Editorial: The Troubling Drug Case Acquittal

ON OCTOBER 3, 2022 the government of Liberia announced the discovery and seizure of a large consignment of drugs worth $100m, unarguably one of the largest seizure made in recent time in sub-sahara Africa. The news took the centerstage of international media and serious concern within the international community, which curiously enough only confirmed several experts’ views and reports that the Liberia sits dangerously on a keg of gunpowder over rising cases of drug use and drug abuse as well as the country suddenly emerging as one of the major transit points for trafficking in the deadly substance.

THE MINISTER OF Justice and Attorney General, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, who made the disclosure said the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA), with the help of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs made the seizure in Topoe Village, a suburb of Monrovia. It was reported that a Guinea-Bissau national and a Lebanese suspect were arrested.

THE UNITED STATES Government through its Embassy near Monrovia, in a swift release, congratulated the government through the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Security Agency (NSA) which resulted in the interdiction of a shipment of over 520 kilograms of cocaine of worth USD100m and the arrest of the suspect.

THIS DEVELOPMENT ELEVATED the status of Liberia’s war on drugs and a testament that the synergy between international agencies and friendly government has never been a fluke. It was a victory that was not only for Liberia but indeed the country’s combative contribution against this scourge that threatens the security and survival of mankind throughout the world.

THE EXPECTATION THEN was that the government will leverage on this feat and further push for a more aggressive way that will lead other countries to adopt and wage similar push towards if not eliminating but to significantly reduce the prevalence of drug trafficking, abuse and use.

UNFORTUNATELY, THE NEWS of the acquittal dealt a serious blow to the positive posture Liberia was accorded when the seizure was made. The outcome of the judicial process which freed the suspect left so many questions unanswered among them whether the government did not present a strong case or whether there were no ample evidence to prove the case against the suspect or whether the government was unmindful of the implication of recording this feat and then losing the case in the court because of the manner in which it handled the case.

WHATEVER THAT HAS become of the case, the fact remains that there are facts that there was consignment of drugs brought in this country and through the collaboration with other international agencies and governments, especially the United States government, the dangerous substances were tracked and seized. At the time of the seizure, security agencies including journalists and representation from the US Embassy, photographs and recordings were made. It was never a fairy tale, there were compelling evidence available to prosecute the case and secure a conviction.

THE ACQUITTAL WAS a shock to many and a let down to the country especially when information has been making it rounds that the case was highly influenced externally and compromised. What is even shocking is that the Minister of Justice was quoted last week that the suspects have even escaped and cannot be found and that if it is contemplated that an appeal will be taken, it will not achieve its desired result.

IT IS SAD that the government did not exert more seriousness to prosecuting the case knowing very well that the country’s international image was attached to the outcome of the case. Though there has not been any reaction from the United States government which had earlier celebrated with the Liberian government when the seizure was made last year, there are every reason to believe that the Americans will not be happy with the outcome and definitely disappointed that in addition to the acquittal, the suspects had escaped and the USD200k seized from them was ordered to be returned.

THERE ARE SEVERAL implications to troubling acquittal, all pointing to a negative impression on the international scene as it relates to the fight against the drug scourge. The outcome has further exposed the surrounding countries regarded as fragile states as far as penetration of drugs into their territories is concerned. The seizure of the huge consignment was a beacon of hope to close in on this global menace and Liberia’s neighbors that have been fast losing to drug lords but such hope has been blown into flames, probably never to be recovered.

THE OUTCOME ALSO speaks volumes of our poor and corrupt judicial system that has long being criticized. For the government to lose such case which does not only impact on its international image but also on the security on the basis of “no evidence” shows that the country is under serious threat from the government which is under oath to protect the country. A lot of things are at stake when the judiciary is compromised and for this case, it shows that no one, especially our international development partners will ever take us serious.

THE BALL IS in the government’s court to redeem the country’s battered image occasioned by the embarrassing verdict last week. The reported news that the government may appeal against the verdict will go a long way to restore confidence in the minds of our international development partners as well as in our own security that is under threat by the rampaging evidence of drugs inflow in the country.

THE COUNTRY IS walking a tightrope of national drug addiction and terrible damage, without declaring an emergency on illicit drugs and marshalling a collective effort to strengthen the war against drug cartels, traffickers and ignorant users. For now, there seems to be jubilation in the camps of the drug users and abusers and kingpins but the government could put that to an end by revisiting the case and ensuring that a conviction will be secured.

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