Anthony Souh: ‘we have now the teeth to bite, and we will bite and bite without fear or favor’
Liberia’s Drug Law Enforcement Agency (DEA) Chief Anthony Souh Thursday sounded a strong forewarning to those engaged in smuggling and dealing in narcotic drugs and other harmful substances to immediately desist or face life imprisonment.
“We now have the mandate; we have now the teeth to bite, and we will bite and bite without fear or favor,” Souh stated in an interview just 48 hours after the National Legislature had passed the country’s first-ever anti-drug law.
DEA officials and security along with UN Peacekeepers burning confiscated drugs last year outside Monrovia
The country has had no specific anti-drug law, and the DEA was only operating under the public health law which is too weak to fight illicit drug use and smuggling in the country.
The Controlled Drug and Substance Act will significantly help the country join the global fight against the illegal sale of harmful drugs and smuggling.
Liberia is listed as one of the countries where drugs are smuggled in the West African sub region, and over the last three years, millions of tons of these harmful substances have been confiscated and destroyed here.
Those who had been arrested and prosecuted have faced only negligible punishments, but Souh said those days are over as soon as the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signs the Act into law. “We will come after you,” he warns perceived drugs dealers, adding, “no matter who, where, when. We will go after you.”
He described that passage of the law by the National Legislature as “by all indication an achievement for the Liberian people; it’s a great achievement for this administration, this government and this President.”
Souh said for almost all of the life of Liberia, there thas been not defined anti-drug law or legislation. “We have been dealing only with the public health law which is insufficient to deal with the drug abuse, or mandate of the DEA in Liberia now, especially after the war.”
The country’s chief drug fighter asserted that it was contradictory to have a drug law enforcement agency that does not have a law to enforce. “When we came to this office [in 2012], it was almost paradoxical that we have come to an office to enforce a law that was non-existent,” he recalled. “So we had problem. The first thing that I thought of was that we are here to enforce law and we don’t have one…and that’s how the Minister of Justice understood our vision and we started to work…with all of the national stakeholders.”
Though the trade is reportedly lucrative, Souh said the drug is more harmful to the entire nation than the benefits that come to those who deal in it. He said it was damaging especially the young people, the future of the country. “Drug is harmful to life; when people take drugs and become addicted, it’s very difficult to recover from it. Most of the tragic deaths, most of the accidents, most of the health hazards, some of the crazy people (mentally deranged) you see in our streets all come from drug and substance abuses.”
The drug law is comprehensive and covers every aspects of illegal handling of drugs and a punishment of up to life imprisonment.
Therefore, Souh believes that “this law has addressed all of the violations, all the acts and omission that supposed to constitute a violation [in smuggling and handling of narcotic drugs]. We have been taking people to court but they were not punished because the law was weak—the public health law.”
The Controlled Drug and Substance Act makes drug trafficking a felony of the First Degree. That means it’s unbillable. “If you commit Felony of the First Degree under our law, which is equivalent to treason or murder…. [It] is punished by death.”
The DEA Chief said it was time for very serious war on drug dealings and smuggling in the country with the tool to fight now available.
He appealed to those involved or planning to get involved to do the honorable thing to desist or find themselves behind bars for life.
“My honest advice,” he warned, “is desisting; be it Liberian or foreigner alike, desists from the dangerous act. If you try it we will go after you.”
Over the last three years, millions of tons of these harmful substances have been confiscated and destroyed in the country
The President will sign it into law without hesitation, because she submitted it to the legislature for enactment, Souh boasted.
The House of Representatives has unanimously concurred with the Liberian Senate to pass the Anti-drug Act of Liberia on Tuesday.
In a report Tuesday to plenary, the Committee on National Security and Judiciary said considering the negative implication of drug trafficking, it is important that Liberia takes appropriate actions for safety.