• Confront traffickers of death – Pope Francis
• For us as a government, it is not something we are sweeping under the carpet – Sanwo-Olu
• The new generations often live in a “virtual” world where they are offered poisonous opportunities that corrode, corrupt and kill – Peter Cardinal Turkson
• One in every seven Nigerians is addicted to drugs – Marwa
• Parents, Teachers, surely have their blame on the rising rate of drug abuse – Fr. Osuntoyinbo
• Issue of drug abuse is failure of leaders, fathers – Anglican Bishop, Yahaya
By Neta Nwosu
P ope Francis has charged everyone to fight against drug abuse, particularly, governments to confront dealers of addictive substances, who he designated as ‘traffickers of death.’ According to the Holy Father, there is a need for better policies and more cooperation of people in battling drugs and dependencies. These statements came to the fore as the world marked International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on Saturday, June 26, 2021. “We are called to tackle the production, expansion and distribution of drugs in the world”, Pope Francis urged governments. “It is the duty and task of governments to face with courage, this fight against traffickers of death,” he stressed. Drug abuse is emerging as a global public health issue. The recent World Drug Report of 2019 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated that 271 million (5.5%) of the global population (aged between 15 and 64 years), had used drugs in the previous year. Also, it has been projected that 35 million individuals will be experiencing drug use disorders. Further, the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, estimated that, in 2017, there were 585,000 deaths due to drug use, globally. The usage, abuse, and trafficking have also been related to the four areas of international concern, which are organized crime, illicit financial flows, corruption, and terrorism/insurgency. Hence there have been consistent global interventions for preventing drug abuse, including its impact on health, governance, and security, requires a widespread understanding of the prevalence, frequently implicated drugs, commonly involved population, sources of the drugs, and risk factors associated with the drug abuse. In Nigeria, the burden of drug abuse is on the rise and becoming a public health concern. Nigeria, which is the most populous country in Africa, has developed a reputation as a centre for drug trafficking and usage, mostly among the youth population. According to the 2018 UNODC report “Drug use in Nigeria” – The first large-scale, nationwide national drug use survey in Nigeria, one in seven persons (aged 15–64 years) had used a drug in the past year. Also, one in five individuals who had used drug in the past year is suffering from drug-related disorders.
Drug abuse has been traced as a major cause of many criminal offences such as theft, burglary, sex work, and shoplifting. The duo of Nwannenaya, Chief Superintendent, Narcotics, Directorate of General Investigation, NDLEA and Temitope Francis Abiodun, Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan, in their research article published recently in the Journal of Political Sciences and Public Affairs 2021 wrote, “The actual threats to the nation’s and human security is the alarming rate of illicit drug trafficking (IDT). The menace of illicit drug trafficking poses heinous threats to human lives, national development and security. Most of the Nigerian borders are porous, therefore, giving room for easy influx, movement and exit of drugs. However, the failing economy, insecurity, high rate of graduate unemployment, poverty, failure of government to provide basic necessities of life, high level of corruption and get-rich-quickly syndrome among the youths in Nigeria, constitute the various banes behind the practice of illicit drug trafficking in the state.
” “Lack of adequate intelligence gathering, insecurity, bribery and corruption, poverty, civilization and porous borders stand as a cog in the wheel to appreciable efforts at arresting the menace in the country,” they further inscribed. According to their article, a 2012 report by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), submits that Nigeria tops the list with the highest trafficking and drug use in West Africa. They noted, “The report further indicates that in the last 15 years, West Africa became the new transit hub for cocaine compare with Latin America destined for Europe with Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, emerging as the most active centre for air trafficking of cocaine. “The report indicates that close to 50% of Africa’s drug couriers arrested in Europe in 2011 were citizens of Nigeria. Nigeria however, topped the list of major transit routes of heroin destined for Europe. Nigeria is reported to have featured prominently among West African states that produce and export cannabis to countries in Europe. In an exclusive interview with The Catholic Herald weekly newspaper, Rev. Fr. Patrick Osuntoyinbo, a PhD student and an expert in Guidance and Counseling, accorded the rising prevalence of drug abuse and illicit trafficking in Nigeria, to failure of governance, resulting in the very harsh economic conditions and environment that does not give hope and encouragement to the youths.
On how the Church can contribute to addressing these issues threatening the development and future of nations, the cleric stated, “The Church should continue to engage with the youths and the local governments to see how we can keep our youths productive and useful by organizing empowerment programmes, seminars and workshops to enlighten them on the societal needs and how their services and creativity can translate into generating income and revenue for the individuals and the community at large.” In another vein, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa (retd), Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, has said one in every seven Nigerians is addicted to drugs. Marwa said this during his recent courtesy visit to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the Lagos House, Marina, few weeks ago. Commending Mr. Sanwo-Olu’s administration for efforts to address drug abuse, Marwa called for integrity drug tests for students and politicians, especially those contesting for public offices. “Running for public offices is a big responsibility.
You shouldn’t be in this important assignment for the public and your head is filled up because of drugs, said the NDLEA boss who, also claimed that about 4.5 million people in the state are into illicit drug business. “The drug scourge is now an epidemic in Nigeria. The prevalence is 15 per cent, three times the global average. “One in seven Nigerians take drugs. We have found out that there is a nexus between drug use and crime. ”We felt that Lagos can show the way first with integrity drug test for students because it is our youths that are affected mostly; students, especially those in tertiary institutions, should do drug tests,” Gen. Marwa said. Speaking at a recent meeting with critical stakeholders in Lokoja, Gen. Marwa attributed the increase in insecurity in Nigeria to drug abuse, describing it as a national tragedy. He said bandits, kidnappers and several other persons engaged in issues of insecurity in the country were usually on drugs, and it had become a problem every Nigerian must join hands to tackle. The NDLEA Boss said it was time for all hands to be on deck and work collectively in stemming the tide, adding that the NDLEA had resolved to reduce to its barest minimum, incidences of drug abuse.
He said the NDLEA was working to fight against accessibility to drugs, by seizing and destroying the intake of cannabis sativa, adding that the agency was equally committed to fighting the drug supply chain and discourage drug users. He described the drug demand and consumption levels in the country as alarming, adding that all stakeholders had critical roles to play in reducing the demand for drug consumption in the country. While lamenting the decline in family values, Marwa urged parents to be observant of their children and wards, saying religious leaders should use their platforms to preach against the dangers of drug intake and abuse. Responding, the governor said the state is building a full-fledged mental health rehabilitation hospital at Ketu-Ejinrin, Lagos East Senatorial District, to tackle drug abuse effects. Mr. Sanwo-Olu said drug abuse was prevalent in the society and the hospital would help to rehabilitate those adversely affected by the abuse. He said the state government would continue to collaborate with NDLEA to address the drug crisis in Nigeria. ”Indeed, we know that drug abuse is prevalent in our society in all forms and shapes. For us as a government, it is not something we are sweeping under the carpet.
We are not denying that it is there,” Mr. Sanwo-Olu remarked. Findings from the epidemiological studies, reports and drug laws in Nigeria have shown that the burden of drug abuse is growing despite several drug laws, policies and strategic plans to prevent it. The prevalence is higher among the younger population, males, undergraduate and secondary school students, and commercial vehicle drivers. The most abused drugs included cannabis, amphetamine, codeine, cocaine and heroin. The major sources for the drugs were pharmacies/patent medicine stores, drug hawkers, friends who are abusers and drug pushers. The frequent reasons for indulging into drug abuse were to improve physical performance, to derive pleasure, desire to sleep, to experiment/curiosity motives, and to keep awake. Factors such as poor socioeconomic status, peergroup pressure, family problems and poor academic performance were commonly associated with drug abuse in Nigeria. Drug abuse has been a cause of many debilitating conditions, such as schizophrenia and psychosis, leading to psychiatric admissions.
Therefore, stringent measures and sustainable interventions are urgently needed to curb the increasing burden of drug abuse in Nigeria. Fielding questions from journalists on this year’s Father’s Day celebration, Bishop Timothy Yahaya of Diocese of the Kaduna Anglican Communion, at Christ Anglican Church, Kaduna, bemoaned that some of the nation’s leaders who are supposed to be mentors to the younger generation, were into drugs and theft of public funds entrusted in their care. “The leadership of our country, whether at federal, state or local government level, are supposed to be fathers. What examples are they setting for the children? You even find out that some of our leaders today are into drugs; when leaders are into drugs what do you expect children to do? Today if you look around, our youths are into drugs abuse. “Where did they learn to take these drugs? I call on the Federal Government to equip the NDLEA so that drug addiction will be reduced to the barest minimum in our society. “The issue of drug abuse in our society today is the failure of fathers to teach their children the danger of drugs abuse. If fathers play their roles, live up to their responsibilities, I can assure you that our homes will not produce children that are drugs addicts.
It will be less than one per cent, even if they are deviant.” Should parents and teachers be held responsible for the rising rate of drug abuse among adolescents and youths? Hear Fr. Osuntoyinbo, “parents and teachers are critical stakeholders in the training and education of our adolescents. They surely have their blame on the rising rate of drug abuse among our adolescents. Parenting is a key factor in the development and formation of our adolescents. “This has been greatly sacrificed on the altar of frivolities and the chase of money, wealth and power (politics). Family is the basic unit of the society. Family is the bedrock of socialization of an individual. Family background, training and upbringing is responsible for the way the adolescents perceive the world, relate with, contribute to values and behave in the society.” The Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery For Promoting Integral Human Development, in his message for the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking said, “The lacerating drama of drugs is an evil that threatens the dignity and freedom to act of every person, and progressively breaks down the image that the Creator has formed in us.
This scourge must be strongly condemned as it is fed by unscrupulous men who, giving in to the temptation of easy money, disseminate death by striking down hope and destroying many families.” “Drugs are a wound inflicted on our society, which traps many people in a spiral of suffering and alienation. There are many factors that lead towards drug dependency, such as social exclusion, the absence of the family, social pressure, propaganda by traffickers, and the desire for new experiences. “It is important to promote a culture of solidarity and subsidiarity, oriented towards the common good; a culture that is opposed to selfishness and to utilitarian and economic logic, but which instead inclines towards the other, to listen, in a path of encounter and relations with our neighbour, especially when he is more vulnerable and fragile, as is the case with those who abuse drugs. He recollected Pope Francis statement, “As Pope Francis emphasizes, “Every drug addict has a unique personal story and must be listened to, understood, loved, and insofar as possible, healed and purified. We cannot stoop to the injustice of categorizing drug addicts as if they were mere objects or broken machines; each person must be valued and appreciated in his or her dignity, in order to enable them to be healed.” Cardinal Turkson’s message further stated, “The young are the first victims of drugs. Immersed in a relativist and hedonist society, they receive proposals that alienate them from values, from a concrete reality tending towards a full realization of the self.
The new generations often live in a “virtual” world, in which they are offered “a wide range of opportunities to enjoy passing pleasures, which in the end are nothing but poisons that corrode, corrupt and kill. Step-by-step, a person begins to destroy himself and to destroy everything around him. The initial desire to flee, to seek out a moment of happiness, is transformed into the destruction of the entire person, with repercussions at every level of society.” “Incisive and concrete educational programmes must be proposed to our young people, to develop their potential and educate them in the joy of profoundness, not of superficiality. In the process of helping them, human relations are important, inasmuch as “the call, the joy and fullness of life are found within a cultural context, and one of social relations”. “Even though prevention is a priority, it is also fundamental to work for the rehabilitation of drug victims in society, to restore to them the authentic joy of living, so that they do not feel discriminated against or stigmatised, but rather welcomed and understood so as take a part of inner renewal in search of goodness. “We must never forget that, “even if a person’s life is a disaster, destroyed by vices, by drugs or any other thing, God is in his life. … Even if a person’s life is a terrain full of thorns and weeds, there is still a space in which the good seed can grow. We must trust in God”. An example of this is given by the many young people who, wishing to free themselves of their drug dependency, make an effort to rebuild their life, looking ahead trustfully,” he stated on a final note.