10 January 2013

Gambia: Parliament Adopts NDEA Report

The annual reports and financial statements of the National Drug Law, Enforcement Agency (NDEA) were yesterday adopted by the joint sessions of the Public Accounts and Enterprises Committees PAC/PEC of the National Assembly at the Legislative Chambers in Banjul.

"The NDEA was created by an Act of Parliament in 2003 to provide for the regulation of the use, possession and trafficking of controlled drugs, prohibited drugs, analogues and precursors", asserted Director General Benedict Jammeh.

DG Jammeh in his presentation told deputies that the agency has been under the purview of the Ministry of Interior until April 2010 when it was moved to the Office of The President. He mentioned that the vision of the agency is to wipe out drugs from the face of the country. He highlighted the major challenges facing the agency.

"At the time, the Agency did not receive its own subvention directly. Rather, funds were disbursed from the consolidated fund of the Ministry of Interior on a month-to-month basis until the Agency was moved to the Office of the President", he disclosed.

The NDEA boss mentions the issue of drug seizures and prosecutions in the country. He mentioned in his report the amount of drug seized during the period shows a declining trend as the number of cases reduced drastically. He disclosed the seizing of 1 tonne, 944kg, 413g, 429mg of cannabis sativa and 2 tons, 345kg, 342g, 500mg of cocaine.

"Cannabis sativa is still the main problem for the NDEA and indeed for The Gambia with 320 cases which constitutes 91% of all drug cases for 2011", said NDEA boss.

DG Jammeh asserted that the reason for this is mainly caused by the widespread cultivation of cannabis in the southern Senegalese province of Cassamance. He blames the problem on the lack of proper drug law enforcement in that area on account of the ongoing political conflict. He revealed that most of the persons arrested with drugs are Gambian citizens.

"Statistics show that young people still continue to be involved in drug cases. This is a great concern for the Agency", he pointed out.

However, the external auditors revealed a two ton cocaine exhibit stored at the Banjul NDEA station while the case was treated and closed by the court. It was recommended for the Agency to destroy the drug in line with regulations to prevent any temptation to recycle them. The management response was that it was seeking for an incinerator to be able to destroy the substance very professionally. They disclosed that an incinerator has been acquired and before the end of January the two ton cocaine would be destroyed.

"We have discovered the increase of Gambians implanting drugs on one another leading to many family disputes", said DG Jammeh.

Mr. Ibrahima Sanyang, the representative of the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA) revealed that the Agency was found substantially compliant with the regulations of the Authority.

"I want to know whether you have plans to build rehabilitation centres to help those addicted to drug", asserted Hon. Buba Ayi Sanneh, NAM for Kombo Central.

The Kombo Central NAM lamented about drug related issues which he said is a global problem. He argued that the country cannot afford to lose its youths.

Hon. Abdoulie Saine, NAM for Banjul Central questioned the strategies and plans to control the use of cannabis.

"What has been the impact on the rise and fall of addiction rates in the country", enquired Mr. TSA Njie, Subject Matter Specialist.

Mr. Njie emphasized in his intervention the need for impact assessment. He further questioned about the impact on the economy. He also recommends for the inclusion of medical impact on the report.

Meanwhile, Supt. Abdoulie Ceesay, the Public Relation Officer (PRO) of the Agency has confirmed rehabilitation aspect as part of their mandate. He said it is part of their plans but admits that it is expensive and difficult to maintain. He disclosed that they are cooperating with the medical treatment aspect. He further disclosed the plan to initiate community sensitization committees in all regions of the country.

Many interventions were made by several NAMs including the Hon. Deputy Speaker Fatou Mbye, Majority Leader, NAM for Niamina East, Illiasa and Nominated members. There was emphasis on sensitizing the public especially in the school systems. The Agency was advised to engage all stakeholders in the fight against drugs.

Subsequently, Hon. Abdoulie Bojang, the Speaker of the National Assembly and also Chairman of the PAC/PEC commended the Agency before adopting the reports. The session was adjourned till today 10th January 2013.

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