The Director-General of the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA), Marcus D. Zehyoue, has attributed the proliferation of drugs into the country to what he calls “weakness of existing laws.”
Mr. Zehyoue said the LDEA has over the years been very robust in its operations in terms of tracking down drug users and confiscating substances, but the full implementation of the laws on the book has undermined the LDEA’s workings.
He made these assertions on Friday, November 27, 2020 when the DEA destroyed another huge quantity of narcotic substances, valued at L$783,471,720, confiscated from drug traffickers and dealers between the period of March to November 2020.
The burning exercise, which took place in Marshall, Margibi County, brought together representatives from the Ministry of Health (MOH), the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well representatives from the US Embassy near Monrovia.
Zehyoue told a team of reporters during the exercise that most of the time suspects are arrested and taken to court, but the next day they will see them out of the prison.
He noted that the LDEA operates on 3 principles which include, law enforcement, prevention and rehabilitation, but acknowledged that not much emphasis is being placed on the rehabilitation process because of the weakness of the drug law.
“We are advocating for more robust drug laws. We have been working overtime now with the National Legislature to ensure that we have robust drug laws because these traffickers look for an easy path to operate,” he added.
He indicated that once the existing drug laws are amended and become strong, the LDEA can cut the traffickers’ and users’ supply lines, something he said will help them go after the end-users (victims) for the rehabilitation process.
He noted that currently, the LDEA preventions section is doing extremely well, noting that they are out there creating massive awareness about how dangerous the substances are to society.
He also clarified that when the LDEA carried out an arrest and the suspect is taken to the court, they have no jurisdiction over that matter because they have no prosecutorial power.
According to him, when they arrest a suspect and take them to court, some lawyers go there and get them out on bail. “We have arrested some guys for more than 10 to 15 times; yet they are seen back in the community, which puts our field officers in more danger.”
LDEA Public Relations Officer, Michael Jipply, who displayed several samples of the drugs to the media, said this was one of the exercises that the LDEA has been conducting over the years. He recalled that last year February, the DEA burned several drugs, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they slow it down a bit.
“We have been keeping this huge quantity of drugs very safe, but today, we have decided to burn them finally because we do not want to keep it for long so that it cannot be recycled,” he stated.
Mr. Jipply also added that the exercise is being carried out simultaneously in rural parts of the country as well. “We have instructed our team in various counties to do the same and send us the report.”
According to Mr. Jipply, the LDEA has arrested between March and November 2020, 4,208.3 kilograms of Marijuana; Heroin (11,252.9 grams), Cocaine (52,539.2 grams), Codeine (180 kilograms), Ecstacy (37.6 grams), Car Exhaust Element (38.2 kilograms) and Precursor (62.8 grams) among other substances illegally entering the country.
He also dispelled public perceptions that the LDEA only conducts arrests with no accountability of what is being done with the drugs that were arrested.
He said since February, this exercise is the second of this year with such an unprecedented increase in seizure of narcotic substances and a zero-tolerance strategy adopted on drug trafficking and abuse by the leadership of the LDEA.
However, the exercise, according to Mr. Jipply, is being observed globally by the United Nations and member states in line with international protocols and best practices. He also told the gathering that the combustion exercise is in keeping with the observance of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which is observed June 26 of every year.
“We are calling on residents across the country to embrace a cohesive partnership with the DEA so as to maintain peace and security,” Mr. Jipply noted.