Liberia: Governance Commission Wants Gov’t to Adopt Harsher Enforcement Policy on Substance Abuse

Governance Commission’s Officer In Charge Elizabeth Dorkin saying Liberia has become an attractive hub for illicit trans-regional drugs traffickers

Monrovia – The Officer in Charge and Commissioner, with oversight on Public Sector Reform Mandate Area at the Governance Commission (GC), Madam Elizabeth Dorkin, has expressed serious concern over the increase in substance abuse related incidences which is no secret that Liberia has a major substance abuse crisis.

Liberia is at the moment struggling with such a crisis, particularly amongst the youthful population. One group of young people who are referred to as “zogos,” are some of worst abusers of illicit substances.

Speaking further, Commissioner Dorkin emphasized that narcotic, illicit substance abuse poses a major health and security risk to our nation and its people, including young people.

“Liberia has become an attractive hub for illicit trans-regional drugs traffickers who in a short time have found a loophole in our system and attacked the social fabric of the country,” she said. The GC’s OIC stressed that because the traffickers’ actions are abusing the young population, there is a need to strengthen the enforcement regime to stop the illicit traders if Liberia is to protect its young people and future.

Speaking recently at the opening of the dialogue on “Emerging Substance Abuse Crisis and its Effect on the Economy’’ organized by the GC at a local hotel, Commissioner Dorkin further said, the Public Health Law of Liberia criminalizes the trade of illicit drugs but added that there must be more coherent policies on how abusers of the laws should be handled.

“Due to the rapid increase in illicit drugs trade, the Governance Commission organized this important dialogue to get stakeholders’ views on how illicit drugs trade can be stopped as it may become a major public health and economic crisis in the coming decades and a threat to Liberia’s peace and stability,” she further opined.

She also expressed hope that the Commission, which is strongly routed in its mandate to formulate policies and proffer policy recommendations, will lead a formulation of a National Road Map for a stronger policy on curbing illicit drug trade as it is critical to the improvement in the social, economic and political dynamic of the country.

Also speaking at the dialogue, Commissioner George W. Howe, Jr of the Political, Legal Reforms/ Decentralization Mandate Area, called on policymakers at the government level to label illicit substance trafficking as non-billable and stressed that substance abuse was fast becoming very controversial and problematic and if not corrected could lead to a crisis.  Additionally, Mr. Howe said that substance abuse was a global problem coupled with peer pressure. He added, “All of the social centers, supermarkets, street corners, and the manifestation of the disease is in the youthful generation.”

He told stakeholders that the Commission’s mandate compels them to raise such issue and bring relevant institutions and opinion leaders and researchers to the table to dialogue a way forward.  According to him, the dialogue was as a result of many consultations held between the GC and other relevant stakeholders on the need to bring to the public forum the slowly creeping poison that stands to pose the greatest threat to the nation.

Presentations were taken from three key perspectives:  Ministries of Justice, Health and the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) which included a Legal- Political Perspective, a Criminal-Correction Perspective and a Public Health Perspective.

The panelists hoped that theirs and other participants’ perspectives will provide the information that will create the corridor for the best professional pieces of advice to the government.

The Commission recognizes that the government, CSOs and other partners have all done well in fighting substance abuse but believes that this dialogue will also necessitate periodic review of progress and strategies to ensure that they are always one step ahead of those who attempt to abuse the laws.