NDELA: An agency on the brink of extinction under Muhammad Abdalla, his many sins & why he should be sacked (SPECIAL FOCUS)

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency NDLEA, the hitherto darling of the nation’s anti-narcotic agency is surreptitiously gliding from grandeur to extinction under Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (rtd); reports Mary BASSEY, Senior Investigator Correspondent.

ESTABLISHED by Decree 48 of 1989 (now Acts of Parliament) the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency NDLE which commenced full operations in 1990 to fight illicit drug deals and other psychotropic substances intake, no doubt, could comfortably pride itself of having lived up to its bidding. From retired Police officer Fidelis Oyakhilome as its first Chairman to a more recent Ahmadu Giade, another retired Policeman; the nation’s anti-narcotic agency did fight the war against illicit drug deals to a standstill; including extricating the country’s name from the global index of drug consumer nations to a transit one. The morale of operatives skyrocketed with succeeding and purposefully focused chairmen and therefore, fought the drug war with all the vigor required of officers on the taxpayers’ till.

However, the splendor and glitz associated operational model, the pride inherent in individual dedicated officer noticeably began to dwindle with the appointment of retired army personnel, Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah in December 5, 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari. His assumption of office on January 11, 2017, more than a month after his appointment soon begun to lay credence to a leader’s ineptitude and lax to effectively coordinate a critical agency like the NDLEA. No sooner than Muhammad Abdallah ‘settled down’ for work that operatives started grumbling and bitterly complaining about the chairman’s incompetence, lack of vision and visible nonchalance to their plight. The first visible sign of Abdallah’s irresponsiveness and total disregard to rules of engagement is his habitual absenteeism. He hardly report to office and even when he did, perhaps once in a month, he never had meetings with his management team to ascertain the state of affairs of an agency under his watch. Soon, the awe and trepidation association with NDLEA began to fizzle, staff morale had been slaughtered on the slab of incompetence; drug barons and peddlers alike didn’t wait a second to cash in on this lacuna to fully stage a vicious come back to their illicit drug deals.

Apparently piqued by this visible innate leadership dearth in Muhammad Abdallah, concerned staff had to petition President Buhari on the dire quest to look elsewhere for a more purposeful and pragmatic leader for the nation’s anti-narcotic agency. This is historical. In an earlier petition accusing him as a misfit in NDLEA, the petitioner aptly lamented that “The drug situation since Abdullah took over is getting worse daily. In addition, the prevalence rate for drug use in the country has become unacceptably high and growing in a geometric proportion. Besides the abuse of cannabis, the use of cough syrups with codeine and other psychotropic substances is taking its toll on the youths”; adding, “It is a clear indication that he is not interested in fighting the drug war and corruption. The sum of N50,000 only given to families of three officers; Onwumere Nicholas, Peter Ebun and Abdulrahman Musa who were recently shot dead in Kogi State on October 13, 2017, by gunmen has exposed his insensitivity to the plight of officers. This is unbelievable.”

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And in a recent petition to President Muhammdu Buhari, copied the National Security Adviser which highlighted the hollowness of purpose of Abdallah in the agency, signed by one Musa Yusuf on behalf of Concerned Staff of the agency and obtained by CrimeWorld magazine, the petitioner expressed dismay on the apparent neglect, nonchalance to staff welfare and non-disbursement of operational allowances to Commands by Abdallah as sine-quanon for corruption. Without an impress account to run individual Commands, operatives contented that it is easy to be compromised in the daily fight against illicit drug deals in the country. “Aballah has the worst corruption index in the Agency for enhancing factors that are most likely to escalate corruption. A good example is the refusal of Abdallah to pay Commanders running cost since 2016. This is the pathetic state of affairs in the Agency. Now, the question is how are the Commanders coping without monthly subvention to run the Commands? Abdallah must give answer to this question before a Judicial Panel of Inquiry. He uses the monthly allocation of the agency in traveling abroad even if there is no reason for him to travel but thank God for Covid 19 that has reversed this ugly trend in the past few months. Abdallah has refused to release money for intelligence gathering. There is no Command that is not plaqued with the problem of lack of operational vehicles. This is one of Abdallah’s ways of crippling the agency against attacks on drug barons.” This is in addition to, “Abdallah’s insatiable greed which drove him to selloff the Agency’s official guesthouse for the chairman in Ikoyi. This is a house he inherited from his predecessor yet he had the audacity to sell it. In addition, a section of the former Headquarters located at No 4 Shaw Road Ikoyi Lagos had also been sold by Aballah to one of the Telecom companies. A mast had also been erected there this jeopardizing the health of officers. If left unchecked, he will sell off the entire agency due to his unexplainable avarice.”

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*Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah, a misfit in NDLEA…?

On the faulty recruitment exercise, the petitioner noted that the Chairman had collected salaries meant for the recruited candidates even when he was yet to carry out the exercise; diverted same to his personal purse even as names of candidates who travelled from their various locations to write the exams and passed had been exchanged for those who never filled the recruitment forms; a development which the concerned staff viewed as a vile against humanity and a crafted ploy to curry support from highly placed government functionaries whose candidate he had exchanged for those who sat for and passed the exams. According to them, “The Concerned Officers have lost faith in the unending recruitment process under Abdallah. He made some candidates to travel out of their States to write the examination even in December 2019 without consideration for the attendant risk. Unfortunately the names of candidates that did not write the selection test have been smuggled in at the detriment of those that applied and took the test. Mr. President, if you set up a Panel of Inquiry to investigate the ongoing recruitment process, you are sure to confirm our allegations of injustice and non compliance with due process. We demand a level playing field for every Nigerian to serve their country. Aballah hired Emplug ICT firm to create a recruitment portal for several millions of naira when the Agency’s ICT department has written to provide same Services for a token. There is no proof to show that the contract was advertised in the national newspapers or due process followed by Abdallah. We call for a forensic probe of this highly skewed recruitment exercise. Under Aballah the Agency’s policies on promotion and transfer had been abandoned and jettisoned. Aballah once said that staff promotion was not his priority. He has demonstrated this by stagnating officers’ career progression. It took several petitions for him to approve promotion examination after four years in office. After the promotion examination was taken in 2019, he released the results with a circular that deferred the effective date to 2020. It took the intervention of the Head of Service for him to revert that administrative faux pas. According to the transfer policy in the Agency, officers are expected to have a feel of all the beats from investigation to seaports, airports and land borders interdiction. As we write, there are Commanders and Officers who have spent over ten years in one beat. This is not healthy for the profession as many have compromised their integrity due to prolonged stay on a beat. The promotion of Commanders released on Friday November 13, 2020 is an attempt to buy cheap popularity but this sinister intent is dead on arrival. When last was the Commanders promoted? Are they entitled to only one promotion given the number of years they have put in Service? Abdallah has stagnated both junior and senior Officers. There is no Officer that will see his colleagues in other services that they enlisted the same year that will pardon Abdallah for the injustice.”

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*NDLEA Operatives in action when the going was good…

On the international scenes, the petitioner is worried that, “All the huge seizures of drugs that used to take place at the seaports and airports have disappeared because Abdallah refused to fund high profile investigation. Abdallah has rendered all the Special Investigative Squads redundant. As a result, drug barons are smiling to the banks at the detriment of peace and security of our country. International collaborators are fast losing confidence in the agency due to his careless and lackadaisical approach to drug control. Never have we seen this blatant impunity and lack of focus exhibited by Abdallah.”

Operatives ready for action when in high spirits…

On this weight of these, the petitioner is saying, “The Concerned Officers are demanding the following line of action to save the agency from total imminent collapse: Immediate dismissal of Abdallah, immediate revocation of the sales of the Agency’s guest house and a section of Shaw Road office complex both situated at Ikoyi, Lagos and the constitution of a panel of inquiry to probe his five year misrule and prosecute him.  We also demand the appointment of a competent chairman capable of taking the agency to greater heights like Col. Hamid Ali of the Nigerian Customs Services; harmonization and proper placement of staff to compensate officers for their years of service and to correct the seniority list The proper placement should include retired officers that were cheated under Abdallah’s  draconian tenure of office. This is in addition to constructing a standard State Command Headquarters in all the States and provision of operational logistics. There is need to investigate the unending and skewed recruitment process under Abdallah and a fresh recruitment exercise conducted by a Special Committee to be headed by the Director of Training.  We demand a national transfer that will take into consideration, officers previous postings in line with the rules of engagement. We are convinced that a competent leader will revive the Agency and reposition it for global relevance in no distant time.”

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