The Chairman/Chief Executive of the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (Rtd.) has denied being on a mission with the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu to study the medicinal and economic value of cannabis sativa.

Rather, the purpose of the visit was to understudy Thailand’s successful migration of her citizens hitherto engaged in illicit Poppy plant cultivation to the cultivation of legitimate economic crops and other lawful businesses.

In a statement on Monday, though the agency is involved in such migration in Nigeria, Abdallah reaffirmed that growth of cannabis for recreation is still illegal in the country and his agency must see to the implementation of the law.

He however noted that Nigeria stands to gain immensely from the Thailand experience, which was the reason behind the agency’s efforts to understudy the country.

He said: “My attention has been drawn to the misinformation in the media that His Excellency, Executive Governor, Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu and I were on a mission to Republic of Thailand to learn how to grow Cannabis sativa for medicinal purpose or economic gain.

“This is far from the truth. I wish to by this statement categorically denounce the misleading information.

“At no point did I make any remark in favour of the commercial and medicinal value or monetary gain of Cannabis while in Thailand.

“First and foremost, the purpose of the visit to Thailand is to understudy how the country (Thailand) has successfully migrated some of her citizens hitherto engaged in illicit Poppy plant cultivation to the cultivation of legitimate economic crops and other lawful businesses.

“Thailand’s model, referred to as Sustainable Alternative Development (SAD) is the direction the entire world is heading and Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind. The United Nations regards Thailand as the incubator of SAD of sorts.

“Thailand is known widely as a success story in alternative livelihood development for building alternative income in farming coffee, tea, fruits and crafts which have helped in eradicating opium production.

“The Mae Fah Luang Foundation in Thailand which implements the Doi Tung Development Project has curbed the growth of poppy through this process. This subsequently has banished opium in Thailand”.

Saying that all NDLEA is seeking to do was to explore how Nigeria can benefit from such projects, Abdallah added, “Nigeria seeks to achieve a similar feat in the eradication of cannabis.

“Sometime last year, NDLEA and Oyo State Government visited the Foundation in Thailand and the lesson learnt is already transforming the cannabis cultivation landscape in Oyo State where the Government forests used for illegal cannabis cultivation have been acquired for a chain of agricultural activities, which gainfully engages the hitherto cannabis farmers.

“For the avoidance of doubt, NDLEA under my leadership has been consistent in our opposition to legalization and decriminalization of cannabis. For example, Operation Thunderstorm undertaken by Ondo State Command of NDLEA destroyed 3,900.73 hectares of cannabis sativa planted in forest reserves.

“Similarly, I make bold to state; Nigeria’s staunch opposition to legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes was restated at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, (CND), roundtable just recently concluded in Vienna, March this year.

“Not only that, Nigeria canvassed for the position that status quo ante be maintained while decisions are made by the UN to alter the Single Convention of 1961 under which cannabis falls. These decisions are yet to be made.

“Lastly, both Nigeria and Thailand still abide by that same Single Convention of 1961 involving cannabis. While I do not hold brief for Thailand, it is instructive to state that what research is conducted by them in order to confirm medical benefits of cannabis is done by seeds imported under their government control from Spain.

“And for the records, only 100 (One Hundred) seedlings have been planted, still awaiting their growth, not to talk of research being conducted on them.

“It is inaccurate therefore to say Thailand has approved the medical use of cannabis. This fact can be verified from Thai Embassy in Nigeria.

“Once again, Nigeria’s position against the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis till remains in conformity with our laws – Cap N30 LFN 2004. NDLEA’s mandate is to implement the laws, no more no less”.

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