The authorities could do more to stem the scourge

Perhaps outside suicide, the consumption of illicit drugs is one of the most dangerous voluntary activities in the world. Sadly, their use is on the rise across the country. At the 2020 commemoration of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking with a fitting theme, “Better Knowledge for Better Care,” the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), raised the alarm on the increasing rate of substance abuse and drug trafficking in Nigeria.

According to statistics by the Country Representative, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Oliver Stolpe, over 20 million Nigerians from age 15 and above admitted to having used drugs at least once between 2018 and 2019. Besides, UNODC estimated that $1.25 billion worth of cocaine passed through the West African sub-region in 2010 alone, adding that recent drug trafficking had witnessed “a massive movement of Cannabis Sativa from Ghana to Nigerian waters at an alarming rate.” The NDLEA noted that trafficking of narcotic drugs by sea has virtually become an industry.

Illegal drugs also abound inland. The commonest of them all in Nigeria and indeed globally is Cannabis (Marijuana). It is easily available as it is cultivated across the country. But Tramadol, a synthetic opioid analgesic used to treat moderate to severe pain, is said to be the most abused. Cough syrups like codeine and others are seriously implicated among the abused drugs by both sexes for either as stimulant or depressant purposes. The Gombe State Command of the NDLEA arrested 87 persons and seized about 89,559 Kilograms of illegal drugs between January and June 2020. The seized drugs comprised of 51 kg of Cannabis, 34 kg of Psychotropic substance and 37 litres of a dangerous chemical called “suck and die.”

The prevalence of drug abuse is also high in Sokoto State as shop owners, motorcyclists, young men and married women are reportedly actively involved in the trade. No fewer than 60 drug traffickers were arrested in Sokoto by the NDLEA between January and June 2020. The drugs seized included Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Skunk, Tramadol tablets/capsules, Codeine Syrup and Rophynol tablets. In Abia State, trade in Illicit drug is widespread, as attested to by the governor. In Kogi State, the drug agency also recently intercepted and seized 3,136 tonnes of Cannabis Sativa on the Okene-Lokoja Expressway. Many frustrated and unemployed youths resort to many of these street drugs for their momentary relaxing and euphoric effects.

But the consequences are steep, both to the individual and the nation. While available statistics may not be reliable, there is no doubt that drug abuse has been linked to the continued upsurge in criminal activities across the country. Many cases of rape, kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery, banditry and even car crashes feed on the ready availability of many of the hard drugs in the street. According to experts, drug abuse causes insomnia and disrupts normal sleeping patterns, causes obesity, kidney failure and strange cancers. Besides, it is destroying our education system. Many students, buoyed by the false cultures imposed by drugs, enrol themselves in secret cults and regard school work with contempt while teachers are intimidated to award false marks.

It is time we woke up to this challenge that poses danger to the future of the country. More should be done to create awareness on the danger of drug abuse. As the Secretary General of the United Nations Antiono Guterres did while he was Prime Minister of Portugal, the Nigerian authorities must crack down on drug trafficking and those who profit from human misery. And, second, we must establish more counselling and treatment centres for those who need them.