The NDLEA is doing a remarkable job. But there is much more to do

Reports that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) seized consignments worth over N450 billion from drug traffickers and barons in the last 22 months are indications of the challenge at hand. Over 100 million pills of illicit tramadol and other pharmaceutical opioids which could have had deleterious impact on the country’s youth population and national productivity were confiscated, according to the agency’s Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Buba Marwa. “The figures are mere statistics until you view them through the lens of human impact and the good or harm that could have come to the society, the impact on public health, security as well as law and order if those dangerous drugs had gone to the street,” Marwa said. 

 The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has long designated Nigeria as a transit route for many illegal substances. Hard drugs, ranging from cannabis–often called Indian Hemp–to cocaine, heroin and amphetamines are increasingly available on the street and abused by both the young and the old. Not long ago, the NDLEA and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) called for an aggressive public education in the war against illicit drugs in the country. This followed a report that millions of cocaine users are in West and Central Africa. Heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants and over-the-counter drugs are also being increasingly abused.  

In spite of the war on the traffickers, the huge numbers of drug mules still jetting out of the country means the enforcement agencies still have much work on their hands. The magnitude of this problem and the consequences for our image, national security and public health are so severe that something must be done urgently. This is in addition to the fact that Nigeria is increasingly becoming a destination for narcotics. In the past few years, the use of illicit drug has been widespread and many of our young citizens are increasingly getting addicted. Drug use prevalence for ages 15 to 64 in Nigeria is put at 14.4, almost three times the global drug prevalence of 5.5 per cent, according to the UNODC. 

Statistics are hard to come by, but as the NDLEA Chairman hinted, there is a correlation between the abuse of drugs and 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 cancers. Besides, it is destroying our education system. Buoyed by the false cultures imposed by drugs, many students enrol themselves in secret cults. 

Another dimension to the problem was raised by the Northern Governors Wives Forum (NGWF). The wife of the Niger State governor, Dr Amina Abubakar Bello, had at one of the numerous drug awareness and advocacy sessions lamented that the problem of drug abuse amongst youths had continued to exacerbate at an alarming rate, with Northern states at the top of the table. “Over the years, the problem had become very common with women in the North, as it had been reported that an increasing number of mothers and young girls engage in drug/substance abuse; codeine being the most abused among this group,” said Mrs Bello. Her assertion was corroborated by key women figures, including wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari. She lamented that drug abuse and addiction had now become a serious health and social issue rendering its user unproductive and dangerous.  

 While we commend Marwa and the NDLEA for their efforts, it is time authorities at all levels woke up to this challenge that poses danger to the future of the country.  

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