Needed: State of Emergency on Drug Abuse

Needed: State of Emergency on Drug Abuse

It is no longer news that in the past three years, the National Drug Law and Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), under the leadership of  Brig Gen Mohamed Buba Marwa (retd) has been consistent in its weekly arrests and seizures of illicit drugs and substances across the country.

The agency has collaborated with lots of government agencies and non-governmental organisations in the country’s efforts to curb the menace of substance abuse in Nigeria.

With all this effort, one would expect that the arrest figure would reduce drastically over time and that people would be deterred  from engaging in the trafficking of illicit drugs. It is, therefore, surprising that the arrest has been on the increase every week. Just a few weeks ago, NDLEA recorded the largest seizure of heroin in its history, a consignment weighing 51.90 kg at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos.

For any deep-thinking Nigerian, this trend is an indication that the drug problem is more severe than we thought. And the Nigerian state needs to take a big step in tackling this scourge. Nothing short of a declaration of a state of emergency will suffice.

We don’t have to be under the illusion that we have a normal drug problem like every other country in Africa for many reasons. Firstly, Nigeria has the largest number of users in Africa. According to the 2018 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) survey report on drug use in Nigeria, 14.3 million of our compatriots between the ages of 15 and 64 abuse drugs. That was six years ago. The number would have increased significantly by now.

Secondly, the quality of illicit drugs seized by NDLEA in the past three years far outweighed the known seizures in other African countries. Other indicators, like the outbreak of methamphetamine abuse in 2021 in the South East region of the country and the arrest of over 48, 000 drug traffickers in three years, speak volumes about the severity of the drug problem in Nigeria.

However, it is important to give kudos to NDLEA for a job well done within a short time. We must be bold enough to tell ourselves the home truth that the country woke up too late to tackle the drug scourge. Consequently, to remedy the situation, the government, NDLEA and other relevant stakeholders need to address the issue with the severity that it deserves to make up for their complacency over the years.

The federal government needs to declare a state of emergency on this brewing national health challenge, especially in the face of the growing trend of drug abuse among youth.

Moreso, a nexus has been established between illicit drugs and growing insecurity in the country. Therefore, declaring a state of emergency on drugs will help the country to appropriately tackle the national threat that illicit drugs have become.

It is important to note that government intervention over pervasive insecurity in the country would not be effective if one of the identified causes, namely drug abuse, was not addressed.

The drug scourge poses an immediate risk to humans and the environment and in Nigeria, it has reached a proportion that requires drastic action to prevent the situation from worsening.

That is why the call for a state of emergency is in order and government, in the interest of the citizenry, must not let the call go unheeded.

·                Tosin Damola, Lokoja, Kogi State

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