Drug War: Abuja To Host 54 African Countries, 15 Others At HONLAF

By Bukar Bolori

Abuja, the Nation’s capital is set to host delegates from 54 African countries and 15 observer nations next week for the meeting Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Africa, (HONLAF) to discuss new trends and partnerships to curb the global drug scourge.

Converge on Abuja for the 31st meeting ofTop on the agenda of the meeting, which is the 31st Edition, include discussions and collaborations on alternative development to cannabis cultivation, assets forfeiture, cryptocurrency and money laundering by drug cartels, among others.

This was disclosed on Tuesday at a joint press briefing in Abuja by Secretary to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Shadrach Haruna who represented the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the agency, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (Retd) and the Country Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Oliver Stolpe.

Haruna said the 31st meeting of HONLAF, a subsidiary body of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UNCND) is to enable heads of drug law enforcement agencies in Africa to discuss and develop strategies to combat drug trafficking and abuse in the region.

He noted that: “The HONLAF meeting is an annual event. The last one was held in Nairobi, Kenya, where Nigeria was unanimously elected as the host of the 31st edition, which will take place from Tuesday, September 26 to Friday, September 29, 2023 in Abuja.”

Haruna said: “This annual HONLAF meeting features a line-up of activities that include technical meetings, paper presentations, deliberations on reports and trends, workshops, and bilateral talks among member nations. It is a platform for brokering collaborations in the areas of shared intelligence, joint training, and joint operations against international drug cartels in the African region.

“This year, Nigeria has the honour of being the chair and host of the meeting. So, it means delegates from 53 other African countries will converge on the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on Monday, and for the rest of the week, they will be guests of NDLEA and the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“Aside from delegates from African countries, there will be representatives from observer bodies and other non-African countries who will be attending to watch the proceedings.

”President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is expected to deliver the keynote address and also declare the conference open as the special guest of honour, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, and some invited ministers as well as heads of relevant parastatals and agencies will be at the opening ceremony.

The conference, which holds between Tuesday 26th and Friday 29th September will also provide opportunities for bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the main agenda.

Haruna said: “Among other positive outlooks, Nigeria hosting the 31st HONLAF is an indication of the trust in the leadership quality of NDLEA among its peers on the continent. At the last HONLAF meeting in Nairobi, Nigeria seized the momentum to broker bilateral cooperation with a number of countries with the intention of forming a strong regional defence against transnational illicit drug organisations trying to establish bases in our countries. Such bilateral relationships have been crucial to NDLEA’s interdiction exercises in the past year.”

In his remarks at the briefing, Dr. Oliver Stolpe said the HONLAF meeting will also focus on “regional and national cooperation to reduce illicit production and cultivation of illicit drugs, something that has been observed, thanks to the operational success of NDLEA over the years in Nigeria not only for the destruction of cannabis farms but also the manufacturing of other drugs like methamphetamine.”

He added that: “There will also be discussion on alternative development, an approach promoted by many countries; financial investigation in drug trafficking cases and the role of cryptocurrency in drug trafficking cases, and money laundering. It’s safe to say NDLEA has made great strides to confiscate the money and proceeds of drug crime. We’ll also look at how to follow the money and seize the immense riches accumulated in the drug trade.”

Stolpe disclosed that the opening ceremony of the HONLAF meeting, will equally afford UNODC and the National Institute of Security Studies to present a report on organized crime trends that constitute threat to Nigeria.

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