By Kemi Olatunde
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has long designated Nigeria as a transit route for many illegal substances. Hard drugs, ranging from cannabis–often called Indian Hemp–to cocaine, heroin and amphetamines, are increasingly available on the street and abused by both the young and the old.
Recently, the Federal Government expressed its commitment to the fight against substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking as part of efforts to curtail the global drug problem, even as it said it would continue to provide necessary support and tools for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency to fulfil its mandate.
Vice President Kashim Shettima gave the assurances while declaring open the 31st meeting of Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Africa, in Abuja some weeks ago.
According to him, “This administration will continue to provide the necessary support, motivation, and tools for the NDLEA to fulfil its mandate. We understand the connection between the success of the fight against substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking and the attainment of several goals on our socio-economic and security agenda.
“For us, the commitment to the fight against drug trafficking and substance abuse is not just a matter of policy; it is a moral imperative. We recognize that a population at war with drugs is not a dividend but a liability. We believe that the future of our youth, the strength of our institutions, and the well-being of our communities depend on our ability to eradicate this threat.
“Our strength has always been our proactive actions to prevent any individual or group from turning our countries into a minefield of drug trafficking. So, we must prioritise prevention, education, and rehabilitation to empower our youth with knowledge and opportunities. We must steer them away from the treacherous path of drug abuse and trafficking and protect our economy from the consequences of their actions.
He said the choice of Nigeria for the conference is a profound recognition of the campaign and fight against illicit drugs led by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.
“We are hosting the 31st HONLAF meeting here to reassure you of our promise to participate in building a world not threatened by the infiltration of illicit drugs. Over the decades, criminal organisations have attempted to breach our security measures in their business of polluting nations and minds. But while it’s a compliment that drug-law enforcement organisations are a threat to their criminal empires, their desperation must never be taken for granted. Without you as gatekeepers of healthy nations, humanity as we know it would have long been perverted. So, on behalf of the world, I say: thank you, thank you to all of you who have kept us from being polluted and destroyed,” he added.
In Ondo State, the fight too has been on as seen in the operation of the State Task Force against Fake and Counterfeit drugs where it recently apprehended a fake and counfeit drug organisation; Brother Paul Legacy Foundation at the Cultural Area of Ondo road, Akure, the state capital
The taskforce comprises the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) National Agency for Food, Drug, Administration and Control ( NAFDAC), Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria ( PSN) and Department of the Pharmaceutical Services of the Ministry of Health.
Due to the above arrest, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) commended the State Taskforce on Fake and Counterfeit Drugs for doing a yeoman’s job in carrying out its operation.
The commendation was contained in a release signed and made public by Pharm. B. O. Taiwo, Maw, the chairman, ACPN, Ondo State.
Pharm. Taiwo who said the battle against illicit drugs requires a collaborative approach, further assured that members of ACPN are solidly behind government and are resolute in the commitment to support efforts in exposing and bringing such unscrupulous individuals to justice.
In spite of the war on the traffickers, the huge numbers of drug mules still jetting out of the country means the enforcement agencies must have all hands on deck. The magnitude of this problem and the consequences for our image, national security and public health are so severe that something must be done urgently. This is in addition to the fact that Nigeria is increasingly becoming a destination for narcotics. In the past few years, the use of illicit drug has been widespread and many of our young citizens are increasingly getting addicted. Drug use prevalence for ages 15 to 64 in Nigeria is put at 14.4, almost three times the global drug prevalence of 5.5 per cent, according to the UNODC.
Special Assistant to the Governor on Health, Prof. Dayo Faduyile, while speaking with The Hope described the fight as multifaceted stating that it involves education, employment, family system (proper upbringing), peer pressure and societal value.
He explained that the country has been unable to galvanize the involved sectors in ensuring that the menace is well kept.
According to him, many of those involved I started from late primary school and early secondary school adding that aggressive sensitisation should be put in place at these levels.
He stressed the need to strengthen the family system, adding that there should be discipline both at the primary and secondary school level.
“Looking at the family system, how well are parents being informed on the need to keep an eye on their children to prevent them from getting involved in illicit drug? The youth should be kept busy and also provide employment for them.
“There is the need to track those involved by having a robust interaction among concerned sectors for us to combat it appropriately.
“There is need to strengthen the family system. Everybody should be involved in what happens in the society. Also, all should see to the training of the children. In the school, there is a breakdown of discipline; some teachers are not well behaved as some of them lure students into such bad behavior. There is need for a very disciplined institution in both primary and secondary schools. We need to have clubs that educate the students on the need to be morally behaved and stand in the side of the good of the society.
“Government should increase its advocacy, open up space for employment, strengthen security agencies in order to apprehend those breaking the law, prosecute offend is when guilty and also ensure that proper law are put in place guide against such behavior.
“All these will enable us get the best out of the situation.” He advised.
Speaking with The Hope, Asae of Akure, High Chief Sola Adegbonmire noted that there must be a way to encourage the youth so as to prevent them from engaging in illicit drugs.
According to him, the society has neglected them noting that having them engaged will help the fight against illicit drugs.
“It has been observed that the society care less about the youth. A lot of things have been neglected. In those days when we sneak out, the elderly ones then used to scold us but it is no longer the same in this generation. Parents should look after the children.
“The youth take different drugs. At times, they mix different things together. These drugs come in from different areas and these have to be checked. Security agencies should find a way to do this.
“The homes, communities and Religious organisations have roles to play in this. I do challenge suspicious movement within my vicinity. We should all have the attitude of challenging wrong doings in our environment. When children do wrong, they should be challenged because they are the future leaders and if we don’t challenge them, it comes back to us in a negative way. It is a general problem. Mobile phones aren’t helpful as nacotic drugs are being ordered online.”
He called on responsible government agencies to address the source adding that they should desist from running after the consumers.
Speaking with The Hope, Vice President, National Association of Proprietor of Private Schools, Mrs Mary Akeredolu stressed the need for parents to be more concerned about their children adding that they should always watch out for the company they keep.
“These days, parents seem to care less about the friends their children keep. Due to technology/modernisation, parents are busy trying to make ends meet hence, giving little or no attention to their children who most times learn from their friends. This should not be as it is the responsibility of parents to be involved in the proper upbringing of their children. Parents should start being alive to their responsibility in order to eradicate incidences of illicit drugs among the youths.”
Chief Imam of Gaga community, Alh. Yesufu Agbesinga while speaking called on religious organizations to stand against illicit drugs in the society noting that most religions forbid it.
According to him, it is the responsibility of religious leaders to speak against it adding that they should ensure that the youths are adequately engaged.
Speaking further he said; “It is the duty of parents to monitor their children. They should get them engaged either through farming or skill acquisition.
“Most of those involved in illicit drugs use it to while away their time, hence, government should make job opportunities available for the youths in order to divert them from taking illicit drug.”