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The Drug Menace. by Temitayo (f): 1:56pm on March 11
Adelani Temiloluwa
School Of Nursing Ondo
Nursing Student
300Level, Nigeria.
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I was at a filling station on Monday waiting to fuel my car when a young man came and insisted the fuel attendant must find him “something.” I didn’t have to be told he was on drugs as just one look at his glazed eyes was all I needed. I waited patiently while they haggled until the attendant parted with N500. Immediately he got the money he hopped on a motorbike with two of his colleagues and off they went. Even though I had already made my conclusion I asked the attendant if he was on drugs. He replied in the affirmative.

While my car was being filled up another attendant approached and I overheard them appealing to the young man after the N500 had been dangled in his face, to go look for a job and stay off drugs. From their conversation, it appears they are or were friends. That incident reminded me of a road trip I undertook to a city in the north a few years ago. It was curious to me during the trip to find National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) agents mounting roadblocks rather than policemen. The writer in me couldn’t help but ask why this was so after several roadblocks. The other occupants of the vehicle I was travelling in lectured me on the drug problem they are facing up north.

When I got to my destination, I took out time to conduct my own independent investigation and found their assertions to be true. That trip opened my eyes to the conclusion that we are grappling with a serious drug problem in the country. You may not know the magnitude of the drug problem until you visit some suburbs in Lagos or any of our major cities. We have wittingly or unwittingly raised a generation of youth who are virtually wasting away because of addiction to various types of drugs – both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ drugs.

A recent survey on drug use in Nigeria has shown that the nation is breeding a wild generation of drug addicts. This gory state of affairs of substance abuse calls for nothing short of a declaration of a state of emergency, considering the fact that the youth population is the fulcrum of national development. The nationwide survey conducted by the United Nation Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) funded by European Union (EU) in partnership with the federal government said 10.6 million Nigerians abused cannabis in 2018, while 4.6 million abused opiods.

The report said that 2.4 million youths and adults also abused cough syrups with 92,000 more using cocaine. Other drugs commonly abused during the period are tranquilisers and sedatives, solvent, inhalers, amphetamines and prescription stimulants. This survey also reports that one of four drug users in Nigeria is a woman. Adding that the extent of drug use in Nigeria is comparatively high compared to previous global annual prevalence of any drug abuse use.

According to the survey, highest past-year prevalence of drug use was found in the southern political zones: South-East, South-West, and South-South zones (past year prevalence ranging between 13.8 – 22.4 per cent of the population) compared to the North (ranging between 10 – 14.9 per cent of the population). Basically, youths in the country inhale, inject and consume psychotic and narcotic substances and drugs at will, easily evading the scrutiny of a society distracted by chronic economic challenges at the expense of their future wellbeing.

Previously dismissed as a distant notion, Nigeria is being consumed by this rising menace of drug abuse. Instead of just being a dot on our consciousness, the tragic phenomenon now cuts across all strata of the society. The threats posed by drug abuse to the society are real and alarming. The least it deserves is a strategic, sustainable alliance by stakeholders especially against the backdrop of record high unemployment figures among the youth.

At the root of the nuisance is the breakdown in societal values, and the pervasive influence of some negative Western civilisation that eroded in part the strict societal values that bind us together in the past. The result is an epidemic of drug addiction with its attendant human capital waste and health crisis that is starring us in the face. The rising violent crime rate across the country is a clear signal that we are in for the long haul.

Cannabis, which World Health Organisation (WHO) describes as the most abused drug globally, is also the most commonly used in Nigeria. It is smoked at street corners and neighbourhood kiosks, the dealers, in some instances, given protection by compromised security agencies. Apart from occasional seizures, it has been observed that the law enforcement agencies are part of the problem.

Cannabis aside, there is equally a growing abuse of synthetic drugs, which were once strange to the Nigerian milieu. Amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, paint, thinner, glue, cough syrup made with codeine, cement and animal excreta are being widely abused today. For instance, between 2010 and 2012, the NDLEA said six methamphetamine factories were discovered in Delta and Lagos states. In Asaba, the Delta state capital, police arrested four Mexicans and their Nigerian partners in crime at their super methamphetamine laboratory in March 2016.

Ordinarily thought to be things we watch on foreign movies, the culture of drugs and bloodshed has spread fast on our shores. Nigeria has graduated from being just a corridor to a nest of barons who wield enormous influence and financial resources, and tempt the impressionable youths into drug addiction.

The NDLEA, in 2015, said Nigeria had the highest number of persons serving jail terms for drug-related offences worldwide. It is no longer news when Nigerians are executed for drug offences in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and other Asian countries.

A Federal Government panel discovered that between 2005 and 2006, 197 drug barons, with the complicity of security agents, escaped without serving their sentences. Many were never taken to prison at all upon conviction. How they manipulated the justice delivery system to achieve their aim is most odious and dangerous for the society.

As drug abuse grows, criminality does, too. The Ozubulu church massacre that took place in Anambra State where 13 worshippers at the St. Phillips Catholic Church were killed on August 6, 2017 during Sunday service was later traced to brutal fighting over territory from South Africa to Nigeria.

A former NDLEA director-general, Lanre Ipinmisho, said in 2016 that 40 per cent of Nigerian youths were on hard drugs. “If you take an estimate of 10 boys particularly in Kano, seven will be on drugs,” he said. On October 28 2017, then acting Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, Edgal Imohimi, convened an emergency meeting with hoteliers and nightclub owners, where he decried security reports that pointed to “the ease with which our youths are getting access to drugs at clubs, hotels, lounges, beaches and bars.”

So, beyond the impact on individuals what are some of the impacts of these drugs on society? Experts say that the production of methamphetamine generates toxic waste, which is capable of contaminating underground water within a 500-metre radius. Substance abuse also makes the treatment of illnesses difficult and fuels the spread of HIV/AIDS. For a country battling with poor infrastructure and low budgetary provisions, the health implications are enormous.

Is there a way out of the menace? Yes, and it is heartwarming that the government has woken up to this reality with the setting up of a presidential advisory committee on drugs led by Brig Gen Buba Marwa (retd). It is expected that the previous shambolic approach will give way to a more strategic and systematic approach which must be well-funded and equipped to carry out its duties.

For many addicts, drug abuse starts like a game, a fad arising from peer group pressure. Since treatment is long and expensive, parents have to be on the alert to stop their children or wards from delving into the habit. They should imbue their children with a sense of confidence by swaying them from depending on substances. However, the government needs to establish functional rehabilitation centres to cater for those who have already been addicted.

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