By Abraham Olatokunbo
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has paid burial entitlements to families of 188 personnel who died in active service.
The last time such entitlement was paid is 2014 which has left families to bear the brunt of the burial of officers who died in service since then.
Speaking at the presentation of cheques to the families of the deceased on Wednesday, the Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd) said it was quite unfortunate that the families was left to shoulder such huge financial burden even while they were mourning.
Marwa told the widows and other family members of the deceased officers and men who died in the line of duty that “the best Nigeria and Nigerians can do to immortalise these late officers and men is for all to stand and join the fight against the twin evils of drug trafficking and drug abuse, the main cause for which these heroes laid down their lives.
He apologized on behalf of the government of Nigeria and the agency for the great disservice to the families, but asked that they should continue to pray for President Muhammadu Buhari for giving approval for the payment in spite of the mounting financial challenges in the country.
He promised that the NDLEA shall not abdicate its responsibility to its employees, adding that: “We shall continue to reinvent our administrative process to be responsive in an efficient and timely manner that will assure our officers and men that their future is well secured.”
In the course of his speech, he asked the gathering to offer both Islamic and Christian prayers for the President and his government.
He said: “We owe a big thank you to President Muhammadu Buhari for his magnanimity in providing us with a special intervention fund to discharge our duty, specifically to officers and men who lost their lives in the line of duty.”
Marwa said. “Today’s event is very significant to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and the families of our officers and men. The prevailing solemnity cannot be helped, given that the proceedings relate principally to officers who have passed on. This presentation of burial expenses payments to their families and beneficiaries will understandably evoke painful memories and sober reflection for us all.
“However, the agency finds a modicum of consolation in its ability to discharge its duty to its employees who paid the supreme price while pursuing the NDLEA mandate.
“Hence, this occasion is symbolic as an attestation of the resolution of the NDLEA leadership to engender an institution where the welfare of staff commands utmost priority.”
The anti-drug czar while acknowledging that fighting illicit drug trafficking and abuse is a tough job, not only in Nigeria but also globally, however said that the battle “is twice as dangerous due to the obvious reason that the drug abuse prevalence of our country is three times that of the global average.”
He noted that: “This precarious matrix did not deter our personnel from performing their duty of safeguarding society from the scourge of illicit substances. Even though there had been demoralising circumstances and there are distressing conditions that could dampen their will and zeal, the officers and men of the NDLEA neither abandon their duty nor lose their sense of responsibility to society. The achievements recorded in the past seven months are a testament to the hard work and loyalty of the NDLEA workforce.
“In the same vein, the NDLEA leadership has been working strategically to navigate the bureaucratic labyrinth and break the gridlock that had kept the agency at a standstill for several years. One of our objectives is to enshrine an effective workplace ecosystem where the welfare of the NDLEA staff, the prevailing working condition is at par with what is obtainable in other national security services.”
He said. “Moreso, we aim to engender a milieu where issues relating to the career of staff are processed according to global best practices. What we are doing today is one of such strides.”
He added that: “Whatever achievements we have to our credit, they are a product of the service, sweat and sacrifice of our officers and men.
“Imperatively, it is incumbent on the leadership to look after their wellbeing, cater to their welfare while they are here and even when they are no longer in service. We will do these to our maximum capability, especially for those that died in the line of duty. Otherwise, how do we convince those in service to be committed if we fail to tidy the affairs of those who lost their lives in the line of duty?
“It is to this end that we have worked assiduously and purposefully to ensure the payment of burial expenses to the families or beneficiaries of 188
personnel that we lost while on duty. Although the last payment was in 2014, I would not want us to regard today’s event as a ‘once in a blue moon’ development. We are presently perfecting a process that will run seamlessly such that our personnel get their emoluments, allowances and other benefits as and when due.”
Speaking on behalf of the other widows, Mrs Khaltume Amali expressed appreciation to President Buhari for coming to the aid of NDLEA to enable the agency meet its obligations to the families of its deceased officers.
She also commended the President for appointing a seasoned administrator as Chairman/Chief Executive of the agency, promising that: “We shall continue to pray to God to guide and protect you, your officers and men as you strive to move the agency to greater heights. We are also grateful to you for ensuring that the widows and children of deceased officers do not suffer injustice.”