Newly Refurbished Forensic Lab Will Enhance NDLEA’s Performance – Marwa

…. US Govt, UNODC commend partnership, promise more support for the drug war.

Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) has said that the upgrade of the forensic laboratory of the Agency by the United States Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) will enhance operational standards and optimal performance of NDLEA in its renewed fight against substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking in Nigeria.

A statement on Wednesday, 10th January 2024 signed by the NDLEA Director of Media and Advocacy, Femi Babafemi, said that Marwa who stated this at the commissioning of the Agency’s newly refurbished forensic laboratory in Lagos on Wednesday 10th January said, “With this facility, we are now anticipating the provision of state-of-the-art analytical equipment, which will enhance optimal performance in line with standard operational laboratory procedures and best practices, which in turn will enhance evidence-based analytical processes in our forensic analysis.” The project was facilitated by INL and implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC.

The NDLEA boss who was represented at the event by the Agency’s Director of Media and Advocacy, Femi Babafemi emphasized the importance of modern forensic laboratories to the successful fight against illicit drugs in the country. According to him, “Everyone who knows how pivotal a forensic laboratory is to drug investigations will share my sentiment. The forensic laboratory plays a critical role in the identification of drug exhibits, in the investigation of illicit drug manufacturing and in the dismantling of clandestine laboratories. Ultimately, it reinforces the criminal justice system.

“Given the current situation of illicit drugs in Nigeria, a forensic laboratory is a sine qua non for any meaningful effort to stymie the problem. The reason is obvious. In three decades, Nigeria has grown from a transit country to a country that produces a farrago of new psychoactive substances, NPS, and a place where there is proliferation of clandestine laboratories, of which we have discovered and dismantled over 23.

“Over the last three years that I have been Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, there have been seizures of record quantities of illicit drugs, approximately 7, 590 tons. What is remarkable about these seizures is that they include not only substances already under national and international control but also an unexpectedly high number of new psychoactive substances and combinations of illicit drugs prepared by chemists working in clandestine laboratories. These substances, constituting over 10,000 exhibits, found their way to the forensic laboratory for confirmatory analysis and identification.

“The poor infrastructure of our forensic laboratory translated into inadequacy to cope with the volume of work on the ground. It is against this backdrop that INL intervened to sponsor the upgrading of the laboratory to a global standard and expand its capacity to cope with the challenging dynamics inherent in the analysis of new psychoactive substances, amphetamine-type stimulants, synthetic cannabinoids, and fentanyl opioids.”

Marwa expressed appreciation to the US government for approving funding for the project, which encompasses strengthening the forensic and chemical analysis capacity of NDLEA, upgrading the interrogation room and providing an e-library for prosecution. He equally commended the UNODC for the painstaking implementation of the project.

He said some other benefits of the project so far include the training of 20 NDLEA forensic analysts on drug identification and safe handling of synthetic opioids; provision of safety bags consisting of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); supply of 20 test kits for drugs and precursor chemicals for field identification; supply of laptops, desktop computer, and other ICT accessories among others.

Speaking at the event, U.S. Consul General Will Stevens highlighted the ongoing security cooperation between the United States and Nigeria. His words: “The global opioid crisis calls for a coordinated, comprehensive, and multidisciplinary global response. The U.S. Mission in Nigeria has partnered with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency to modernize this chemical forensic laboratory in Lagos. This $500,000 investment will ensure our Nigerian partners have the state-of-the-art equipment and training needed to identify and analyze suspicious substances and evidence collected from crime scenes and suspects. We appreciate Nigeria’s strong regional leadership and commitment to work with us to combat this growing threat.”

In his remarks, Danilo Campisi, the UNODC Deputy Country Representative, commended the partnership with the United States INL and NDLEA, which he said, “continues to demonstrate the effectiveness of these types of interventions, implemented by organisations like UNODC.”

“In the course of the past 12 months of implementing the first phase of this project, which primarily consisted of the provision of technical assistance, equipment and capacity building”, he stated adding that the next phase of the project, which will be implemented over the next 12 months “is an opportunity to consolidate the interventions which we commenced in the first phase and we look forward to continuing the tripartite partnership between UNODC, the US Government and NDLEA ensuring that criminal drug trafficking networks are dismantled and brought to justice.”