Drug trafficking, consumption rate worry stakeholders
Abuse has reached alarming state, says expert
There are concerns over rampant trafficking and abuse of drugs by Nigerians. It has been observed that the drug problem has become one of the world’s greatest challenges that threaten the well being of human society.
Consequences of drug abuse, including chronic health conditions and untimely death, are such that cannot be ignored by any responsible government.
Reports show that Nigeria is now a major cannabis cultivating and consuming country. Four years ago, the country had 10.6 million users of the psychoactive plant, which made it the world’s leading cannabis-consuming country.
The country has also become a dumping ground for illicit pharmaceutical opioids, especially codeine and tramadol, just as it remains Africa’s major transit country for cocaine and heroin, reports had shown.
Four years ago, the National Drug Use Survey conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), showed that the drug use prevalence in Nigeria is 14.4per cent. This is relatively high compared to the annual global average of 5.5per cent. That the country had 14.3 million of its compatriots who abused drugs is a cause of concern.
The findings of the survey suggested that one in five persons who had used drugs was suffering from Drug Use Disorder, that is approximately three million Nigerians, with no less than 155, 000 among them in dire need of medical treatment.
Last year, the World Drug Report 2021 warned of a likely 11per cent increase in the number of people who abuse illicit substances over the next eight years. About 40per cent of that increase is projected to come from Africa alone.
Just two days ago, operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA), intercepted 22 blocks of heroin weighing 23.55kilograms concealed in packs of Nestle Cerelac baby food at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos.
The consignment with a street value of over N4.5billion came from Johannesburg, South Africa on board South African Airways flight on Wednesday, June 29, as part of a consolidated cargo that arrived the SAHCO import shed of the Lagos airport. More worrisome is the desperation to traffick these killer substances.
The biggest of all the catches is the arrest of a billionaire suspected drug baron, Chief Afam Mallinson Ukatu. It was revealed by the NDLEA, how the suspect imported into Nigeria in a single month, October 2019, two containers containing 1,284 cartons of Tramadol with market value of over N22billion.
After months of surveillance, Ukatu was eventually arrested on board a flight to Abuja at the MM2 terminal of the Lagos airport, Ikeja on Wednesday, April 13.
No fewer than 11,000 drug users have been rehabilitated by the NDLEA in 2021 and 2022.
NDLEA’s boss, Mohammed Marwa, had once revealed that Nigeria has now become a producer of and a market for world’s most dangerous killer drug, Crystal Methamphetamine, known locally as Mkpuru Mmiri. The havoc unleashed by this highly dangerous illicit substance in the Southeast last year cannot be easily forgotten.
Marwa had also revealed that a total of 17, 647 drug offenders and 10 barons have been arrested in the past 17 months, since he took over the mantle of leadership, with over 2,369 convicted and jailed, while more than 11,000 drug users were counselled and treated within the same period.
Presently, the world is looking more at the dangerous health issues posed by drug trafficking and abuse rather than criminalising users.
Abuse of drugs in Nigeria is in alarming rate. Findings showed that in 2021, about 8,000 drug users were counseled and rehabilitated, in most cases through brief interventions. In the first five months of 2022, an additional 3,523 drug users were also counselled and treated in NDLEA facilities.
Drug Demand Reduction Department. According to NDLEA has been galvanised and working non-stop to ensure that the health aspect of the drug abuse calculus is getting adequate attention.
In a bid to match action with words, the anti-drug agency’s boss, Marwa, few days ago, commissioned the NDLEA call centre with toll free helpline and manned by professionals and experts in counselling, psychotherapy, psychology and psychiatry among others in Abuja. Helpless drug users in Nigeria now have opportunity to get assistance without their identities being revealed.
According to security analyst, Christopher Oji, “Drug abuse has reached alarming state that government needs to declare a state of emergency over. We should unanimously take a stand against drug abuse and its attendant vices. Drug abuse, particularly, among the youths, has reached a state of emergency, as it now gives serious concern to security agencies, parents, teachers and those in authority.”