NEWS AND UPDATES
REMARKS BY DISTINGUISHED SENATOR ‘GBENGA B. ASHAFA AT THE PUBLIC HEARING OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON DRUGS AND NARCORTICS ON THE, NIGERIAN DRUG LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY ACT, AMMENDMENT BILL, 2016 SPONSORED BY SENATOR GBENGA B. ASHAFA.
Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me thank you all for granting me audience at this important occasion. While I am the sponsor of this Bill, at an occasion like this, the Chairman of this distinguished committee and the members of the committee take the center-stage as regards the passage of this simple but all important amendment bill.
There are three focal points that I have identified in the substantive Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act CAP N30 that are in urgent need of amendment. I would identify them briefly hereunder:
Firstly, It has been observed that some judges are in the habit of passing light, varied and discretionary sentences on convicts in Narcotic’s related cases, which is in clear disregard of the provisions of the NDLEA Act. The Act stipulates a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, or minimum sentence of fifteen years’ imprisonment for convicts. This is due to a lacuna in Section 26 of the substantive law, which subtly allows for judicial discretion. Hence the varied and sometimes light sentences being passed by judges.
The Bill seeks to amend Section 26 of the Act by including an additional Clause, which makes it mandatory for judges to impose the sentences stipulated in the Act for convicts, removing completely the discretion which the judges have arbitrarily exercised.
The said clause states that “The penalties provided for in this Act shall be adhered to, and notwithstanding any provision in any other law or rule of practice, a trial judge shall not have the power to vary such penalties either by imposing a lesser term of imprisonment or granting a convict an option of fine.”
Secondly the Act seeks to correct a minor but significant error in the principal Act, which mis-spelt the word “heroin” as “heroine”.
The final amendment seeks to increase the option of fine of N20, 000 imposed as penalty for obstructing the Agency or authorized officers of the Agency in the exercise of any of their powers to N100, 000.00.
As I stated earlier, the amendments sought by this bill are few, but very potent when considering how far reaching their effects would be in curbing the prevalence of the Narcotic’s trade, terrorism and drug abuse in our society.
I therefore urge the Senate Committee on Drugs and Narcotics and all stakeholders here present to support this bill and ensure its passage, for the greater good of our country.