By Sarjo Camara-Singateh

The Director General of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Mr. Bakary Gassama, said they have made unprecedented drug seizures of both controlled and prohibited drugs over the past six years. Among these cases, he said, is the seizure of a large quantity of Cocaine of more than 2 tons.

Mr. Gassama made these remarks while addressing the Moscow-Africa Anti-drug dialogue held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel on the 23 July 2015.

The seizure, according to him, has put The Gambia in the world map of countries that have successfully busted drug cartels operating in the West Africa sub-region, adding that there was also another seizure of more than a ton of Cannabis Sativa arrested by operatives of the Agency and personnel of the Gambia Armed Forces in a joint operation.

“These seizures have drastically reduced the supply trend in the Gambia which automatically reduces the demand in the market for the purpose of transit. The agency’s records have shown that between the period of 2010 to 2015, more than two thousand (2000) people have been arrested with drugs and its related offences,” he said. Gassama further stated that statistics have shown quantities of drug seizures from January 2010 to June 2015., adding that the quantities of prohibited drugs seized are – 9MT 643Kg and 703g 239mg of Cannabis Sativa, 3MT 468Kg 143g 794mg of Cocaine, 196g 210mg of Heroin and 2Kg 149g 290mg of Hashish.

On controlled drug, he said they have confiscated 21,908 Tablets and 6 Ample of Various Types and the Agency has also registered in court a total number of 1,658 cases over the years from 2010 to date.

Mr. Gassama said drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking has enormous negative impact on youths, societies and nations at large. “Young people believed that they could get rich quickly by avoiding school to engage in drug abuse and petty trading of drugs thus ending up as unskilled, unemployed and unproductive citizens. They become a burden and a liability to their families, communities and states”.

The Director General of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency said public health is also another impact such as Drug-related health problem, adding that most psychiatric admissions generally are drug related cases. “Young people in drug abuse lost traditional values replaced with imported false beliefs,” he said.

He noted that The Gambia, like other countries in the sub-region, has been a target for the transit of illicit drugs such as Cocaine and Heroin. “The reality is that some of these drugs will remain within societies either as payment for services rendered or as a source of profit for the traffickers leading to local consumption which could have unpleasant effect on abusers and nations as a whole,” he said.

He indicated that it is apparent that organized criminal groups are bent on devising new and sophisticated methods of trading in illicit drugs with the attendant consequence of undermining national, regional and global peace and security.

Mr. Gassama noted that the Drug Law Enforcement Agency the Gambia was established in the year 2005. Initially the policing of narcotic drugs and illicit substance abuse was mainly done by the GPF under its unit called Drug Squad, he said. “This unit underwent Transformation, Restructuring, Reform and Rebuilding into what was later amended to establish the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) in 2005 as an autonomous security entity. In November 2014, the agency was renamed Drug Law Enforcement Agency the Gambia (DLEAG) via the amendment Act of 2014. This amendment is geared towards meeting both national and international standard requirements,” he remarked.

DG Gassama noted that the principal function of the Agency is to address all drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking matters in The Gambia with the aim of making the country a drug-free state pursuant to the Drug Control Act (2003) and its subsequent amendments. “The mandate of DLEAG is not limited to the following. Enforcing drug laws and regulations proscribed in the drug control Act 2003 and its subsequent amendments; Regulating the demand reduction inflow and out flow of illicit drug and abuse; Coordinating, controlling activities and all movement related to drug awareness, in sensitizing the general public about the dangers of drug abuse on the social, health and economic implications; Detect and apprehend drug traffickers and abusers for possible prosecution.”

He said the Agency’s Public Relation unit was established in 2011 to address all public relation and community matters of the Agency. The unit’s key assignments include the following: Act as the medium of communication between the agency and the general public; Maximize and gather all possible resources to educate inform and sensitize the public and giving them an overview of (a) misuse of Drugs (b) Dangers of Drugs (c) control mechanism to enable the community stay away from drugs etc.

Mr. Gassama stated that the Government of the Gambia has never been complacent when it comes to fighting and winning the war on drugs. The Gambia he noted has ratified and domesticated all international conventions and protocols enacted to combat illicit drugs.

In terms of legislation, DG Gassama explained that The Gambia Government has strengthen its drug laws in order to make it more stringent and stiffer for drug cartels or barons who intend to abuse the hospitality, peace and tranquility that the Gambia is ever known for.

The Gambia government is willing to strengthen its bilateral and multi-lateral co-operation with countries in the fight against illicit drugs he said. The Gambia is committed with the ideals and strategies of drug supply and demand reduction enshrined in the ECOWAS, AU and UN protocols to address drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking.

“It is my humble belief that together, Africa and Russia should work closely in the sharing of resources, intelligence and best practices towards the evils associated with illicit drugs in our respective countries for the benefit of our sovereign people,” he said. Therefore this Ministerial conference with the THEME: “MOSCOW AFRICA ANTI-DRUG DIALOGUE’’ is very demanding and timely, he noted. This platform is to create new mechanisms and institutions for consolidating international efforts in the sphere of projects for alternative development of drug producing regions, he said.