By Emma NjokuNigeria has called for seamless exchange of intelligence and strengthened collaboration among African countries to enable the continent to surmount the daunting challenge of illicit drug trafficking and abuse.Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (retd), made the call at the ongoing 30th Conference of Heads of Drug Law Enforcement Agencies Africa (HONLEA) in Nairobi, Kenya; a stand widely supported by other countries represented at the gathering.NDLEA Director, Media & Advocacy, Mr. Femi Babafemi, who made the disclosure in a statement, yesterday, said Marwa, while briefing the meeting on the gains so far recorded by Nigeria in the fight against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking, stressed the need for a national coordination mechanism that would ensure coordinated action against the menace.He said: “The starting point is the harnessing of all the stakeholders by the national drug focal agency. Through this national coordination and collaborative effort, Nigeria has steadily made significant efforts in tackling drug challenges and has between January 2021 and August 2022; recorded unprecedented arrests, in the region of 21,302 suspected drug traffickers, including 28 drug barons. In the area of prosecution, the agency has secured 3,111 convictions, and seized 5.4 million kilograms of illicit substances. On Drug Demand Reduction, the agency, within the same period, had brief interventions, counselling/rehabilitation for over 12,326 drug users.”While canvassing for regional and sub-regional collaboration, the NDLEA boss said: “The global drug problem has placed higher demands on countries to work round the clock to achieve this goal and consolidate the achievements recorded. It is on the above premise that my delegation is proposing strengthened collaboration at both regional and sub-regional levels.“This noble objective could be realised with the creation of an informal network of HONLEA contact persons to complement and enhance real time exchange of intelligence or operational information. It will also enhance more robust activities all year round. “At the sub-regional level, countries should endeavour to establish sub-regional groups like HONLEA for strengthened collaboration under the auspices of the regional economic communities.”Marwa added that “the HONLEA platform offers unlimited opportunities, and it is imperative to maximise these amazing benefits by completing it with practical forms of cooperation, such as the suggested HONLEA Informal Network of Contact Persons. This would enable regular bilateral meetings, training programs, exchange of intelligence, and the conduct of joint operations at sub-regional and regional levels, if need be.”He said Nigeria has taken practical steps to deepen collaboration at both national and international levels in countering the world drug problem, in line with the principle of common and shared responsibility.“This was done through bilateral visitations and discussions that culminated in the signing of Memorandums of Understanding with countries and organisations. Thus, Nigeria’s statement is anchored on the need to deepen collaboration to fight a common challenge as the world is taken by storm with the exponential increase in drug trafficking and use.”He expressed optimism that the canvassed synergy will facilitate the speedy dismantling of drug trafficking cartels across Africa, through a more vibrant HONLEA platform. The NDLEA boss was earlier elected unanimously as the vice chairman of the conference chaired by the host country, Kenya.