By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate yesterday challenged the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN) to urgently tackle rampant cases of drug abuse by Nigerians.
The Red Chamber also mandated the Senate Committee on Drugs and Narcotics to immediately put the machinery in place towards amending Section 23 of Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN) Act with a view to including the sale of prescription pills as a punishable offence in the Act.
Lamenting that drug abuse has brought the image of the nation into a public opprobrium, the Senate noted that trafficking in hard drugs has brought Nigeria into disrepute among the comity of nations.
These decisions of the Senate were predicated upon a motion brought by Senator Gbenga Ashafa (APC, Lagos East) where he drew the attention of his colleagues to the drug abuse situation in the country.
Ashafa urged the executive arm of government to restructure and reposition NDLEA with the capacity to meet the challenges of drug trafficking.
He therefore called on the Nigerian Police, NDLEA, NAFDAC, PCN and other regulatory agencies to develop a synergy towards addressing the menace of drug abuse in the country.
Ashafa who regretted that Malaysia recently alleged that 40 percent of foreigners arrested for drug trafficking were Nigerians, added that 30 of 80 foreign students arrested abroad over the menace in 2015 were Nigerians.
He further argued that such Nigerians disguise as university students and connive with drug syndicates outside Nigeria to undermine the visa system and consequently gain entry into Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and other drug traffic routes.
“The incidence of lifting of the drugs from Nigeria in itself has become few and far between. Those involved have found a way of picking up the narcotic substances while in transit considering that most flights from Nigeria to some of the countries at stake like Thailand and Indonesia are not direct flights.
“Drug trafficking is not only a challenge in the international sense of the word but also that the usage of different harmful narcotic substances including the abuse of prescription medicines by different demographics of the society particularly the youth constitutes a major problem in our society,” he said
Ashafa further lamented that youths from different parts of the country abuse substances such as codeine, rochephenol, tramadol, heroin, cannabis sativa otherwise known as Indian hemp adding that different grades of crack cocaine have become prevalent.
He also argued that whereas the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) had reported that there were 183,000 drug-related deaths worldwide with drug dependent users on the rise, the International Narcotics Control Board in its 2012 report disclosed that Nigeria was a transit point for cocaine from Latin America to Europe.
He further disclosed that Nigeria topped the list of countries involved in drug trafficking and drug use in West Africa as well as the list of drug couriers arrested in Europe between 2011 and 2012.
Hence, the Senate asked the Federal Government of Nigeria to urgently consider placing the NDLEA under the direct supervision of the presidency like the case of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and detach them from the Ministry of Justice.
It also advised the federal government to consider assigning anti-narcotics attaché’s to Nigeria’s foreign missions in the most affected drug traffic/transit routes in order to ensure that Nigerians issued with the Nigerian passports abroad have no ties or relationship with international drug syndicates.