Checking Illicit Drug Use in Nigeria
In the report of the National Survey on Drug Use released recently the country has over fourteen million hard drug users between the ages of fifteen and sixty-four.
The survey revealed that over ten million Nigerians abused Cannabis last year while two million youths and adults abused cough syrups and cocaine.
The survey showed that the rate of drug use in Nigeria last year doubled the global average usage.
All over the country, young men and women who use addictive substances prowl the streets.
Illicit drug abuse is a self-destructive habit which affects all organs of the body particularly kidney, liver and the heart.
It is in recognition of the dangers posed by drug abuse that the United Nations General Assembly dedicated June twenty-six every year as the International Day against Illicit Drug Use and Trafficking.
The theme for this year’s day against illicit drug use is “Health for Justice, Justice for Health”.
The Nigerian government in recognition of the dangers of drug abuse set up the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, though the dangerous drugs ordinance was enacted in 1935 to control drug trafficking and abuse to fight the menace.
Though the agency has recorded tremendous success in terms of arrests and prosecution of drug traffickers, particularly at airports, seaports and hinterland, it is however, incapacitated in terms of manpower and equipment.
The slow pace of Nigeria’s judicial process coupled with lack of diligent prosecution by NDLEA lawyers are also some of the challenges faced in the war against illicit drug trafficking and abuse.
The National Survey on Drug Use has provided stakeholders with necessary information to tackle the scourge of drug abuse.
For the first time ever, government and the appropriate agencies now have access to a robust data on the prevalence of drug use in the country.
It is commendable that a drug demand reduction unit has been established, as part of efforts to coordinate and implement strategies that will lead to evidence-based drug prevention, treatment and care.
To this end, there should be massive and sustained public sensitisation against drug trafficking and abuse so that those who indulge in them can have a rethink.
In view of its harmful effects, more drug counseling and treatment service facilities should be provided to rehabilitate and reintegrate victims of drug abuse.
Special courts or tribunals should be established to hasten the prosecution of those caught for illegal drug trafficking.
Every Nigerian must realise that drug abuse has become endemic in the country and must be involved in the efforts to eliminate the menace.