NDLEA commends Reps members’ disagreement on marijuana bill

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has commended some members of the House of Representatives for disagreeing with three of their colleagues over a bill seeking to legalise the cultivation, sale and use of cannabis, also known as marijuana, for commercial purposes.

Reacting to the development on Friday, the Chairman of the NDLEA, Brigadier General Buba Marwa (retd.), commended members and leaders of the House for rejecting what he tagged “another attempt to push through a bill to decriminalise cannabis cultivation, sale and use in Nigeria on the floor of the Green Chamber of the National Assembly”.

The PUNCH reports that the House had on Thursday voted down the bill harmoniously sponsored by Benjamin Kalu and Olumide Osoba, and Miriam Onuoha.

Apart from the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, and the sponsors, all those who spoke at the second reading on Thursday criticised the bill.

The criticisms against the proposal forced the sponsors to demand that it be stepped down for review, a prayer that the lawmakers unanimously granted.

The PUNCH reports that the three sponsors had earlier clashed on Wednesday over legislation.

Two of the sponsors, Benjamin Kalu and Olumide Osoba, had sponsored separate bills seeking to amend the NDLEA Act to expand the scope of the anti-narcotics agency to issue licenses for the cultivation, sale, and use of marijuana.

When the bill was brought up for second reading in plenary on Wednesday, another member of the House, Miriam Onuoha, objected that the content of the bill was identical to hers.

The Cannabis Control Bill, 2020, sponsored by Onuoha, is titled “A Bill for an Act to Regulate the Cultivation, Possession, Availability, and Trade of Cannabis for Medical and Research Use, and Related Purposes.”

The Speaker had in his ruling asked both sides to liaise with the Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, so as to identify the differences and similarities between the bills ahead of their sitting on Thursday.

On Thursday, the two bills, which had different titles, were harmonized.

While Kalu’s and Osoba’s bills had the same title, Onuoha’s was titled ‘A Bill for an Act to Decriminalise the Growth and Use of Cannabis, to Establish a System for the Registration and Licencing of Cannabis Growers, Users, Control to Legalise the Growth, Sale, and Use of Cannabis, and to Set out a Legal Framework for the Registration and Licencing of Cannabis Growers and Producers in Nigeria; and for Related Matters.’

Those who spoke against it, especially the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, and Majority Leader, Mohammed Monguno, condemned the proposed decriminalisation of cannabis.

Gbajabiamila, who presided over the session and had defended the proposal, noted that it must have been opposed due to the word “decriminalize” in the title of the bill, which he said was not there earlier on Wednesday.

While Kalu and Onuoha were unanimous on the call for the bill’s withdrawal, the former noted that the rejection was due to the harmonisation of the bills, not ing that they would be re-presented separately after a review.

The PUNCH reports that Cannabis cultivation, sale, and use are all currently prohibited in Nigeria.

The PUNCH had on January 7, 2021, reported that the House was proposing the legalisation of cannabis cultivation and trading, also known as hemp and marijuana, for medical and cosmetic use, research, and revenue generation in Nigeria.

In the bill, Onuoha said the objectives of the bill, among others, include providing for the “regulation of the cultivation, possession, processing, availability, and trade of cannabis for medicinal, and research purposes, among others.”

Reacting to the development in a statement by the NDLEA Director, Media and Advocacy, Femi Babafemi, on Friday, following an inquiry by our correspondent, the NDLEA boss said the decision by a majority of the lawmakers to reject the bill will further strengthen the gains so far made in the renewed war against drug abuse and trafficking in the country.

He noted that the 2018 drug survey figure of 10.6 million Nigerians abusing cannabis alone is enough to sound the alarm bell, adding that the strong nexus between drug abuse and the security challenges across the country is incontrovertible.

According to Marwa, insecurity is today, a full-blown malady with many manifestations such as insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, murder, robbery, reprisal killing, name it.

Marwa said, “Yet there has never been a government that is more committed to ending this spate of insecurity than the regime of President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.). The President has matched political willpower with resources, but the scope and frequency of these acts of destabilization and the audacity displayed by the perpetrators call for a second, critical look at the malaise.

“The persistence of the problem has forced on us the necessity to start to look at likely extraneous factors that might be sustaining the resistance from the criminal elements and in doing so, try to connect the dots.”

According to Marwa, history will never forget those who stand with parents to protect them and their children from any legislation, under any shape or form, that will turn Nigeria to a nation of junkies and criminals, which will amount to taking a step forward and ten steps backward in the prevailing circumstance.

He added, “The permutations will lead to a list of probable causes, which will not exclude the use and abuse of illicit substances. In the final analysis, drug abuse is indeed one of the factors fueling insecurity. As such, Nigeria cannot afford to permit the cultivation, sale and use of the most abused illicit drug under whatever guise.

“This is why the decision by the honorable members of the House of Representatives to reject the reintroduction of the cannabis bill is welcome and cheering news to us in NDLEA and the Nigerian public especially parents who daily and silently contend with the pains of seeing millions of their kids and wards go down under the devastating effects of cannabis abuse.”

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