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The Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, Oba Rilwan Akiolu of Lagos and other stakeholders have called for intensified efforts in the fight against drug trafficking in the country. Dalung said that all over the world, governments are committing billions of dollars to fight the menace of drug abuse.
According to the minister, "investing in social programmes that discourage young people from going into drugs will yield fruitful results in the long run. The Youth and Sports Ministry will collaborate with the NDLEA in minimising the abuse of drugs and other substances especially among the youth".
Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu also called for improved funding of the Agency and provision of logistics for enhanced performance. He urged members of the public to volunteer useful information on the activities of drug trafficking organisations in their neighbourhood for the NDLEA to serve them better. "I want the government to improve the funding of the NDLEA. Drug control cannot be fought without logistic support. Members of the public also have a responsibility to report the illegal activities of drug traffickers in their neighbourhood to law enforcement agents" the Oba stated.
Chairman/Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (retd.) said that Nigeria remains committed to the dislodgement of criminal drug syndicates targeting the country and West African sub-region as a hub for illicit drug production, trafficking and abuse. The 26th of June was set aside as International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking by resolution 42/112 of the United Nations General Assembly on the 7th of December 1987.
Special Assistant to the President on narcotics and immediate past Chairman of the NDLEA, Ahmadu Giade was among dignitaries that attended the ceremony. Giade also represented the Minister of Justice. Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai was represented by Col. Abubakar Garba while the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, was represented by Commodore Abraham Adaji. Minister of health, Prof. Isaac Adewole was represented by Ag. Managing Director, Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Yaba, Dr. Richard Ademola; the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd).was represented by Barrister Isaac Idu as well as representative of National Agency of Food and Drug Administration and Control, Dr. Umar Musa among many others. Members of Celebrity Drug-Free Club led by Prince Ifeanyi Dike, Chairman Actors Guild of Nigeria and secondary school students were also present to make the day colourful.
Abdallah who was represented by the Director General of the Agency, Mrs Roli Bode-George stressed that the country had maintained a rising drug control profile through capacity building and unwavering sense of obligation. He promised to work with stakeholders in ensuring a healthy and drug-free society.
"Nigeria will continue to dislodge criminal drug syndicates seeking to turn our country and West Africa sub-region to a hub for illicit drug production, trafficking and abuse. We have maintained a rising drug control profile through capacity building and unwavering sense of obligation. The Agency will continue to work with stakeholders in ensuring a healthy drug-free society" Abdallah stated.
The NDLEA boss gave the assurance at an event to mark the 2016 International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking held in Lagos. In his words, "As we mark this important day, stakeholders must review drug control strategies aimed at ensuring a safer environment. Moving forward, we must determine the effectiveness of existing measures. The adequacy of allocated resources to drug control, effectiveness of public enlightenment on dangers of drugs and what areas should be given priority attention in terms of policy change and reinforcement".
Speaking on the global theme for this year's campaign which is Listen First; the NDLEA Chairman called on parents to strengthen the bond between them and their children. "This theme is a clarion call on parents to carry out a self appraisal on the relationship between them and their children and amend observed gaps. When parents fail to listen to their children, they are unwittingly creating room for negative confidants to mislead them".
He urged parents, guardians and leaders to continually reach out to young persons, interact and share in their concerns. This will help them to build positive attitudes and relevant skills needed to prevent drug abuse and other social vices inimical to societal peace, growth and development.
Listening to children and youths is the first step in bonding with them to grow healthy and safe. As children advance through adolescence, they explore their environment and discover their unique potentials and capabilities. In the process, they are exposed to challenges of drug use, violence and radicalisation if not properly guided. Many youths have been negatively influenced by peer pressure, poverty, exposure to violence, ignorance and absence of supporting parenting.
Drug use often begins as a way to seek recreation but the addictive properties of drugs soon make people dependent. This compulsion is uncontrollable and may interfere with the individual's everyday life. Some of the effects of drug use include paranoia, psychosis, immune deficiencies, organ damage, dropping out of school, loss of job, unfulfilled dreams and premature death to mention a few.
An estimated 246 million people across the globe, that is 1 out of 20 people between the ages of 15 and 64 years were reported to have used an illicit drug in 2013 by the World Drug Report 2015. It was equally reported that 1 out of 10 drug users about 27 million people, or almost the entire population of a country like Ghana or Mozambique are problem drug users suffering from drug use disorders. Almost half of this number about 12.19 million inject drugs while 1.6 million of those who inject drugs are HIV positive. Above all, about 187,000 drug related deaths also took place in 2013.
Drug syndicates constantly seek ways of circumventing drug control laws. They introduce new psychotropic substances annually and change drug trafficking routes. In 2015, a total of 602 new psychoactive substances were reported by Member States to the International Narcotic Control Board (INCB). This represents 55 percent increase over the previous year when 388 new substances were reported globally. In Nigeria, we have observed a growing abuse of new drugs like cough syrups with codeine, tramadol, and Rohypnol. We shall continue to monitor demand and supply in determining the control of substances.
Another threat of narcotic drugs that has capacity to undermine the sovereignty of nations is the nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism. Illicit proceeds derived from drug trafficking is so huge that such ill-gotten money can be used to finance terrorism and political ambitions of drug barons. We also know that most criminal acts are perpetrated under the influence of narcotics. Armed robbery, murder, rape and violent acts are most often induced by illicit drug use.
Drug syndicates are targeting Africa as a trans-shipment point for smuggling cocaine across the Atlantic into Europe as Eastern Europe is gradually becoming a transit and destination area. West Africa is equally becoming an established source of methamphetamine smuggled into East and South East Asia through Southern Africa or Europe. With the expansion of methamphetamine markets in East and South East Asia as well as growing use of methamphetamine in parts of North America and Europe, West Africa is now the focus of drug cartels.
NDLEA will resist any move to use the sub-region as a hub for illicit drug production and trafficking. The arrests and drug seizures of the Agency reaffirms our commitment. Additionally, the timely arrest and prosecution of four Mexicans and three Bolivians underscores our resolve to stop the infiltration of foreign cartels into Nigeria. Apart from the huge seizures of narcotics at the airports, seaports and land borders; the Agency made a significant breakthrough by detecting eleven clandestine laboratories for the production of methamphetamine in the country since 2011.
The war against narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances is a battle for peace and welfare of mankind. There is no better time to consolidate on gains recorded as we reappraise and streamline drug control strategies. Let us continue to extend the frontiers of drug abuse prevention programme through an integrated approach. A process driven by families, schools, communities and the media. The Drug Anonymous Support Group that will commence soon is expected to provide help to people with drug abuse problem. This shall be complemented with psychotherapy, which helps patients learn how to resist and redirect compulsions and individual counseling.
The Agency will continue to undertake innovative approaches to drug control by strengthening international cooperation. Members of the public are encouraged to visit NDLEA website and patronize our social media anti-drug abuse counseling platforms. Through shared responsibility we can achieve far above our individual targets. We must continue to sustain the momentum until total victory is secured.
The Agency honoured her fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives for a drug-free society adding that their sacrifices are not in vain. It promised to extend the scope of the campaign until total victory is achieved.