a central role in combating drug trafficking in the sub-region by increasing political awareness on the menace, promoting effective response and serving as a watchdog to challenge and monitor ineffective policy response.

Director of communication and outreach at DPN-SL, Saa Matthias D. Bendu, said drug trafficking, consumption and production in West Africa undermines institutions, threatens public health and developmental efforts.

According to him, drugs are both a cause and consequence of poverty, as 22 out of 34 countries least likely to achieve the Millennium Development Goals are either drug producers or lie along drugs trafficking routes.

Mr. Bendu cautioned that West Africa should not become a new frontline of the failed ‘war on drugs’ which, according to him, has neither reduced consumption nor put traffickers out of business.

“Traffickers and accomplices should face the full force of the law, but it should not be applied disproportionately to the poor, uneducated and vulnerable, while the powerful and well-connected slip through the enforcement net,” he urged.

He also stated that drug use and abuse should be treated as health rather than criminal justice issue as users need help and not punishment.

He pleaded with West African leaders to drastically expand drugs treatment and harm reduction to allow society to heal.

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