NDLEA and the growing drug addiction epidemic

Drug addiction is a global health and social problem with conditions and problems that are capable of destroying social order and harmony.

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, drug or substance use disorder is a collection of symptoms resulting from drug abuse, despite the obvious problems associated with their use.

The continued use of psychoactive substances among adolescents and young people has become a public concern around the world because it potentially causes deliberate or unintentional damage and injury.

Drug abuse, including drug addiction and trafficking, has universal ramifications that transcend socio-economic, religious, cultural and ethnic boundaries. The Nigerian government and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), through policies, have tried to stem its tide in the country, but, despite these efforts, there has been a steady increase in the number of abuses. drugs, especially in adolescents.

The problem of drug addiction poses a major threat to the social, health and economic situation of families, society and the nation as a whole. Nigeria, like all countries in the world, is affected by drug addiction. This has resulted in an increase in violence and crime, a higher prevalence of hepatitis B and C viruses, HIV / AIDS and a virtual collapse of the social and cultural structure. It has been established that there is a link between sect / violent behavior and drug abuse in secondary schools and higher education institutions in Nigeria.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Nigeria, the Southwest zone had a prevalence of 22.4% of drug addicts in 2017, followed by the South-South (16.6%), the South-East (13.8%), North-East (13.6%), North-West (12%) and North-Center (10%). Lifetime use of cannabis as well as psychotropic substances such as benzodiazepines and amphetamine-type stimulants was around 11%, while heroin (1.6%) and cocaine (1.4%) would be the least consumed in urban and rural areas. In the same year, drug abuse appeared to be more common among men (25.2%) than among women (around 8%), and the age range of first use ranged from 10 to 29 years.

Nigeria is an extremely diverse country with over 400 ethnicities and many religious groups. Drug abuse is therefore seen in a broader context in Nigeria, due to its multicultural nature. However, despite this multicultural nature of the Nigerian population, the public, police, preachers, medical professionals, teachers, regulators and parents are constantly protesting against the growing burden of drug addiction in the country.

One of the challenges in controlling drug prevalence is that Nigeria is a transit point for heroin and cocaine destined for European, East Asian and North American markets, thus making the drugs more readily available in the country.

Since 2004, drug traffickers have increasingly used West African countries, including Nigeria, to smuggle large amounts of cocaine from South America to Europe and North America. Our country now has a high rate of drug abuse due to the continued availability of illicitly manufactured and diverted pharmaceuticals containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

The harms associated with illicit drug use include increased overdose mortality and other directly or indirectly associated dangers such as; Increased risk of infection with viruses transmitted through the blood (HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C); High levels of depression and anxiety disorders; Psychiatric comorbidity is common in drug addiction populations, with anxiety and depression generally being common, while antisocial and other personality disorders are high in opioid consuming populations; Social issues such as parenthood, disrupted employment and housing; Productivity loss and unemployment increase with the severity and duration of drug abuse; In addition, personal relationships are strained by addictive drug use.

The increase in banditry, armed robberies, kidnappings and the Boko Haram insurgency have all been linked to the high level of drug abuse in the country. In south-eastern Nigeria, methamphetamine, known in the local parlance as “Mkpuru Mmiri”, destroys young people, making them more vulnerable to crime and criminality, thus robbing them of their future.

To eradicate drug trafficking and drug abuse in the country, the federal government established the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) responsible for eliminating the cultivation, processing, manufacture, sale , the export and trafficking of hard drugs. The agency was created by decree number 48 of 1989. NDLEA is present in international airports, seaports and border posts. NDLEA also targets leaders of narcotics and money laundering organizations.

In the years since its formation, the NDLEA has done much to fulfill its mandate, but its efforts have failed to significantly reduce the threat. However, the emergence of General Muhammad Buba Marwa (rtd) as Chairman / CEO of NDLEA has re-energized the agency.

Marwa succeeded in pushing the officers and men of the Agency to do more and the results were unprecedented. NDLEA officers and men not only catch traffickers at airports, border posts and seaports, among others, they also pursue them at their points of production. Marwa brought the war to drug traffickers and the results were encouraging.

Unfortunately, recent recruitment to the Agency is riddled with allegations of imbalance. According to media reports detailing the names and reference numbers of successful applicants for recruitment as Narcotics Assistants (NASS) for the second batch of its recruiting exercise, it was observed that approximately 80 percent of the 1,000 applicants who on the list were of Nordic origin.

Meanwhile, according to the UNODC report cited above, the North is not the epicenter of drug abuse, so what may be the rationale for such an obvious imbalanced recruitment? The report said the recruitment goes against the federal character, which encourages a balanced intake or representation of different regions and ethnicities in Nigeria.

Already, non-governmental organizations are calling on relevant authorities to appropriately review and scrutinize the recruitment process, in order to ensure fairness and equity for all, regardless of religion or political affiliation, with nepotism which is said to be on the rise in this agency.

Marwa is well known for his detribalized character and in this regard should ensure that under his leadership the issue of imbalanced recruitment is addressed in a transparent manner. He revolutionized the war on drugs in Nigeria, attacking the drug lords who were until then untouchable, he now has to deal with the systemic imbalance of the NDLEA and create an environment for all Nigerians to participate in the war to eradicate drug abuse in our country.

Aluta Continua!

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