By Nelson Manneh
The Director General of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency, The Gambia, Bakary Gassama, reported that the Anti-Narcotic Agency in 2022 registered a total number of six hundred and thirty-two (632) cases.
He said these cases involved six hundred and fifty (650) accused persons. Five hundred and sixty-three (563) of those arrested are Gambians while the remaining eighty-seven (87) are non-Gambian Nationals.
DG Gassama said the agency also seized 1 ton, 838 kilogram, 408 grams, 960 milligrams of cannabis Sativa, 2 kilograms, kilograms, 731grams, 760 milligrams of cocaine, 8 grams, and 100 milligrams of heroine, 5 kilograms, 579 grams, 467 milligrams of hashish and 309 grams, 26 milligrams of skunk. At the same time, they seized a different assortment of controlled drugs including 2400 tablets of clonazepam, 541 tablets of methamphetamine, 105 tablets of ecstasy and 1130 tablets of tramadol in 2022.
“Youth between the ages of 18 and 35 years account for the majority of those arrested. A total number of 448 youth representing 68.92 % were nabbed on drug related offences for the reporting period. Those below the age of 18 were 10 representing 1.54 % while those above 36 years were 192 persons representing 22.7 % of the total number of persons arrested in 2022,” he said.
On the Gender Distribution, DG Gassama said 734 of the accused persons are male and the remaining 16 are female. In comparison to the total number of 815 cases involving 798 accused persons registered in 2021, the seizure statistics for 2022 indicate a downward trend in the total number of cases and arrests.
Director Gassama made these statements during the commemoration of the International Day against Drug Abuse, illicit drug trafficking and related crimes 2023.
“The United Nations General Assembly on the 7th of December 1987, passed resolution 42/112 setting aside this day as a manifestation of its resolve and commitment to addressing the global drug problem.”
“Ever since the passing of this resolution, anti-narcotic agencies and relevant partners have been actively engaged in using the day to draw public attention to the dangers and devastating consequences of illicit drug trafficking and abuse and related activities on individuals, societies, and nations across the globe,” he said.
He said the theme for this year’s commemoration “People first: stop stigma and discrimination and strengthen prevention” highlights the significance of prevention and treatment initiatives in solving the world drug problem.
“It also draws global attention on the importance of a ‘people centred approach’ to drug policies with special focus on human rights, compassion, and evidence-based practices that are not discriminatory, neither stigmatizing nor judgemental on drug abuse and Substance Use Disorders (S.U.D). Furthermore, it raises awareness on the importance of strengthening prevention initiatives, providing evidence-based treatment services for people with S.U.D and providing alternatives to prison sentences for drug abuse and related offences,” he said.
DG Gassama, said his Agency initiated several reform processes that have contributed immensely to repositioning the Agency within the global anti-narcotic community. “We initiated and implemented several strategic initiatives that resulted in aligning our activities and processes with internationally recognized standards and best practices,” he said.
In order to ensure that there is effective and efficient strategic coordination and guidance of the implementation of the reform processes, Gassama said, the Management of DLEAG developed the first ever Drug Control Master Plan 2019-2023. Similarly, the strategic plan as a performance management system helped them monitor progress of the implementation process.
He said the interception of these huge quantities of drugs that passed through countries with much sophisticated and advanced technological solutions and narcotics detection equipment and surveillance gadgets than DLEAG contributed in enabling DLEAG gained the recognition and respect of their peers within the global anti-narcotics community.
“The Agency’s Public Affairs Unit organises weekly radio talk shows, school and community outreach programs and capacity building training programs for youths and community-based organizations engaged in preventive drug demand reduction activities and programs,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Interior, Mr Assan Tangara, said illicit drug trafficking and abuse continue to wreak havoc on individuals, families, societies, and nations across the globe.
“Millions of people have lost their free will as they become addicted to these substances and most of them are youth who are the creams of our society and the leaders of tomorrow. It should therefore be our collective responsibility of ensuring that our communities are safe, secure and drug free so that our children and youth can grow healthy and realize their potential,” he said.
He said abating drugs is not the responsibility of only law enforcement entities but every citizen and resident of this beloved nation has a stake and responsibility. He said no one is safe or immune from the dangers of illicit drug trafficking and abuse and related activities.
He said drugs are not a problem solely for the poor, the rich minorities, or the inner-city residents. “It is clear that no one is immune or safe from the dangers of drugs. Therefore, we must not be complacent but should be proactively involved in the crusade against drugs if we are to consolidate our gains in the fight on illicit drug trafficking and abuse,” he stated.