Mr Speaker, I rise to speak in support of the Statement ably made by the Hon Member for Keta.
Mr Speaker, it is important to place on record that the trade in illicit drugs is so huge. It has been estimated that the outturn per year is well over US$200 billion and certainly -- [Interruption] --Oh, the source? You can find it from the International Narcotics Control Report.
Mr Speaker, it is in 1982, I believe, when the first world summit on narcotics was held. The then Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Mr Javier Perez de Cuellar stated something and I can only paraphrase it. He said that this trade was a time bomb ticking in the heart of civilization. Mr Speaker, my emphasis is that, it is important for all of us to realise that it is a serious matter and all of us must confront it.
It is unfortunate that sometimes-- and I would want to emphasise; it is unfortunate that sometimes, for expediency, political and otherwise, people give colour to it.
Mr Speaker, I would want to believe that the time has come for all of us as a nation to realise that, like Javier Perez de Cuellar said, it is a time bomb ticking in the heart of civilization. I have had the opportunity to go to Nigeria lately and the reports I heard -- Mr Speaker, I was reliably informed that in the middle of Yola market, narcotics are sold as a commodity. This is exactly how brazen the peddlers of this commodity have become.
So, therefore, it is important that we all as a nation take a firm stand and go away from the parochial positions we have taken in the past. I would want to say that in the past, a lot of things have happened. But going on from here, we should all rise up as a nation and realise really and truly, that this is a matter that we must take very serious.
Mr Speaker, in so many years in the past, there have been various attempts to restructure the Narcotics Control Board. I remember that as late as 2007 or 2008, there was a report on its restructuring.
Mr Speaker, I think that the international best practice today is that, it must be a stand-alone institution. And I would want to believe that some work has been done to that effect in this country. And I would want to say that it is important that it is brought up to Parliament, so that the Narcotics Control Board ceases to be an appendage of a Ministry with all the powers it needs.
Mr Speaker, I must mention that I have had the opportunity to work there as the Deputy Executive Secretary for a year. And sometimes you would ask yourself, how could somebody who is paid GH¢600
just stand and will not collect US$10,000 when offered to let some ‘cargo' pass? It is a huge temptation but at least, at the time I was there, and from what I hear, the staff are still not appropriately remunerated. But I would want to believe that if Government goes ahead to do the needful by bringing it up and setting it up as a Commission with improved conditions of service, it might help in our fight against illicit drugs.
I would want to say that the way forward is for all of us, probably, at this level, to clearly understand the importance and also to help in improving the status of the Narcotics Control Board. I would want to believe that if we do this, it would go a long way in enhancing the fight against this illicit drug trade which, like Javier Perez de Cueller said, it is a timebomb ticking in the heart of civilization.
But I would want to believe that, collectively, we will be able to do something and save our dear nation.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Deputy Minister for Information and Media Relations (Mr Murtala M. Ibrahim): Mr Speaker, I rise to support the Statement ably made by my senior Colleague.
Mr Speaker, this Statement could not have been made anytime better than today -- the extent to which we have to begin looking at de-politicising issues of drugs. Indeed, majority of people who are engaged in such illicit drugs happen to be the youth. Some of them unfortunately, are influenced into taking them in the school. Either they are influenced by their peers, or some of them are also engaged in it as a result of unemployment.
There are researches proving that if young people do not have opportunities to engage in meaningful employment, depression sets in and as a result, they will be tempted to get into such activities.