Road to winning war against drug abuse in Nigeria

Road to winning war against drug abuse in Nigeria

Road to winning war against drug abuse in nigeriaBy Ibironke Ariyo

Drug and alcohol abuse, trafficking, and related criminal activities remain serious problems which affect the lives of many Nigerians.

Drug abuse triggers many social problems worldwide. It leads to major health challenges, crimes, and violent crimes, among others.

Substance abuse destroys the potential in youths, which in many instances, gives rise to crimes like insurgency, terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, rape, to mention but a few.

According to experts, the most commonly abused drugs by youths are marijuana, cocaine, stimulants, painkillers and prescription drugs, spice and K2, heroin, crystal meth, MDMA, hallucinogens, DXM and inhalants among others.

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Many factors have been blamed for substance abuse among young people.

Peer pressure, poor parental upbringing, corruption, unemployment, ego rank high among the causes of drug abuse.

A United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report says drugs abuse was responsible for the death of almost half a million people in 2019 while drug use disorders resulted in the loss of 18 million years of healthy life.

The 2018 National Drug Use Survey also revealed that there were about 14.3 million drug users in Nigeria out of which close to 3 million suffered from drug use disorders.

This figure represents a 14.4 per cent prevalence rate in Nigeria, which is about three times the global average prevalence rate of 5 per cent.

The UNODC in its 2021 World Drug Report projects said that by 2030, the number of people using drugs around the world will rise by 11 per cent and by 40 per cent in Africa alone.

This is a disturbing projection because as the country with the largest population in Africa, the implication is that Nigeria’s drug abuse prevalence will rise substantially.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Ministry of Justice are in partnership to promote and pursue an approach that combines prevention, treatment, and enforcement to break the cycle of substance abuse and drug-related crimes.

The NDLEA, retired Brig.- Gen. Buba Marwa, said in the past three years, the agency has seized 7,590 tons of illicit drugs and substances nationwide with an estimated market value of over N800 billion.

The NDLEA Chairman spoke during a visit to the agency’s Abuja headquarters by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Christopher Musa.

He further said the agency has arrested 42,105 drug offenders.

Marwa, who had worked as Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse, (PACEDA), between 2018 and December, 2020 before his appointment in 2021 as NDLEA Chairman, highlighted the centrality of drugs to criminal activities including terrorism, kidnapping, and insurgency.

He said 29,400 drug users have been counselled and rehabilitated within the same period.

“In about three years, we have arrested 42,105 drug offenders, including 46 barons. We have seized no fewer than 7, 590 tons of drugs and this is worth about N800 billion”, Marwa told his audience.

Speaking further, Marwa said that NDLEA successfully prosecuted 3,412 drug offenders in 2023 alone adding that among those prosecuted, 15 drug kingpins bagged 168 years jail terms collectively.

“That is a substantial improvement over our performance in 2022.

“Notably, in 2023, we also ramped up our enforcement action against cannabis farms and carried out at least seven successful major operations, leading to the discovery and destruction of over 206 hectares of cannabis plantations,” Marwa said.

The war against substance abuse and trafficking will not be won without the support of critical stakeholders and partners, including state governments and the Federal Capital Territory administration.

The FCT NDLEA, FCT Command has accelerated its efforts intercepting 7,345.209 kilograms of illicit drugs and substances worth N125.71 million last year.

The NDLEA commander, Mr Kabir Tsakuwa told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)  that the drugs intercepted include marijuana, cocaine, diazepam, methamphetamine, rohypnol, tramadol, pentazocine, heroin, megadon, and ecstasy among others.

Giving a breakdown of the seizures, the commander said a total of 7,138.72kg of marijuana was intercepted by operatives of the agency within the period under review.

He said other drugs seized in 2023 included 0.5kg of cocaine; diazepam, 29.629kg; methamphetamine, 4.587kg; rohypnol, 5.934kg, and 133.753kg of tramadol.

Tsakuwa added that the rest of the illicit drugs intercepted were pentazocine weighing 21.727kg; heroin, 0.002kg; megadon, 0.263kg, and ecstasy, 0.134kg.

“All the illicit drugs and substances intercepted were with the street value of N125, 714, 620 million,” he said.

The NDLEA commander said 640 suspects comprising 614 males and 26 females were arrested within the period under review.

Tsakuwa said out of the number, 295 of the suspects were charged in court and 201 of them were convicted while 264 cases are pending in the Federal High Court, Abuja.

On rehabilitation, he said that within the year under review, 175 drug users were counselled and helped back into the society out of which, 172 were males and three were females.

The role of civil society organisations and faith-based organisations in the efforts to wean youths from substance abuse cannot be overemphasised. They have the capacity to reach the rural areas.

Two organisations, Vanguard Against Drug Abuse (VGADA), and Soaring Youth Foundation (SYF), are working to support 1, 000 youths to steer away from drug abuse in the FCT.

The organisations made the commitment during the flag-off of the ‘Youth Alive Drug Abuse, Sensitisation, Self-Awareness and Treatment (DASSAT) Project’ at Wumba community, in Lokogoma area of Abuja.

The project is being implemented in partnership with the National Drug law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Shekinah International Gospel Ministry, Wumba.

Dr Hope Omeiza, the Managing Director of VGADA, said their target was to get to hard-to-reach communities and support victims who could not access and afford treatment.

“We felt it is important to get into communities like the Wumba community where we are flagging off this programme to ensure that before the end of 2024, we are able to reach 1,000 youths in Abuja,” he said.

Omeiza said that the project would involve psychological, skills acquisition and social skills programme adding that beneficiaries would undergo drug test and other drug resistance programmes and interventions to steer them away from drugs.

Mr Michael Awe, Lead Pastor, Shekinah International Gospel Ministry, said they have thrown their hat into the ring by partnering with organisations to achieve desired results.

“We have been doing it on our own, but we discover that spirituality is not enough to heal the mind of the youths from drug abuse. That is why we are partners in this rescue mission.

“We are coming together to see how we can help and empower them in such a way that they could have something tangible to do and be useful to themselves and the community,” he said.

News Agency of Nigeria.