The Joint Session of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprises (PAC/PEC) Committee of the National Assembly Wednesday adopted the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) Annual Activity Report and Audited Financial Statements for the year ended 31st December 2011
Presenting the Agency's report before the Committee, the Director General of the NDEA, Benedict Jammeh, revealed that the amount of drugs seized during the 2011 period showed a declining trend, as the number of cases reduced drastically.
He added that compared to 2010, the amount of cannabis and cocaine seized dropped significantly in 2011, noting that in 2010, the agency seized 1 ton, 944kg, 413g, 429mg of cannabis sativa and 2 tons, 345kg, 342g, 500mg of cocaine.
"In 2011, there was less than one ton of cannabis and less than 20 kilograms of cocaine seized".
"Cannabis sativa is still the main problem for the NDEA and, indeed, for The Gambia with 320 cases, which constituted 91% of all drug cases in 2011," he said, adding that the reason for this is the widespread cultivation of cannabis in the southern Senegalese province of Casamance which shares a long border with The Gambia.
This, he went on, is made worse by the lack of proper drug law enforcement in that area, on account of the on-going political conflict.
Going by records, he said that while most of the persons arrested with drugs are Gambian citizens, quite a lot of other foreign nationals are also involved in drug abuse and trafficking in The Gambia.
According to him, statistics have also shown that young people still continue to be involved in drug cases.
"This is a great cause for concern for the agency. Cannabis is one of the most available drugs in The Gambia that attracts youngsters."
He disclosed that of the 387 persons arrested in connection with drugs in 2011, 56 of them representing 15% are between 13-20 years", he stated, adding that even though most of the juvenile cases of drug abuse involve possession as opposed to trafficking, the figure is still a serious cause for concern if one considers the number of young offenders involved in the juvenile age bracket.
On prosecutions, Jammeh said the prosecution unit of the agency registered 275 cases which is a staggering record, noting that out of the total cases registered, 111 cases were dealt with and successfully prosecuted, with 7 convicts able to pay the court fines imposed on them, 18 cases were acquitted and discharged, whilst 164 cases are currently proceeding in court.
The vision of the NDEA, according to Director General Jammeh is to contribute to national development by wiping out drugs from the face of The Gambia for once and for posterity, further stating that the agency will continue to conduct raids, arrest suspects of drug abuse and bring to justice the suspects in a professional manner, in accordance with the Drug Control Act 2003.
Funding of the Agency
During 2011, according to him, the NDEA received an operating cost of D49, 596, 459.29, and this was received in the form of subventions from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs through the Office of the President, where the agency's budget line is allocated, as well as from court fines and monies accrued from rented properties of the agency.
"The subventions received totalled D44, 105, 834.35 representing salaries and allowances, one by six advance and other charges. The subventions were received monthly in the form of cheques which were deposited to the agency's operating fund account at the Central Bank".
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency boss, the extra funds generated such as 75% of court fines on drug cases during the period amounted to D5, 213, 933.99 and D210, 000 from the rent of a property of the agency.
NDEA in 2011, he revealed, had a staff strength of 474 officers working in different units and locations across the country.
"The NDEA continues to enjoy a mutual relationship with other sister security and financial institutions in the country in the fight against drug trafficking.
"The Agency also works closely with all the banks in the country in the provision of banking information of drug traffickers".
During the year under review, he said staff of NDEA participated in a series of training courses in the country and abroad.
Drug Talk Show on West Coast Radio
"The PRO of the Agency has been running this programme over West Coast Radio at Kotu, since July 2010. This programme was initially sponsored by Gamcel up to December. But due to the public interest and high demand, Gamcel deemed it fit and necessary to renew the contract with West Coast Radio by extending the program for the third time until 31st December 2012. The program runs every Thursday from 7pm to 8pm", he said.
He concluded that it is clear that the agency has registered resounding success during 2011, thanks to the enormous support it continues to receive from the Office of The President under whose purview it is currently executing its mandate.
"Nonetheless, the agency is not without some constraints. While some of them have been addressed, management is calling on the general public and government institutions and partners to complement the efforts of His Excellency the President to collectively address some of the remaining challenges facing the agency so that together, we can all fight and win the war on drugs"
According to Ibrahima Sanyang, senior compliance officer at the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA), the NDEA was found to substantially be in compliance with the Public Procurement Act and Regulations during 2011.
Members and subject matter specialists then raised questions, comments, observations, and recommendations before the committee finally adopted the NDEA report.