-LDEA Director-designate reveals, wants stronger Legislation against drugs-related offenses
The Director-General-designate of the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) yesterday accused foreign nationals, specifically those from some West African nations, among them Nigerians, of using Liberia as a major transshipment point for dangerous substances that include cocaine, heroin and home-grown marijuana, which are entering other parts of the world.
Marcus Soko, who President George Weah recently nominated to head the LDEA, said his revelation was based on statistics from various arrests carried out by officers of the agency in relation to drug-related offenses. Ninety percent of these suspects have been identified as Nigerians.
Soko also blamed the practice on delays by members of the legislature to pass key drug legislations, in order to make drugs-related crimes a serious and non-bailable offense, which is pending before that body for passage.
He made the revelation when he served as one of the panelists at the 22nd Edition of the Wilfred E. Clark lecture series on Social Justice and the Rule of Law at the YMCA (Young Men Christian Association).
The forum, under the theme, “Prospects and Challenges of Enacting Key Security Related Legislation, “ was organized by the Liberia National Law Enforcement Association (LINLEA) with support from the National Empowerment for Democracy (NED).
Soko informed his audience, most of whom were members of different state security entities, that the country will not succeed in the fight against illegal sale and consumption of unlawful substances by some citizens, especially the youths, “unless our lawmakers amend the current public safety and/or drugs law to a stronger legislation.
“Our country remains vulnerable to those foreign drugs traffickers; therefore, we as security officers must now do something for our lawmakers to amend the drug laws to include prosecution,” Soko said.
He said the current drug laws only call for a fine, wherever an individual is arrested for possession of illegal drugs or contraband.
“Whenever we make an arrest of those foreign nationals, the suspects would immediately walk away freely, because the current law asks for fines and not prosecution,” Solo said.
He continued, “We have to show to those traffickers with our laws that Liberia is not the place to play your unlawful game.”
He meanwhile emphasized that those suspected drug traffickers should be made to understand that Liberia is not a place to be used by drug cartels as a transit point.
“The legislators need to empower the security agencies to combat the illegal market,” Soko said.
Taking cue from drug laws enacted by other countries, such as the United States of America (USA), Solo made his audience to understand that the US law sometimes calls for 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment if anyone were to be arrested and found guilty of drug-related offenses.
“If you are not American citizen, then after serving your prison terms, that individual is immediately deported; and so, we have to pass such a law in this country,” Soko suggested.
Another panelist, Attorney Abraham Mitchell, who is Transitional Justice Focal person at the Ministry of Justice, claimed that the second largest drug transshipment in the country was reportedly brought in by entities providing air courier services.
“I can say here without any fear or regret that DHL service is one of the major transporters of drugs into the country,” Mitchell stated. But DHL has on several occasions denied such claims.
He used the occasion to challenge the LDEA and other security apparatuses that while stringent legislation was still undecided by the lawmakers, the officers should not sit idle but vigorously work with representatives of other civil society organizations (CSOs), to press for the passage of the bill.
“You cannot just sit down here and expect that law to be passed. You have to lobby with other state actors to exert more pressure on the lawmakers to pass those laws,” Mitchell said.