Press Briefing by the Chairman/Chief Executive National Drug Law Enforcement Agency to Flag-Off Commemoration of 2018 UN Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

 I am pleased to welcome you all to this Press Briefing. The purpose of this briefing is to keep the media abreast of the preparation by drug control stakeholders for the commemoration of 2018 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking.

As you may be aware, June 26 of every year has been set aside by the United Nations as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking which should serve as a key plank in the global war on drugs. The annual awareness day was founded to highlight the dangers of drug use and their illegal trade and provide educational material to stakeholders all over the world to help amplify the message about the extreme cultural and economic harm the trade in drugs is still doing across the globe. It is also to sensitize member states to intensify their efforts at combating both drug demand and supply, while improving access to treatment for addicts.

The theme for the 2018 commemoration has not changed from last year’s. For emphasis, the theme still remains: “Listen First”: “Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe.”

A National Planning Committee made up of relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies has worked out a week-long program of activities to mark the anti-drug day in Nigeria. The activities will culminate in a Grand Finale on Tuesday June 26 that will attract participation from top government functionaries, members of the diplomatic corps, international collaborators, captains of industry, religious and community leaders, Non-governmental organizations, youths and people from all walks of life.

In accordance with the programme of events, there shall be Jumaat prayer in mosques later today. A sensitization Road Walk by stakeholders will take place tomorrow Saturday from Old Parade ground to Millennium Park here in Abuja. A novelty football match will also take place later on Saturday. On Sunday June 24, there was enlightenment in Churches.  Governments at all levels are requested to align their programs with the aforementioned to commemorate the anti-drug day.

Permit me to note that this year’s commemoration is coming at a very auspicious time. At no time in the recent past has the issue of drugs become more topical. The media has been awash with hues and cries over rampant abuse of all manner of drugs in the country. The abuse of tramadol and cough syrup with codeine has become an epidemic, especially in the northern part of the country. It is therefore laudable that the Federal Government has banned the production of codeine-based cough syrup.

It may interest you to know that there has been consistent rise in the influx of tramodol into the country in the last two years, indicating that Nigeria has become a country of choice for the illicit tramadol merchants. I am shocked and I am sure most Nigerians will be shocked to know that NDLEA has seized a total of 102, 90.48 kilograms of tramadol between January 2017 and March 2018, compared to 58,804.67 kilograms of the same drug seized in 2016. The tramadol seizure have far outweighed of seizures of Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine and other similar drugs put together.

In one single operation in November last year, the Agency intercepted 82 tons of tramadol made up of 160 million tablets. The drugs which ranged from 220 to 250 milligrams were imported from India using false documents in the name of an unregistered company.

Tramadol is a narcotic-likepain reliever used to treat moderate to severe pain and comes in approved threshold of 50-100 milligrams. Curiously, the ones intercepted by the Agency are from 120-250 milligrams and without the permit of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and control, NAFDAC whose duty it is to approve the importation of drugs.

It is obvious that the current influx of tramadol is not for legitimate use. Tramadol which is a derivative of Opiate is for post-surgery application. The seizures in recent times far outweigh our legitimate needs in the country. It only suggests massive illicit use in the country.

The preponderance of abuse of psychotropic substances such as cough syrup with Codeine, Tramadol and Diazepam is sad development in the country. There is hardly any family in Nigeria today that is not contending with the challenges of a drug dependent person. It is in the same vein that the entire society is battling with the litany of social vices and extreme violence, aggravated by substance abuse.

Another issue of national concern is the linkage between drugs and violent activities in some parts of the country. Consignments of Tramadol and other psychoactive substances are discovered in virtually all terrorist camps that the military has taken over. This attests to the fact that drugs act as intensifiers of violent extremism.

The increasing abuse of drugs among the youth and women across the country is of national concern. This has resulted in unwarranted deaths. It hinders educational pursuit and career, thereby rendering our youths and women unproductive and in some cases resulting to family disintegration.  Young boys and girls have taken to mixing codeine syrup with soft drinks.  Worse still, mothers who are managers and molders of characters indulge in the use of codeine and other drugs as an escape from life stressors.  Tramadol especially is a habit-forming drug.  Misuse of this medicine or use without prescription can cause addiction, overdose and finally death.

On 30th of April this year, the Agency destroyed a total of 14 tons of drugs seized over a period of two years in Adamawa State. The composition of the drugs clearly points to the growing abuse of pharmaceutical drugs of prescription such as cough syrup with Codeine and Tramadol.  These drugs are fast becoming more prevalent than Cannabis sativa, cultivated locally.  Out of the 14 tons of drugs destroyed in Adamawa State, 2,734.572 kilograms of these drugs was cannabis.  Cough syrup with Codeine was 4,747.211 kilograms and Tramadol was at 6,700.737 kilograms; this trend is worrisome.  In Kano State where 50 tons of drugs were destroyed early in the year, 40 tons were psychotropic substances, mainly cough syrup with Codeine, Tramadol and Diazepam.  The increase in the abuse of pharmaceutical opioids is a source of national concern.

Methamphetamine is another drug of concern. In 2011, Nigeria acquired the status of Methamphetamine producer nation through the discovery of the first methamphetamine laboratory in Lagos. Till date fifteen methamphetamine laboratories have been discovered in Nigeria. The laboratories were discovered in the following states, Lagos, Anambra, Delta and Enugu States. The discoveries of these laboratories across the country, apart from the fact that Nigeria is highest producer of cannabis in West Africa, portends a grave danger for the country and its image which invariably affects the national security of the nation.

As I conclude this press briefing, I need to emphasis the devastating consequences of the drug menace, and the need for immediate concerted action. All relevant stakeholders such Federal Government Agencies, State Governors, Non-Governmental Organization, Traditional rulers, religious clerics, educational institutions and families must unite to combat this menace.

NDLEA and NAFDAC have cross cutting responsibilities of checking the influx of these harmful drugs. The two Agencies have resolved and are working hand-in-hand to address this disturbing trend.

I would like to thank the Gentlemen of the Press for joining us to take this message to the door step of all Nigerians that Drugs are harmful to health; they ruin careers, break homes, fuel violence and criminalities. Drug Trafficking disrupts the economy and ultimately destroys a nation.

I thank you all and God bless.