By LUCY CHINDABA
According to an article by Punch newspapers on tackling drug abuse among Nigerians, it was revealed that Nigeria’s progression from a simple, stable and “clean” society to one that is drug-troubled may have taken long to come about; but it seems to have finally come to stay. In fact, it has now reached an energy level. Given the deep-rooted nature of the drug problem, it is a situation that will remain so for a long time, unless drastic measures are taken to restore the country’s erstwhile pristine innocence.
Recent statistics is so worrisome as according to a survey, in the last one year alone, nearly 15% of the adult population in Nigeria, around 14.3 million people reported a considerable level of use of psychoactive drug substances a rate much higher than the 2016 global average of 5.6% among adults. The survey was led by Nigeria’s Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Center for Research and Information on Substance Abuse with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC.
It showed the highest level of drug use was recorded among people aged between 25 to 39 with cannabis being the most widely used drug. Sedatives, heroin, cocaine and the non-medical use of prescription opiods were also noted. The survey excluded the use of tobacco and alcohol. This is very worrisome because of the deleterious effects of drug or substance abuse on both the abuser and the society.
Yet given the rate at which the habit is spreading, it is expected that the rate will further increase and might become an epidemic in a country that lacks the capacity to handle it. As the NBS report said, the extent of the problem is such that it cannot be addressed alone by any single entity within the government alone. So it is a problem that demands the collaboration of all segments of the society, especially the family, where parents and guardians should pay more attention to what their children and wards are doing. Religious groups also have a big role to play in keeping the youth away from drugs, especially through enlightenment.
Concerned about this development, the Northern Governors’ Wives forum met on 31/10/16 and the topic of discussion was: “Substance abuse and Drug abuse in Northern Nigeria and the continuing prevalence of HIV amongst adolescents” being key issues the forum is tackling through various interventions. In furtherance of that, they recently after their quarterly meeting held in Minna said it will establish social rehabilitation centers across the nineteen northern states of the country to cater for youths who were addicted to drugs.
The forum noted that drug abuse menace especially among the youth is on the rise in the Northern part of the country, hence the need to employ various strategies ranging from awareness and sensitization programs on the effects of codeine and other abused drugs setting up rehabilitation centers, empowerment initiatives through SMEs and effective collaboration with relevant stakeholders among other things in order to bring an end to the threat.
In response to this therefore, the Plateau State First Lady, her Excellency Mrs Regina Lalong has launched a sensitization campaign on drug abuse with the theme. “Towards a drug free Plateau” as according to her the consequences of the menace has affected the nation negatively that is why the forum of wives of 19 northern governors took the initiative to create awareness on dangers of drug abuse.
The first lady stated that as a mother she will use her pet project the SWITCH foundation to create more awareness on the dangers and consequences of drug abuse and educate mothers on preventive measures and early detection of engagement on drugs. She revealed that the programme being flagged of was a follow up to the resolution and pledge to support the campaign on drug abuse and addiction amongst youths and women in the society after a workshop for forum of wives of the 19 northern states in collaboration with Reconnect Health Development Initiatives and House Recovery, which had the theme, “Drug awareness and Advocacy Training” held in 2017.
Welcome address by Coordinator Support Women Initiatives to Transform Children (SWITCH) Dr. John Jinung while welcoming participants to the event said the problem is one that has affected everyone in one way or another and so has to be tackled headlong. He emphasized that “it affects virtually every family, home, community and so all should learn from all the presentations and ensure the message is passed. The gathering which is just a journey that is just starting today will extend to primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, and will prioritise the liberation and transformation of people through advocacy, education and sensitization, provision of socio-economic empowerment to vulnerable women and children”, Jinung reiterated.
The training will also be extended to the teachers and lecturers, and drops in centers are to be created across the three zones so as to equip especially the youths, drug free clubs will also be created in schools, and urged all to support the initiative so that it succeeds.
In a goodwill message, the Chairman, Plateau Youth Council, PYC, Dr. Jemchang Fabong represented by the Central Coordinator of PYC, Danjuma, thanked the Plateau State First Lady for coming to the constituency of the youth because they are the ones deeply involved in the issues of drug abuse and addiction. He explained that all the vices in the society, rape, armed robbery, cultism, amongst others are in some way or the other linked to drug addiction. Danjuma stated that the PYC was ready to partner with any organization in this fight and particularly the First Lady’s foundation by providing volunteers.
On her part, Permanent Secretary, Ministry for Women Affairs, Hassana Ayika, called on women to rise up to the challenge, it is their responsibility because if drug dependency is not curbed, there is no future for the country.
She maintained that the problems being faced by families, communities, armed conflicts, etc. further escalate the use of drugs as a way out and called on governments at all levels to work together to put an end to the problem. She particularly called on relevant authorities to ensure that government policies tied to public health are tightened and enforced.
Mrs Felicia Yakzum, leader of High Level Women Advocates, HILWA, in a remark lamented that drugs have sent a lot of their children to an early grave. She said their generation is supposed to hand over to the next generation but if they are being wasted through drug consumption and addiction who will they hand over to? She promised that her organization will take the fight to those selling the drugs that are destroying their children and urged all to join in the fight.
In their separate presentations, Consultant Psychiatrist and addiction specialist Jos University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Dawup Makut and Legal Adviser NDLEA, Barr. Ukechukwu Eke said 271 million people use illicit drugs out of which hundreds of thousands die from the use of alcohol, cigarettes, Indian hemp, solution, amongst others. The consequences include: declined performance in school, weakness of the immune system, brain disease, psychiatric disorder and suicide.
Barrister Eke however called the attention of youths to the legal implication of drug abuse and trafficking which include sanctions and imprisonment.
They called on stakeholders to implement laws towards prevention, rehabilitation, and control. They all called on government to provide sporting activities, and skills acquisition programmes for youths so that they will be engaged.
Over four hundred participants drawn from various government and primate secondary schools in the state attended the event with some addicts who had successfully gone through treatment giving their testimonies. They appealed to government to support those who want to get out of the habit to do so because according to them rehabilitation is expensive and some families cannot afford it. They appealed to the youth not to even start the habit as getting out is very difficult and revealed that the role of the family was very key to getting rid of the habit.
Highlights of the event were dance performances by a group of youths, comedy and there were displays of various illicit drugs.
Yet given the rate at which the habit is spreading, it is expected that the rate will further increase and might become an epidemic in a country that lacks the capacity to handle it. Also the NBS report said the extent of the problem is such that it cannot be addressed alone by any single entity within the government alone. So it is a problem that demands the collaboration of all segments of the society, especially the family, where parents and guardians should pay more attention to what their children and wards are doing. Religious groups also have a big role to play in keeping the youth away from drugs, especially through enlightenment.
The First Lady revealed plans to strategically partner and actively work with NGOs and relevant stakeholders to stem its pursuit against the negative trend of drug abuse and addiction on women and youthful Nigerians. Commitment and resilience will recognize the inclusion of traditional and religious leaders particularly in the North where the menace is alarming.
The Northern Governors’ Wives Forum have stressed the need for collaboration by stakeholders to tackle increasing cases of drug abuse by youths in the country, describing the menace of drug abuse among youths as worrisome as the lives of future generation in the region were in serious jeopardy if left unchecked. The problem of drug addiction would ruin our youths and make them vulnerable, thereby jeopardizing the future generation. In addition, the forum that the forum would continue to collaborate with partners and other stakeholders to bring an end to drug addiction in the region, adding also that unity of purpose was critical to tackling the menace of drug abuse.
In the UK, drug or substance abuse is treated as an illness, a brain disorder.
As the problem is increasing, there is the need to create treatment and rehabilitation centers. As it has to do with human resource, this is a problem the government should take more interest in.
The federal government had heeded to the call for a ban in the production of codeine and other illicit substance sales points.
Recall that the Senator for Plateau Central zone, Hezekiah Dimka, is the Chairman, Drugs and Narcotics in the Senate in a recent interview reiterated that the war on drug abuse in Nigeria is for all. The high prevalence of drug addiction which has been put at 14.6% by a recent survey is worrisome and all hands must be on deck to ensure that the war on drugs is won.