Retired Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa’s appointment on Friday as Director General of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) was in continuation of work he has been doing informally since December 2018, when President Buhari appointed him Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse, PACEDA. He succeeds retired Colonel Mohammed Abdallah, whose five-year tenure ended.
Fighting hard drug trafficking and drug abuse in Nigeria is a Herculean task but Marwa brings to the job a history of stellar-technocratic accomplishment in his previous career. He was Governor of Borno State in 1990-92 but became best known in Nigeria during his stint as Military Administrator of Lagos State in 1996-99. Although the Abacha regime was exceedingly unpopular in Lagos State, Marwa was extremely popular as administrator, especially because of his “Operation Sweep”, Keke Marwa, road and urban housing projects that endeared him to Lagosians.
Since his retirement from the army in 1999, his forays into business and politics have been less successful. His Albarka Airlines at first flourished but later folded up. He unsuccessfully ran for PDP’s presidential ticket in 2006 but President Umaru Yar’adua then made him High Commissioner to South Africa. In 2012 he contested for Adamawa governor as candidate of the opposition CPC, led by General Buhari. He went with CPC to APC but returned to PDP in 2014 when Governor Murtala Nyako defected to APC and displaced him and his supporters. After APC won the 2015 presidential election, Marwa again returned to the party.
If the 67-year-old Marwa still has the magic wand of his Lagos days, NDLEA under his leadership could bounce back to reckoning that it has not had since the days of its former chairman, the late Major General Musa Bamaiyi. In recent years little was heard of the agency, while drug abuse reached epidemic proportions in many states, including among youths and married women.
Marwa’s appointment is already drawing flak from some quarters, who say it is a continuation of the Buhari Presidency’s monopoly appointment of Northern Muslims to head security agencies. If General Buba Marwa however makes a big difference in an area of utmost concern to many Nigerians, his old Lagos name of Murewa will bounce back and more than make up for allegations of favouritism.