Recently, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege
reiterated the commitment of the National Assembly to amend the extant
laws against drug abuse for stringent punishment for offenders as well
as serving as a deterrent to those intending to commit the crime.

Omo-Agege expressed serious concern over the ugly trend of substance
abuse and called for concerted efforts to curb the development. He
specifically emphasized the need for more awareness on the menace,
noting that aside from government, parents, schools, religious centers,
corporate and non-governmental organizations all have roles to play in
addressing the situation.

Also of importance, the deputy senate president called for an increase
in the funding of the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA in
tackling drug abuse in the country. As a leader and parent, he decried
the growing trend of drug abuse among the youth, and sought the
establishment of more rehabilitation centers across the country.
According to him, “Kano will get more rehabilitation centers because
it appears to be the epicenter of this challenge. So, you have the
backing of the National Assembly to address this concern. You can
count on the National Assembly to do everything to bring this issue to
the spotlight.”

The Delta Central lawmaker spoke in Abuja when he hosted two
associations: League for Societal Protection Against Drug and Sexual
Abuse in Nigeria as well as the Youth and Poor Association of Nigeria,
led by Ambassador Mariam Hassan. While responding to a request from
Ambassador Hassan to place the NDLEA on First Line Charge to ensure
prompt and direct release of appropriated funds, Omo-Agege said this
would be considered if it becomes difficult to ensure the early release of
funds to the agency.

This, he noted would even become easier because of the position
already taken by the Ninth National Assembly in resorting to the
January to December budget cycle. “With this, I believe the prompt release
of funds will now be guaranteed,” he said.
Unfortunately, drug abuse is one of the health-related problems among
Nigerian youths and has been a source of concern to educational
stakeholders. Young people who persistently abuse substance often
experience an array of problems, including academic difficulties,
health challenges, including mental health, poor peer relationships,
and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Additionally, there
are consequences for family members, the community, and the entire
society.

It is against this backdrop that the deputy senate president lauded
the two associations for bringing the issue to the front burner, even
as he recalled that there have been several motions on the floor of
the Senate in particular dealing with drug abuse and inadequate
rehabilitation centers across the country.

While agreeing that drug abuse remains a serious matter that requires
attention, he said the National Assembly was determined to address the
menace. “I can give you that commitment that we are going to amend
that law to address the issues you have raised like stringent
punishment for offenders to deter potential violators. We will make it
so stringent that any violation could take them out of business,” he
assured.

Ambassador Hassan had lamented the inadequate funding of the NDLEA,
and therefore appealed that the agency should be placed on First Line
Charge. This, she noted, will ensure direct and early release of funds
to enable the agency to be proactive in its drive to eradicate drug
abuse in society.

She expressed worry over the increasing rate of drug abuse among the
youth which, according to her, is responsible for the upsurge in the
rate of crime in the society.

According to Dr. Ifeoma Okafor of the Department of Social Sciences
Education, University of Ilorin, “drug abuse among Nigerian youth has
been a scourge to the overall sustainable development of the nation.”
She also noted that substance abuse is a serious global issue
particularly in developing countries like Nigeria.

“Drug abuse is also major public health, social and individual
problem and is seen as an aggravating factor for economic crises;
hence, for Nigeria’s poverty status. While youth are supposed to be
the major agent of change and development, some of them have been
destroyed by drug abuse (rendering them unproductive),” she stressed
in one of her researches, “Causes and Consequences of Drug Abuse among
Youth in Kwara State.”

It is a fact that drugs are produced for a variety of different
reasons, including those associated with ensuring a state of
wellbeing, curing illness and sustaining mental and physical
stability. Okafor also agreed that “modern medical substances commonly
known as ‘medicine’ (many derived from plants), do not constitute any
danger.”

She said: “If properly administered, drugs can assist human beings in
many positive ways. The term ‘drug’ refers to ‘any substance, when
taken into a living organism, limits ill-health’, however, if drugs are
abused, they can become very destructive to the individual and to
society at large. A drug is a chemical modifier of the living tissues
that could bring about physiological, sociological, and behavioral
changes.”

According to a 2018 survey by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS,
and the Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse, CRISA,
with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and
Crime, UNODC, the prevalence of any drug use in Nigeria is estimated
at 14.4 percent corresponding to 14.3 million people aged 15-64 years,
who had used a psychoactive substance in the past year for non-medical
purposes. The highest level of drugs used was among those aged 25-39
years who can be regarded as youths.

Tramadol and some other drugs legally and professionally prescribed by
medical experts for pain relief are abused by millions of people in
Search for a fix or release from unemployment and poverty. Not less
than 60 percent of adolescents in the urban centers have either used
or are still using substances.

Experimental curiosity, peer pressure, poor socio-economic conditions
at homes and need for extra energy for daily activities have been
identified as some factors that have contributed to illicit
drug use in the country. These are precursors that are being magnified
by COVID-19, with an increasing number of Nigerian youths at risk of
turning to drug abuse.

In the first two decades after Nigeria gained its independence, drug
trafficking activities were rare. But things began to change in the
The 1980s. Indian heroin began to be funneled through Nigeria on its way
to Europe. The criminal groups handling these wares soon forged
alliances with South American illicit drug manufacturers and added
cocaine to the drugs they were distributing.

In the 1990s, these criminal groups became more sophisticated.
Cannabis began to be produced within Nigeria, and psychotropic drugs
were added to the list of trafficked products. Trafficking channels
became more complex and methods of moving drugs more diverse.
Statistics on drug seizures within the country show exactly when the
Nigerian criminal groups achieved explosive expansion. In 1999, 16,000
kilograms of cannabis herb and 15.6 kg of cocaine were seized; in
2000, this figure leaped to 272,000 kg of cannabis and 54 kg of
cocaine. In 2007, the rate of marijuana seizure landed Nigeria in the
number four spot after the United States, Mexico, and Bolivia.

There is no argument that the consequences of this habit have been
severe; Nigerians traveling abroad are suspected as possible drug
couriers, and the United States recently put Nigeria on its list of
decertified countries. The Nigerian government has used many legal,
social, and economic strategies to address the problem; none has
effectively addressed its causes. However, the NDLEA has experienced
some successes in the last few years.

Interestingly, the federal government had last year reiterated its
commitment to strengthen and collaborate with relevant agencies to
tackle drug and substance abuse in Nigeria. The chairman, Presidential
Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse, Brig-Gen. Buba
Marwa (rtd), disclosed this at the 4th Biennial National Symposium on
“Drugs and Drug Policy in Nigeria” which was held in Abuja.

According to him, the government was coming up with a new coordinating
a mechanism like the national drug control commission, which would go
through legislation and help in the fight against drug abuse. He added
that the commission would come up with strategies for drugs, while
existing institutions would be strengthened and empowered.

“There will be mass advocacy across the board, from families to
religious leaders, and traditional leaders down to community levels
and up to civil society organizations. New rehabilitation centers for
treatment and aftercare will be available; these are some of the
plans the federal government is coming up with to tackle drug-related
issues,” General Marwa said.

However, the government should also listen to the experts, who are
calling for measures on people that are selling drugs indiscriminately
and they should be supervising the target areas at least monthly if
possible and also check the activities of the victims of drug abuse.
Besides, the Ministry of Education in conjunction with the National
Campaign Against Drug Abuse, NACADA, should engage inappropriately
inter-agency agreements in order to streamline the provision of
services to support students with social and behavioural problems
emanating from drug abuse.

There is also the need for the government to strengthen its
institutions in charge of drug control to curb drug production and
supply, and provide effective checks on drug use in the metropolis.

QUOTE
It is against this backdrop that the deputy senate president lauded
the two associations for bringing the issue to the front burner, even
as he recalled that there have been several motions on the floor of
the Senate in particular dealing with drug abuse and inadequate
rehabilitation centers across the country.