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NDLEA: Why we engaged Naira Marley in anti-drug abuse campaign

NDLEA: Why we engaged Naira Marley in anti-drug abuse campaign
August 19
20:06 2023

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has shed light on its collaboration with Afeez Adeshina Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley, the Afrobeats artiste, in the war against drug abuse (WADA) advocacy campaign.

On Thursday, the “Soapy” crooner paid a courtesy visit to Buba Marwa, the chairman of the anti-drug agency to express his preparedness to join the fight against drug abuse in the country

However, after the visit, there were reports that the NDLEA has enlisted the musician as its ambassador, which attracted a wave of criticism on social media.

Reacting to the backlash in a statement on Saturday, Femi Babafemi, the NDLEA spokesperson, said the agency engaged Naira Marley “to encourage him to use his skills and platforms to put out content that will discourage millions of his followers and Nigerian youths from substance abuse”.

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Babafemi said the move was part of NDLEA’s “whole society approach to the fight against drug abuse”, clarifying that the agency did not make Naira Marley an ambassador as being touted on social media.

“The decision by the agency to encourage Naira Marley, with over seven million followers, half the population of those who abuse drugs in Nigeria, use his platform share anti-substance abuse messages as against using same to promote and glamourize drug abuse with the dire consequence of misleading millions of Nigerian youths into their peril, is to create a balance between our drug supply reduction and drug demand reduction efforts,” Babafemi said.

“This is also in line with the agency’s whole society approach to the fight against drug abuse and in tune with global best practices as well as the theme for this year’s World Drug Day; People First: Stop Stigma and Discrimination, Strengthen Prevention.

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“When an artiste, who professes marijuana is good to seven million followers turns a new leaf after some serious counselling, do we reject him, turn our back on him and allow him to continue in his old habit, or do we accept him, give him a chance so he can reach out to his followers to quit substance abuse.

“In other words, why should we take our anti-drug abuse advocacy messages to schools, churches, mosques, marketplaces, motor parks, Nollywood, Kannywood, traditional rulers, labour and the entertainment industry, but when one of their members accepts to turn a new leaf, we turn our back to him?

“These are questions those opposed to Naira Marley’s needed change may have to ponder.

“Indeed, no one is better suited to take the message against drug abuse to the Marlians than the head of the same movement.”

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Naira Marley has been a controversial figure, and some of his associates have had brushes with the NDLEA.

In 2022, he was in the news over the arrest of Zinoleesky and Mohbad — his record label signee and former label artiste respectively — by the anti-drug agency.

They were arrested alongside four others “after some quantities of cannabis and molly were recovered from their apartment and car”.

Shortly after their arrest, Naira Marley shared a video of himself smoking heavily while in the company of his team.

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