HEALTH FOR JUSTICE, JUSTICE FOR HEALTH

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The United Nations’ (UN) International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking falls on June 26 each year to raise awareness of the major problem that illicit drugs represent. This year’s theme is: Health for Justice, Justice for Health which highlights that justice and health are two sides of the same coin when it comes to addressing drug problems.

The menance of illicit drug trafficking and abuse is not only a problem in Nigeria but also to the global community. It poses heinous threats to human lives, destabilizes economic development, weakens national security, undermines public health, trade engagements and puts the health of citizens in danger.

As a nation, we have had our share of crime almost on a daily basis what with many of our youths being arrested while attempting to traffic hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin and marijuana in their hair, brassieres, panties and stomach, etc., both within and outside the country. The consequences of the production, distribution, trafficking and consumption of those illicit and sub-standard drugs no matter the form can be titanic to the entire human race.

To maintain a drug-free and healthy healthcare system, drug offence in some countries, especially Asia, Saudi Arabia carries a death penalty, yet the fight against drug trafficking is far from success. Only recently, a Nigerian woman was beheaded and another executed in Saudi Arabia for drug running which ignited a vigorous discussion about this miserable business.

These traffickers clearly know the score if they are caught, or if their drugs explode in their bellies. But I believe that whatever the basic reason for wanting to be involved in this business, the ultimate consideration for these drug traffickers before going ahead is the principle of risk calculation.

This year’s theme “Health for Justice, Justice for Health” resonated with the recent upsurge of first ever national drug survey report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) indicating markers to be pushed at achieving target five of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) three, “strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic and harmful use of alcohol” which needs to be reviewed in the country as well as in the sub-region.

The National Drug Survey released earlier this year by UNODC shows that the drug problem in Nigeria is extremely serious, with drug usage reported as being at twice the world average of 5.6%. It also makes one wonder which society will be at peace with itself having one out of seven of its general population corresponding to 14.3 million people (14.4%) of those aged between 15 and 64 years had used a mind-altering substances in the past year for non-medical purposes. Women drug users cannot be considered a hidden population anymore, as one in every four drug users in Nigeria is a woman, while only 5% of those in treatment are women.

Little wonder that in many states of the country, there are no treatment centres for drug abuse victims despite the fact that more people will be disabled by drug-related challenges than complications arising from HIV/AIDS, heart disease, accidents and wars combined by year 2020.

The images on our streets of mental patients who have a history of drugs should be enough motivation for more informed policies, building rehabilitation centers and programmes that will incorporate social activities to prevent drug abuse amongst youths.

As we continue to combat the drug epidemic, the government has done well by setting and supporting up the NDLEA, Presidential Committee on Drug Abuse and Control, NAFDAC, and other agencies involved with the war on drugs. But there should also be focus on how to disrupt their supply chains, protect our borders from traffickers and control access to precursor chemicals. It behooves on the government to intensify efforts on effective prosecution of drug barons in our society.

Yusuf Hassan Wada, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto.