Battling the hazard of drug abuse, illicit trafficking

It was apparent from the contributions by key stakeholders that the fight against drug abuse and illicit trafficking lack serious commitment.

Speaker after speaker maintained that the shallow manner in which the menace is being handled has resulted in a large percentage of security problems that rage in the country currently. Stakeholders unanimously agree that the negative social and economic consequences of the problem is far-reaching.

A Consultant Addiction Specialist, Dr Ada Ikeako, said: “A lot of crimes being committed in Nigeria these days results from drugs influence. Whether it is kidnapping and banditry or Boko Haram and other forms of violent crimes, most of them are drug-related. So, if we control drug abuse, we can also get a handle on violent crimes within the country because they are related.”

The President of the African Council on Narcotics (ACON), Mr Rekpene Bassey, shares the same opinion.

According to Bassey, a security expert, drug abuse, which has permeated even homes and schools, fuels terrorism, violent extremism, cultism and other violent crimes, hence the need to deal with the problem urgently.

The Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah, also posited that the influence of drugs is responsible for the upsurge in several violent crimes.

A survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and funding from the European Union last year indicated that nearly 15 per cent of the adult population in Nigeria (around 14.3 million people) reported a “considerable level” of use of psychoactive drug substances. This was a rate much higher than the 2016 global average of 5.6 per cent among adults.

It showed that the highest level of drug use was recorded among people between the ages of 25 and 39, with cannabis being the most widely used drug. Sedatives, heroin, cocaine and the non-medical use of prescription opioids were also noted. The survey excluded the use of tobacco and alcohol. Stakeholders agree that the rate is much higher these days.

The situation, it appears, may have worsened with the lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bassey said: “There is a tendency of an escalation with the lockdown. What happens when people are isolated and locked down? It is boredom and frustration. Some people would suffer from depression. Depression is a catalyst for substance abuse, just as substance abuse itself can lead to depression.”

Expressing worry over the drug problem, Col. Abdallah had raised the alarm over a “frightening dimension of drug manufacturing in Nigeria” mainly in relation to Methamphetamine.

“We are at our wit’s end to discover more Meth Labs not necessarily because they do not exist. A new version of manufacturing has reared its head, the introduction of Hydrophonic outfit where Cannabis is manipulated into the production of Hashish and Canaboil, both of which are illegal since they contravene the extant NDLEA Act. Would you believe the locations? The first in Jos run by a Chinese and the second in Victoria Island Lagos, run by a mixed nationality person – Nigeria/German,” he said.

One area every stakeholder agreed on is that the primary agency to tackle the problem is not well funded and equipped to take on the challenge to a logical conclusion.

Bassey said just talking would not achieve anything, even as he called on the government to fund the NDLEA adequately to tackle the fight against drug abuse and illicit trafficking.

Highlighting a few of the NDLEA’s challenges, Abdallah said the Agency’s Treatment and Rehabilitation component of the Drug Demand Reduction Directorate is in dire need of an upgrade.

“Medical attention given to drug-dependent persons is often the last stage of the war. These are the battles of intervention, education, sensitisation, counselling and psychotherapy which the agency is competent to perform given the in-house expertise available.

“What is lacking is the required capacity building. Time has come for competent Treatment and Rehabilitation Centres to be fully built as anticipated by the NDLEA Act where psychotherapy and medical therapy should mutually reinforce each other.

“Cannabis cultivation has continued to attract our attention because it is the most widely abused substance in Nigeria. In 2019, a total of 310.1 tons of Cannabis were seized and destroyed publicly. All together for that year, 612, 903.484 kilograms of drugs were seized. The arrest figures stand at 9,444 of drug-related offenders. A total of 1,195 convictions were recorded, while 795 drug-dependent persons were counselled,” he said.

On the way forward, Abdallah called for every part of the society to be involved in the fight against drug abuse and trafficking.



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Battling the hazard of drug abuse, illicit trafficking Battling the hazard of drug abuse, illicit trafficking Reviewed by Osigwe Omo-Ikirodah on July 28, 2020 Rating: 5

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