Are we doing enough to contain the problem of drug abuse and illicit trafficking?
This is the question being asked by Tanzanians, who are being increasingly alarmed at how serious the problem has become as they marked the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking yesterday.
According to State Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (Policy, Coordination and Parliamentary Affairs) William Lukuvi 234.061kgs of heroin and 16.845 kgs of cocaine were seized between January and May, this year.
Lukuvi added pointedly: “…there is an increasing wave in drug trafficking in the country, which means there is an increased use of such drugs,” said the minister.
Lukuvi also disclosed that 7,646 men and 806 women were arrested in 2007 for using such drugs, while 6,230 men and 367 women were arrested in 2008.
He said 3751men and 263 women were arrested in 2009 while 51 men and 11 women were apprehended in 2010.
According to the minister, 93 men and 11 women were arrested in 2011 and this year 18 men and 4 women had so far been apprehended.
The minister went on to reveal that 211 Tanzanians were arrested in foreign countries for drug trafficking between 2005 and 2010, some of whom were sentenced to death.
It may seem as though the numbers are low, but it is also true that the sophisticated network woven by drug gangs, makes execution of the campaign against drug abuse and illicit trafficking very challenging.
The decision by the government to amend the law by doing away with fines as penalty and replacing them with life imprisonment, aims at stiffening the penalty.
Lukuvi who said the Bill would be tabled in Parliament before the end of this year, points out that the current Act has many weaknesses, thus giving room for drug traffickers to carry on with their activities.
It is about traffickers who slip through the legal dragnet because of the existing legal loopholes.
It is about circumventing the problem of tampering with the evidence, which according to the minister occurred because some of the keepers were tempted to steal the narcotics.
The minister said in the new Bill only a certificate from the government chemist will be enough evidence for existence of drugs instead of producing them in court physically.
No doubt, we must continue working on several fronts to ensure that the drug problem is contained to preserve the health of our people and our country.
We all know the damage that drug abuse and illicit trafficking can cause to a country and its people once it takes root.
And it has indeed taken root in some countries, where rival drug lords and gangs fight against the governments in power, and generally disrupting law and order.
In order to fight the menace successfully, a great effort must be directed to tackling the two critical fronts with vigour. It is tracking and nabbing the lords, bosses to face the wrath of the law.
It is also intensifying the campaign to educate our youths to keep off drugs. We must win both battles.