Pestered on all sides by insecurity, Nigeria needs to put in place actionable plans to curb illicit drug trafficking and intake if it must address the challenge of societal degeneration, as well as break down in law and order which has led the country to its current state of acrimony, drug control experts have said.
The experts were disturbed by the various issues stemming from drug abuse in the country, which they said has ascended to an all time high with direct links to the worrisome level of moral decadence in the Nigerian society.
“Drug abuse increases the activities of the central nervous system, causing changes in perception, thoughts, emotions and consciousness which can be damaging to the society,” says Mrs. Titi Ogunluyi, Principal Staff Officer, Drug Demand Reduction, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). She spoke at a symposium marking the 2019 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking organized by Justice Development and Peace Centre, St Agnes Catholic Parish, Lagos Archdiocese.
Ogunluyi, who listed the common drugs in Nigeria to include Cannabis Sativa (otherwise known as Indian Hemp), tobacco, heroine and stimulants like cough syrup mixtures among others without leaving out alcohol, said victims taking them are often exposed to an increase in heart beat; a state of paranoia; damage in the brain cells and untimely death.
Bemoaning the rise in suicide cases among young Nigerians, she urged parents and community members to be on the look-out for the early signals that predispose people to drug abuse and suicide. “Most young people go into drug abuse out of low self esteem, peer pressure, adult modelling, boredom, feeling of alienation and of course economic hardship. These days, it’s important for the people in the society to pay attention to these things.”
According to a report funded by the European Union, about 14.3 million people in Nigeria were hooked on drugs in 2018. The survey showed that those involved in drug abuse are mainly between 15 and 64 years of age and one in every four of them is also a woman.
The survey further showed that the rate of drug abuse in Nigeria in 2018 is more than twice the global average of 5.3 percent.
Concerned by the insatiable appetite people have for drugs, the Deputy Director, Joint Action Front, Mr. Achike Chude, commented that as a nation battling insecurity, the government cannot afford to fold its hands to the challenges of drug abuse, asking the government to implement measures against the act.
Speaking with The New Diplomat, Regional Director for Mass Initiative For Non-Illicit Drug Society (MINDS), Mr. Afam Umeano Paulkinson noted that some people take to drug abuse in order to have a false sense of confidence and fulfillment, saying the society can change the narrative by celebrating and rewarding excellence among the youths so as to promote worthy role models and the right values.
Tracing the increase in the menace to the sort of ill-informed video and audio contents churn-out by entertainment stars on TV, radio and via the internet which seek to make the act more popular and brazen among young people on a daily basis, Paulkinson said: “when somebody makes a music and he talks about drug abuse as his source of inspiration, and then we buy that music and make that person a superstar. The children will definitely want to go the way of drugs. Go and listen to our music today. Those are the information that are available for our children for the future.”
He said the country cannot be deemed to be fighting the war until new entrants are stopped from taking to drugs, “then the traffickers will see no one to sell to. And that’s what MINDS is doing, we’re focusing on the children. Instead of focusing on rehabilitation, it’s better to focus on stopping them from getting in so that rehabilitation will not be needed in the first place.”
While condemning parents who engage in drug abuse in the presence of their wards, Paulkinson said “if the parents of Awolowo were drug addicts, would there be an Awolowo tomorrow that was? Would there be an Azikiwe that was? Would there be an Enahoro that was? Today we have leaders that were nurtured and brought up by parents who were not drug addicts, why are there parents today without concern or care about what’s going to happen tomorrow?”
Paulkinson added that Nigeria has become a dumping ground for illicit drugs by traffickers who “smuggle hard drugs into the country, mostly from Indonesia to re-manufacture them into other harder substances.” He worries that the NDLEA has been largely under-funded by the Nigerian government to adequately take the fight to the doorstep of the drug traffickers who have huge resources at their disposal.
However, while calling for a joint effort against drug abuse, Ms. Stella Amaechi, Drug Abuse Preventive Education Office, NDLEA, stated that her agency has been going round the country to carry out drug abuse preventive education campaigns, but there is need for more support from the home fronts, parents and the society at large. “Drug is killing our society, drug is destroying our youths. The depression we’re seeing among the youths today is because of drugs. There’s no crime today that you don’t see drug abuse at the heart of it. Be it rape, gangsterism, all are as a result of drugs today.
“All of us should come out and fight drug like a war, just like how we fought Ebola. We have a rehabilitation centre where we teach children on how to go out of drugs,” she added.
As the suicide rate in the country soars, last week, the federal government placed a restriction on the sale and use of the fatal agro-chemical product, Sniper, but Amaechi argued that controlling the sale of Sniper can not in any way be a cure-all approach to stop suicide. “The truth is that as we’re trying to move them away from sniper, the youths are looking for other escape routes. Without mentioning names, there are other hard drugs they are experimenting with. All this comes from experimentation by mixing different substances together to get other hard drugs, it’s quite sad!”