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Lagos Assembly proposes stiffer law for drug abuse, demands whereabouts of LSSTF helicopters

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On April 10, 1985 during the miltary regime of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), three drug pushers: Bartholomew Owoh (26), Bernard Ogedegbe (29), and Alhaji Akani Lawal (29) were tried, found guilty for drug-related offences under Decree Number 20 of l984, convicted and eventually put to death by firing squad. The execution of the ‘three youth’ rankled many at home and the international community, who described the punishment as too severe for the offences for which they were punished.
  
But Gen. Buhari’s government, however, stood its ground, arguing that drug trafficking and abuse must be deterred with stringent measures and punishments. Perhaps, Gen. Buhari and his second-in-command, late Gen. Tunde Idiagbon, might have seen far into the future the danger that drug trafficking and abuse would pose to the country, especially if it became what Nigeria’s future youth would take as a lifestyle and faster route to making easy wealth.

 
Section 3 (2) (K) of Decree 20 provided that “any person who, without lawful authority, deals in, sells, smokes or inhales the drug, known as cocaine or other similar drugs, shall be guilty under section 6 (3) (K) of an offence and liable on conviction to suffer death sentence by firing squad.”
 
However, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who took over power in August 1985, amended Decree 20 by expunging the death penalty clause, while substituting it with imprisonment terms ranging from two years to life. Today, the challenges of drug abuse and related offences have become monstrous, not only troubling the country but also discrediting its reputation in the international community. 
 
While foreign jails are packed with Nigerians awaiting trial for drug trafficking, others have been sentenced and put to death. The unfortunate situation got to the peak such that in 2016, a lawmaker in the 8th Senate, who represented Lagos East zone, Gbenga Ashafa, now Managing Director, Federal Housing Authority (FHA), moved a motion stipulating stiffer penalty for drug abuse and trafficking, because of its negative impact on the image of Nigeria. Then, Ashafa had expressed concern over the manner the Nigerian judiciary was handing light sentences to drug traffickers despite what the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) law stipulates.
 
Ashafa had, in a Bill entitled: ‘Nigerians Involvement in Illicit Global Drugs Trade and Increase in Domestic Drug Abuse by Nigerian Youths’, prescribed stiffer penalty for drug offences. But four years after, nothing seems to have improved. The situation has worsened as drug offences and abuse have permeated into secondary and primary schools, and becoming rampant among vulnerable young population across the country. Particularly, Lagos presents a worse case scenario.
 
While some Nigerians blame it on the harsh economic situation in the country such as unemployment, others are of the view that the nature of democratic system the country operates gives room for drug usage. They argue that the do-or-die attitude of politicians and engaging of youths to perpetrate violence also contributes to increase in drug crimes since 1999. 
 
Worried by the challenge, the Lagos State House of Assembly, at its plenary on August 31, 2020, resolved to take a tough stand against drug offences. The Assembly said it had come to a point where drug crime could no longer be treated lightly in the state.
 
The Assembly therefore ‘ordered’ Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu to direct the commissioners in the Ministries of Education, Information and Strategy, Youth and Social Development and other relevant agencies to embark on an anti-drug campaign programmes for all primary, secondary, and tertiary schools and out-of-school youth in the state.
  
Like Ashafa, the lawmaker representing Surulere Constituency 1 and Nollywood actor, Hon. Desmond Elliot, in Motion Number 24, titled ‘A Call on the Lagos State Government to Embark on Anti-Drug Corruption Campaign in Secondary Schools in the State,’ warned against dangers of taking the issue of drug abuse in schools lackadaisically.
  
Elliot suggested that the Assembly should call on the Chairman, Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit to carry out strict enforcement against the sale of illicit drugs in and around school premises, and also mandate the Committees on Education and Legislative Compliance to ensure that the relevant agencies comply with the resolution.
  
The Assembly was so concerned that it moved that the state Commissioner of Police should henceforth keep watch on school environments, just as it said that security agencies should ensure that there was no sale of drugs around school premises.
 
According to Elliot, “There should also be anti-drug societies in schools. Parents should also keep watch on their children to reduce the usage of drugs in the society,” maintaining that the Assembly noted the increasing rate of drug abuse and alcohol consumption among students of secondary schools in the state, which is one of the problems affecting school-age teenagers.
  
“It was observed that such experiment with drugs, alcohol and tobacco started from elementary schools and reach a peak in high school where its adverse effect is remarkably high on the students.”
  
While lamenting the negative effects of drugs in their various constituencies, the lawmakers representing Ikeja 2, Hon. Adedamola Richard and his colleague from Lagos Island 1 and deputy speaker of the Assembly, Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, were of the view that drug abuse is a worrisome issue that is destroying young lives in Lagos State. 
  
Eshinlokun-Sanni noted that the prevalence of drug abuse in Lagos is above the national average, revealing that 69 per cent of youth are into drug abuse. 
  
According to the deputy speaker, “We were told that tramadol and codeine have become sources of abuse by our youths. A Nigerian artiste says that drug is like a curse and it has to be broken. I support the motion, but we can expand it to say that the dental association and pharmaceutical association have admitted that quackery in the field of drugs has led to drug abuse.”
 
But beyond the economic challenge, Hon. Bisi Yusuff from Alimosho Constituency 1, said that factors aggravating drug abuse are multidimensional, adding, “There is decline in marriage institution that leads to broken homes and this leads to frustration and the children get into drug abuse.”

AT another plenary, the Assembly also read the riot act to the executive arm on the whereabouts of the three helicopters belonging to the state government. The Assembly therefore summoned the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, and the Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Commissioner For Special Duties and the management of Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF) to appear before it to explain the whereabouts of the state’s helicopters. The Chief Whip of the Assembly, Hon. Mojisola Miranda, who raised the issue, said the officers and MDAs in-charge of the helicopters should furnish the Assembly with details of the agreement between the government and managers of the helicopters, Caverton Helicopters and how the equipment were deployed to serve the state.


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