Senior stakeholders of the Office of National Security (ONS) have met at their Conference Room to find practicable solutions to the scourge of drug abuse in Sierra Leone.
It is no gainsaying that the problem of drug abuse and misuse in Sierra Leone is becoming a national security concern that needs concerted efforts to address as a matter of urgency.
Present at the meeting were stakeholders drawn from the relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, including; representatives from the Ministries of Youth Affairs, Local Government and Rural Development, MBSSE, Social Welfare, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Pharmacy Board of Sierra Leone, Law Officers Department, Immigration, the SLP, RSLAF, Traders Council, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), among others.
National Security Coordinator (NSCoord), Office of National Security; Abdulai Caulker expressed concerns over the spate of drug misuse and further stated that it is disappointing that some people are deliberately stage-managing and/or choreographing videos and images to make political capital out of the unfortunate situation confronting our beloved country.
The NSCoord stated however that he had summoned the meeting to leverage stakeholders’ concerted efforts into resolving the national menace.
The NSCoord’s opening remark was followed by a presentation done by the Deputy Director, Serious Organised Crime Coordination and Counter-terrorism, Office of National Security on the topic, “Strategies to address the national scourge of drug abuse in Sierra Leone”. The presentation sets the tone for the succeeding discussions.
In his contribution, the Chairman of the Board of Governors, NDLEA informed the meeting that Sierra Leone has a National Drug Strategy that has been validated but needed to be launched before its implementation.
He stated that the said strategy, though considered the best within the ECOWAS region, is yet to be launched because of funding constraints. Outlining the objectives of the strategy on drugs, the Board Chairman stated that with the NDLEA now having enforcement powers, implementing the provisions of the strategy will be efficient and will go a long way in effectively addressing the drug abuse problem plaguing Sierra Leone.
The meeting resolved at launching of the National Strategy on Drugs – The NSCoord, in collaboration of the NDLEA will take the process forward as a matter of urgency.
It also resolved at setting up a working group that has been mandated to come out with immediate and long-term measures to address the drug (including the infamous Kush) problem in Sierra Leone.
The constituted working group comprises representatives drawn from the following institutions; ONS, NDLEA, MoYA, SLID, LOD, Social Welfare, MBSSE, Sierra Leone Ports Authority, NRA, SLAJ and World Vision.
This working group has two weeks to come out with practicable measures in addressing the drug menace affecting the country – ONS is taking the lead.
In addition, the meeting also resolved that under the auspices of the Transnational Organised Crime Unit (TOCU) and/SLP the security sector will mount sustained intelligence-led operations in order to crack down on drug cartels and kingpins across the country; that mounting an aggressive media sensitization and education campaign of the public and users on the destructive nature of all hard drugs.
The StratCom, the NDLEA, PBSL and Social Welfare to be engaged in sustained media education, effective immediately.
The same themes and messages developed by the StratCom should be cascaded to the decentralised security committees in order to ensure that the PROSECs, DISECs and CHISECs replicate the national efforts at the decentralised levels.
The Directorates of Border and Provincial Security to ensure that the operatives at the border crossing points strengthen their vigilance for the purpose of curbing the trafficking of drugs and prevent other illegal activities.
The PROSECs, DISECs and CHISECs to engage the local Councillors, MPs, and other local authorities to join the efforts in the fight against drug abuse and misuse; and mobilise the requisite resources for the implementation of the NDLEA Strategic Plan.
It was resolved that since Sierra Leone’s legal instrument on drugs is a good one, the Judiciary needed to be engaged in order to ensure that the courts’ convictions are as strict as required in order to serve as strong deterrence for all and sundry.