Drug abuse has become a grave menace that requires a drastic and strong-willed approach, if it must be curbed in this country. In the last few weeks, revelations from agencies of government on the deep penetration of this vice in our youths and society are startling. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency [NDLEA] has said as many as three million codeine syrup bottles were consumed on a daily basis in Kano. It also said twice that amount is consumed in the North-West States.
Also, the Nigeria Customs Services [NCS] recently intercepted about 35 containers of tramadol at various ports in the country. Tramadol is a restricted drug but it is being abused by Nigerian youths. Director-General of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control [NAFDAC] Professor Moji Adeyeye also said these drugs are shipped into Nigeria from South-East Asia, where they are not consumed. She said in those countries of origin, India and China, they are marked “For Export Only.” She said, “[Because of the strength of the drugs] they are not allowed in [those] countries. But they don’t see any problem in exporting them to our country.”
To underscore the severity of the problem, President Muhammadu Buhari has set up a Presidential Committee on Drug Abuse tasked with the challenge of eliminating drug and substance abuse in the country. In his speech at the inauguration on December 10, Buhari said, “The drugs that are commonly abused include but are not limited to alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, tramadol, codeine etc.”
In spite of the fact that the president has set up the presidential committee, it is necessary for NDLEA, which is vested with the task of curbing the abuse of drugs and arresting criminals behind the abuses, to be equipped to drastically deal with the situation. Senior personnel who are experts in pharmacy and pharmacology should be made to occupy strategic positions in the organisation, so that NDLEA does not totally rely on NAFDAC, another agency of government, in its efforts to curtail the drug abuse. Though the head of the agency is mainly derived from the military, it is important to have pharmacists to play core functions at the agency, so that NDLEA’s relationship with NAFDAC could be seamless.
Furthermore, it has become crucial for NDLEA to engage in preventive advocacy and activities that would discourage Nigerian youths from substance abuse. This campaign should not be ad hoc, but a core function of the organisation and should be handled by experts who are experienced in this. The campaign should be taken from city to city, school to school, and community to community across the country. Though the dangers of substance abuse are taught as topics in Social Studies in primary and junior secondary schools, the gravity of the vice now is such that mass advocacy programmes should be embarked upon to discourage many youths from drug abuse.
Also, we encourage the Federal Government to engage in diplomatic efforts to prevent the shipping of the drugs from China and India into Nigeria. The governments of these countries should be engaged at the highest level on this matter. No serious government should fold its arms when goods imported from other countries put the lives of its youths at risk. There is no shying away from this challenge of seeking the cooperation of the embassies or high commissions of these countries to ensure that the shipment of these drugs into Nigeria is halted.
If such bilateral deals are reached, it would be easier for the Nigeria Customs Service and other relevant agencies that monitor illegal import of drugs into Nigeria to do their jobs. The increase in substance abuse is not only destroying our youths but also destabilising families across Nigeria. All hands must be on deck to halt this evil.