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Winning the war against drug and substance abuse

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That a whopping N800 billion worth of illicit substances were seized and no fewer than 42,105 offenders, including 46 barons, were arrested, by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA in the last three years under the watch of Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa, (Retd) its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, is enough testimonial that a lot of ground has been covered in the sustained offensive against drug and substance abuse in the country.

Commendable as this feat which had also seen 29,400 drug users rehabilitated and counseled during the same period is, we are deeply worried that the regular arrests and prosecution of traffickers and barons, as well as seizures of illicit drugs, had clearly not served as enough deterrent to criminals still perpetrating the harmful and deadly trade identified by psychologists as one of the root causes of worsening insecurity nationwide manifesting as terrorism, kidnapping, rape, suicide and cultism.

We, therefore, demand an immediate adoption of a more holistic, comprehensive, proactive and vigorous approach that includes prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration of liberated users with families and the larger society, be adopted in addressing drug and substance abuse in Nigeria with the NDLEA leading the battle and the citizens getting more actively involved in volunteering useful information regarding the movement of traffickers and their sponsors.

Recall that Marwa was appointed Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, CEO of the NDLEA by immediate past president Muhammadu Buhari on January 15 but assumed duties on January 18, 2021, and immediately hit the ground running with a blueprint designed to turn around the fortunes and trajectory of the all-important anti-narcotics organization.

However, prior to his appointment, the former military governor of Borno and Lagos states headed the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA) whose recommendations as well as the NDLEA Act formed the major strategy to meet the objectives of the National Drug Control Masterplan 2021 – 2025 as a roadmap.

Promising then to safeguard the nation and youths from drug menace, he vowed never to hesitate in penalizing default, threatening that,

“those who engage in the dastardly trade of importation, export, cultivation, processing, manufacture, trafficking, sale and consumption of illicit substances” should stop forthwith or be prepared to contend with the NDLEA.

According to him, and we totally agree too, the future of Nigerian youths is closely tied to how society addresses the issues of culture and drug abuse, empowering young people by providing them with quality education, skill development, employment opportunities, access to healthcare and social support systems while drug and substance abuse deserved urgent and collective action by families, religious bodies, socio-cultural organisations, civil society groups and the mass media.

In our opinion, though the NDLEA boss’ journey in the last 36 months had recorded tremendous strides as attested to by many, including the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, Gen. Christopher Musa who recently scored Marwa highly during a courtesy visit, the former expressed commitment to expose drug traffickers and abusers, while promising that the Nigerian Military would leave no stone unturned in strengthening its synergy with the Agency to curtail the increasing menace of substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking in the country.

In Musa’s assessment, “We know the challenges of drugs and how the use of illicit drugs has affected Nigeria’s name. And when Nigeria is mentioned abroad, everybody thinks about drugs, but you and your team have turned that around, at least now, people have seen that sense of sincerity in addressing the drug issue in Nigeria. We know it is not easy, because a lot of people have benefited so much from it and they will do anything to sustain their illicit businesses.

Continuing, he revealed, “I want to assure you that the members of the Nigerian Armed Forces are fully behind you. We are proud of you and what you have been achieving and we will continue to support you until the menace of drugs is totally eliminated in the country. We know the influence of drug use and what it has done to us, creating a lot of issues all over the country, which is very alarming.

Sadly, he further observed that “Drug use has slipped into so many places and for members of the Armed Forces; we’re not excluded”, stressing that “now, we have introduced as part of our recruitment processes that for our people to go for courses, they must take drug tests, because this will ensure that personnel of the Armed Forces are doing the right thing and are in the right frame of mind. So, we’ll continue to do that and continue to intensify our efforts.”

We commend the CDS for the compulsory drug tests and strongly recommend that civilians should emulate the high moral ground already established by the military by wholeheartedly embracing the same at every recruitment process, ranging from admission into tertiary institutions, clearance for party candidates to National and State Assemblies, Local government councils as well as nominees to all public offices at all levels of government.

As a first step, we challenge members of the Senate and House of Representatives to as a matter of national priority enact a law that will give full effect to the introduction of compulsory drug tests as a requirement for applicants, candidates and nominees into public institutions and offices as part of urgent measures to sanitize such bodies in order to raise the nation’s moral values and ensure that only those who are mentally and physically fit stand the chance of been taken.

Similarly, we strongly advocate the timely introduction of drug education and more vocational skills into the curriculum of secondary schools with a view to inculcating drug education to help youths understand the dangers inherent in the abuse and illicit trafficking of drugs even as the personnel of NDLEA should intensify their war against drug supply and demand reduction, which entails prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of drug abusers and above all citizens and government should give total support to the anti narcotics body to fully implement its mandate.

 

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