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Road to Winning War against Drug Abuse in Nigeria

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By Ibironke Ariyo

Drug and alcohol abuse, trafficking, and related criminal activities remain serious problems which affect the lives of many Nigerians.

Drug abuse triggers many social problems worldwide. It leads to major health challenges, crimes, and violent crimes, among others.

Substance abuse destroys the potential in youths, which in many instances, gives rise to crimes like insurgency, terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, rape, to mention but a few.

According to experts, the most commonly abused drugs by youths are marijuana, cocaine, stimulants, painkillers and prescription drugs, spice and K2, heroin, crystal meth, MDMA, hallucinogens, DXM and inhalants among others.

Many factors have been blamed for substance abuse among young people.

Peer pressure, poor parental upbringing, corruption, unemployment, ego rank high among the causes of drug abuse.

A United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report says drugs abuse was responsible for the death of almost half a million people in 2019 while drug use disorders resulted in the loss of 18 million years of healthy life.

The 2018 National Drug Use Survey also revealed that there were about 14.3 million drug users in Nigeria out of which close to 3 million suffered from drug use disorders.

This figure represents a 14.4 per cent prevalence rate in Nigeria, which is about three times the global average prevalence rate of 5 per cent.

The UNODC in its 2021 World Drug Report projects said that by 2030, the number of people using drugs around the world will rise by 11 per cent and by 40 per cent in Africa alone.

This is a disturbing projection because as the country with the largest population in Africa, the implication is that Nigeria’s drug abuse prevalence will rise substantially.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Ministry of Justice are in partnership to promote and pursue an approach that combines prevention, treatment, and enforcement to break the cycle of substance abuse and drug-related crimes.

The NDLEA, retired Brig.- Gen. Buba Marwa, said in the past three years, the agency has seized 7,590 tons of illicit drugs and substances nationwide with an estimated market value of over N800 billion.

The NDLEA Chairman spoke during a visit to the agency’s Abuja headquarters by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Christopher Musa.

He further said the agency has arrested 42,105 drug offenders.

Marwa, who had worked as Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse, (PACEDA), between 2018 and December, 2020 before his appointment in 2021 as NDLEA Chairman, highlighted the centrality of drugs to criminal activities including terrorism, kidnapping, and insurgency.

He said 29,400 drug users have been counselled and rehabilitated within the same period.

“In about three years, we have arrested 42,105 drug offenders, including 46 barons. We have seized no fewer than 7, 590 tons of drugs and this is worth about N800 billion”, Marwa told his audience.

Speaking further, Marwa said that NDLEA successfully prosecuted 3,412 drug offenders in 2023 alone adding that among those prosecuted, 15 drug kingpins bagged 168 years jail terms collectively.

“That is a substantial improvement over our performance in 2022.

“Notably, in 2023, we also ramped up our enforcement action against cannabis farms and carried out at least seven successful major operations, leading to the discovery and destruction of over 206 hectares of cannabis plantations,” Marwa said.

The war against substance abuse and trafficking will not be won without the support of critical stakeholders and partners, including state governments and the Federal Capital Territory administration.

The FCT NDLEA, FCT Command has accelerated its efforts intercepting 7,345.209 kilograms of illicit drugs and substances worth N125.71 million last year.

The NDLEA commander, Mr Kabir Tsakuwa told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)  that the drugs intercepted include marijuana, cocaine, diazepam, methamphetamine, rohypnol, tramadol, pentazocine, heroin, megadon, and ecstasy among others.

Giving a breakdown of the seizures, the commander said a total of 7,138.72kg of marijuana was intercepted by operatives of the agency within the period under review.

He said other drugs seized in 2023 included 0.5kg of cocaine; diazepam, 29.629kg; methamphetamine, 4.587kg; rohypnol, 5.934kg, and 133.753kg of tramadol.

Tsakuwa added that the rest of the illicit drugs intercepted were pentazocine weighing 21.727kg; heroin, 0.002kg; megadon, 0.263kg, and ecstasy, 0.134kg.

“All the illicit drugs and substances intercepted were with the street value of N125, 714, 620 million,” he said.

The NDLEA commander said 640 suspects comprising 614 males and 26 females were arrested within the period under review.

Tsakuwa said out of the number, 295 of the suspects were charged in court and 201 of them were convicted while 264 cases are pending in the Federal High Court, Abuja.

On rehabilitation, he said that within the year under review, 175 drug users were counselled and helped back into the society out of which, 172 were males and three were females.

The role of civil society organisations and faith-based organisations in the efforts to wean youths from substance abuse cannot be overemphasised. They have the capacity to reach the rural areas.

Two organisations, Vanguard Against Drug Abuse (VGADA), and Soaring Youth Foundation (SYF), are working to support 1, 000 youths to steer away from drug abuse in the FCT.

The organisations made the commitment during the flag-off of the ‘Youth Alive Drug Abuse, Sensitisation, Self-Awareness and Treatment (DASSAT) Project’ at Wumba community, in Lokogoma area of Abuja.

The project is being implemented in partnership with the National Drug law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Shekinah International Gospel Ministry, Wumba.

Dr Hope Omeiza, the Managing Director of VGADA, said their target was to get to hard-to-reach communities and support victims who could not access and afford treatment.

“We felt it is important to get into communities like the Wumba community where we are flagging off this programme to ensure that before the end of 2024, we are able to reach 1,000 youths in Abuja,” he said.

Omeiza said that the project would involve psychological, skills acquisition and social skills programme adding that beneficiaries would undergo drug test and other drug resistance programmes and interventions to steer them away from drugs.

Mr Michael Awe, Lead Pastor, Shekinah International Gospel Ministry, said they have thrown their hat into the ring by partnering with organisations to achieve desired results.

“We have been doing it on our own, but we discover that spirituality is not enough to heal the mind of the youths from drug abuse. That is why we are partners in this rescue mission.

“We are coming together to see how we can help and empower them in such a way that they could have something tangible to do and be useful to themselves and the community,” he said. (NANfeatures)

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President Tinubu at 72: Celebrating a Life in Forward Motion

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By Keem Abdul

He is 72 on Friday, March, 29, 2024. But in a nod to the current mood across the nation (occasioned by the hardship and insecurity in the land) President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has said he wouldn’t be celebrating that auspicious day.

Instead, according to a release from his media office, he has told his friends, well-wishers and associates to donate to charity rather than spend valuable resources placing goodwill messages and advertorials in print and electronic media outlets to mark the day.

The president, according to the release made particular reference to the tragic killing of a number of soldiers and police officers in Delta State, as well as the serious security breaches by criminal elements in various parts of Nigeria (which has led to an unacceptably high toll of death, injury and loss of property) as reasons why a celebration at this time would be grossly inappropriate – if not downright insensitive.

In place of a celebration, Tinubu says he would use the day to reflect and re-dedicate himself to the task of building a more stable, secure, prosperous and united Nigeria – in line with his mandate as the leader of the commonwealth, namely, to make life better for all her citizens. He, however, acknowledged as some sort of a birthday gift, the recent release of the students kidnapped some weeks ago in Kaduna and Sokoto States. But a gift of far greater import, he added, would be the emergence of a more stable, more secure, virile, prosperous and united Nigeria.

That being said, though, even as the President reflects on his life’s journey so far and his ascendance to the highest office in the land at this time, many Nigerians and even non-Nigerians will also be pondering the phenomenon called Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, the combination of qualities and attributes (and the unique set of circumstances) that have brought him to this moment in his life and in the evolution of the Nigerian nation.

It is hard to measure the essence of a life as multifaceted and dynamic as that of the man Bola Tinubu. Suffice it to say – as those who know him well have repeatedly done – that he remains an enigma. That description of one’s essential character may be a cliché, but in the case of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, it is all too true.

Since the advent of Nigeria’s current democratic dispensation in 1999, Asiwaju Tinubu has become perhaps the most constant factor in defining the outcomes of electoral contests in the country – and even more so in his home state of Lagos. His almost 100% success rate in this regard is not by accident. A great writer once said that the heights great men attained are ‘not by sudden flight.’

Tinubu’s success as a politician testifies to his capacity for deep reflection and prompt action in equal measure.

On one hand, he has always been deliberate and intentional in the planning and execution of his strategies, doing nothing that is superfluous or forced. His caution, in other words, is matched by his ability to execute his plan – in a way that meshes into the whole vision which he has crafted for himself and the people that he leads. Every step he takes has been methodical and fills a gap in his overall quest for the enthronement of a continuous cycle of progress and prosperity within his sphere of influence.

He is a man with extra ordinary sensory perception who’s in tune with his inner self thus making him understand that there’s no force on earth strong enough to restrict the procession of promises of God. His perception wasn’t tainted by experience of betrayals rather he recognised that’s there’s no betrayal that he went through that didn’t work together for his good, that there’s never a dagger thrown at him that God didn’t convert to a stronger him.

1999 to date has been a time of almost constant struggle for Asiwaju Tinubu. His battles with the federal government, and with the internal opposition in Lagos, are too well-known to recount here. But the question is: Why does he fight so hard, For whom, or what, is he fighting? Wealth? Power for power’s sake? Fame and recognition? If so, why does he still keep fighting NOW, even AFTER having acquired these things in some measure?

One unmistakable answer to these questions – no matter one’s background or political and religious affiliation – would be that Asiwaju Tinubu is a man driven, not just by personal ambition or group interest, but by the altruistic desire to confront the forces of economic underdevelopment and social rot, no matter what it may cost him personally. His willingness to go all out in pursuit of his goals and convictions – even if it means sacrificing himself for others and the society as a whole, is truly remarkable.

In the rough-and-tumble of Nigerian politics where elections are usually a clash of weapons rather than a contest of ideas and ideologies, and most politicians are devoid of both, Tinubu’s principles and idealism can be hinged on the simple South African maxim of “Ubuntu” (I am because we are).

This understanding of the value of an unshakable bond between brethren is what has shaped the dynamics of Tinubu’s actions and engagements with other stakeholders. On more than one occasion, he has professed a desire to build the community; the people in it and the institutions and traditions that govern them – based on his belief that once a society is healthy; all elements within it will be significantly impacted.

It is also the reason he has built the careers of so many other leaders, men and women who have gone on to become political giants in their own right since 1999 – again, based on his belief that various people with diverse capacities in various places can coalesce to build a better and stronger society. No matter what his detractors may say, Tinubu’s investment in the lives and political fortunes of others is far from personal or individualistic, far from it.

Many distinguished persons in the society are the products of this investment. The results so far are a demonstration of the fact that the power to make a difference in the lives of Nigerians is within his grasp – and in our grasp if we all make an effort.

Much has been said about the Jagaban’s unique combination of fearlessness and humanity. Though he never goes out of his way to court controversy, he never runs away from one, especially when he has restrained himself and sought all ways to seek rapprochement with the other party. His capacity for compromise and respectful dialogue is how he has been able to build a team of highly dedicated men and women around himself.

As his close associates mark his 72 years on earth (one way or another) or join him in his reflections on the state of Nigeria and his mandate to lift the country and its people out of our present quagmire, it’s the prayer of all right thinking and patriotic Nigerians that the good Lord who has seen fit to allow Tinubu to occupy that lofty position will keep him in good health and preserve him so that he can fulfil the purpose for which God brought him into existence, that God will strengthen him, equip him with the physical energy and profound wisdom, understanding and knowledge that he needs to drive the vision that transformed Lagos into a globally-competitive megacity and the 5th largest economy in Africa.

His promise to replicate that transformation on a national scale is still on track, and with the help of God and the committed cooperation of the Nigerian people, the mission will be fulfilled.

Happy birthday, Mr. President!

May your strength be Renewed. God bless Mr. President. God bless Nigeria.

Keem Abdul, publisher and writer, hails from Lagos. He can be reached via +2348038795377 or Akeemabdul2023@gmail.com

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FCT Residents Squeak over Food Prices Soar, FG urges Patience

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Nigerians in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are concerned over the continued instability and increase in the cost of essential goods and services in the city centre.

Headline inflation rate released by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in February showed that inflation rate surged to 31.

70 per cent, with food inflation hitting a staggering 37.
92 per cent.

These inflation pressures have led to significant volatility in the prices of essential commodities, posing a challenge to the livelihoods of many residents.

Inflation is a decrease in the purchasing power of money, reflected in a general increase in the prices of goods and services in an economy.

It is typically a broad measure, such as the overall increase in prices or the increase in the cost of living in a country.

The spike in food inflation in Nigeria has made it increasingly difficult for many families to afford essential food items, leading to concerns about food security and access to nutritious meals.

The rising cost of transportation has added to the financial strain on residents, making it harder for workers for instance, to commute to work and access basic services.

Due to these developments, there is a pressing need and call for measures to address the underlying causes of inflation and ensure price stability for essential goods and services in the country.

According to residents, it is essential to implement policies that can effectively address the inflation challenge and stabilise prices.

They, therefore, urge relevant authorities and policymakers to take steps to mitigate the impact of inflation on the daily lives of the people.

They further urge that efforts that would enhance food security and support vulnerable households should be prioritised to mitigate the adverse effects of inflation on access to food.

Mrs Anthonia Yusuf, mother of three, expressed her distress over the soaring prices of food items, saying it is becoming increasingly difficult to put food on the table for her family.

“The prices of basic food items like rice, beans, and cooking oil have almost doubled in the past few months. I am deeply worried about how we will cope if this trend continues.

“ As a mother, I feel for children out there without parents. I cannot even imagine how they are able to fend and survive with the increased cost of living we are experiencing,’’ she said.

Also, another resident, Mrs Patience Akpa said: “Thse days, I do not attach prices to the list of items I intend to buy form the market because I cannot guarantee that the price would still remain the same.

“This is not good for us, we cannot even afford to plan because we do not know what tomorrow holds or will bring to our door-step.

“ We pray and hope the government and people in charge of policies will look into this unstable and increasing cost of living in the country.’’

Similarly, Mrs Favour Akputu said :“ my family is now living one day at a time and our only hope is in God whom we are trusting will continue to provide our needs.

Mr Ibrahim Usman, a civil servant, highlighted the ripple effects of the inflation on transportation costs.

“Commuting to work five days in a week has become a financial burden due to the rising transport fares.

“With the increasing cost of living, my salary is no longer sufficient to cover these additional expenses, thus, something needs to be done to address this issue speedily,” Usman said.

Similarly, Ms Ngozi Okoro, a small business owner, shared her concerns about the impact of inflation on her enterprise.

Okoro said as a retailer, she had witnessed a decline in customers as they struggled to cope with the escalating prices of goods.

She said :` This is affecting my sales and profitability, and I fear that if this persists, I may be forced to close down my business because right now I am even managing to cope and stay in business.

“And if that happens, my family will suffer because this business is the only source of income I have to support my husband who his taxi driving barely provides the need of the family.’’

For his part, Mr Moses Osita, a student, underscored the challenges faced by his peers, especially students from low-income backgrounds.

“ Many of my peers are finding it hard to afford meals on campus. The higher food prices have made it difficult for students with limited financial resources to meet their basic needs.

“ This is affecting our academic performance and well-being. If the youths are truly` leaders of tomorrow’, then something needs to be done urgently, because we are currently uncertain of our tomorrow,” Osita said.

Meanwhile, Mrs Fatima Adajime, a retired worker, drew attention to the plight of senior citizens of the country, the retired individuals.

“As a pensioner, I rely on my fixed income to cover my expenses. The steep increase in food prices has eroded the purchasing power of my pension. It is disheartening to see fellow retirees struggling to afford essential items.

“Due to our age, a lot of us suffer one health challenge upon another and the cost of drugs is nothing to write home about, these challenges needs urgent solutions by relevant quarters,’’ Adajime said.

According to Mr Francis Adams, a financial expert, many Nigerians are currently struggling with hardship due to government reforms including the removal of petrol subsidy.

Adams said the depreciation of naira had eroded incomes and savings of many, adding that this had worsened with Nigeria’s increased headline inflation rate recently released by the NBS.

He is, however, optimistic that if well managed, the reforms will yield positive dividends in the future.

He said as Nigerians continued to grapple with the repercussions of soaring inflation,

He urged the government to, in the interim, implement policies that would cushion the effects of inflation on the citizens.

“It is imperative for authorities to take decisive action to mitigate the impact of inflation and ensure the well-being of the populace’’, Adams said.

According to him, the pursuit of price stability is crucial in safeguarding the well-being of Nigerians and fostering a more sustainable and equitable living environment.

President Bola Tinubu has called for patience as his administration navigates the economic situation considered unpleasant by many Nigerians.

“I would like to solicit for understanding and support of Nigerians towards the government’s economic reform programmes inspired by the difficulties involved.

“We are very much hopeful that these policies will yield the desired results in no distant future”, Tinubu said through Prof. Tahir Mamman, the Minister of Education at the 43rd graduation ceremony of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. (NANFeatures)

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Nigerians Return to Charcoal Stoves, Firewood and Matters Arising

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“Our ‘Joko’ charcoal stoves are a must-have for everyone. Easy to use; cook faster; use less charcoal and super durable.

“Because of its wall insulation, it concentrates all the generated heat onto the food that is cooking for even, and faster cooking.

“The big size sells for N21500, while the small size sells for N15,000, We are not taking online orders for now only store pickups”.

These and many more are what you find available at website of online store of a popular brand that sells locally-fabricated kitchen appliances.

Many of these brands use different catchphrases and advertising strategies as they hustle for customers in the fast growing charcoal stove market.

From using sponsored advertising campaigns online, the word of mouth and referrals, the advent of charcoal stoves and its acceptability among Nigerians cannot be underestimated.

Due to rising kerosene and cooking gas prices, a Mararaba resident, Hauwa Ladan says she has shifted to charcoal stoves and firewood as primary cooking fuels.

She finds charcoal stoves economical and faster for family meals, and has recommended it to friends and neighbours.

Ladan highlights the considerable impact of high cost of cooking gas, saying that it leaves huge holes in household expenditure in Nigeria.

“Nigerians should go back to charcoal. They believe gas cooks faster, whereas charcoal is better!

“ There’s no cooking pot you place on charcoal that will go black. It’s only firewood that stains cooking pots’’, Mrs. Elizabeth Moyegun“, told a national daily recently.

The recent blame game by the Nigerian Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers (NALPGAM) and LPG terminal owners for the high cooking gas prices underscores the complexities in the supply chain.

Industry watchers say such disputes may reveal challenges in distribution, storage, or pricing strategies.

Addressing these issues is crucial to stabilise and potentially lower cooking gas prices for consumers, the NALPGAM says.

President of the NALPGAM, Oladapo Olatunbosun, insists that liquefied petroleum gas, popularly called cooking gas, has risen to at least N1,300 per kilogramme.

Although charcoal and firewood may come handy in this period of expensive cooking gas, experts warn that it comes at a huge cost to the environment.

They come in the shape of deforestation, air pollution, degradation of ecosystems and other potential consequences.

According to a United Nations data, between 2005-2010, Nigeria experienced an annual loss of over 2 million hectares of forest, primarily due to agricultural expansion, logging, and infrastructure development.

Nigeria is a major consumer of fossil fuel for cooking, with over 120 million Nigerians relying on firewood and charcoal for their cooking needs, according to the International Energy Agency.

A report by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), says cooking gas prices surged by 38 per cent, hitting ₦16,250 per 12.5kg cylinder in January 2024.

The NBS says there was a 3.55 per cent month-on-month increase in the average retail price for refilling a 5kg cylinder.

This surge in prices is accompanied by a 37 per cent increase in the price of 1kg of gas, which rose to ₦1,300 from ₦950 during the same period, the agency said.

Dr Temitope Oyetunji, a family health doctor in Abuja, said the use of firewood has dual impact on both users and the environment.

According to Oyetunji, the smoke from burning firewood poses health risks, leading to respiratory and heart diseases when inhaled.

He emphasised that the emitted smoke particles contribute to environmental pollution, impacting the ozone layer.

“The consistent use of firewood and other fossil fuels creates polluted air, affecting several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“They include SDG3 (Good Health and Well-being), SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and SDG 13 (climate action)”.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) points at fossil fuels, as major contributors to harmful emissions, significantly impact global health.

The WHO says 99 percent of the world’s population breathes air exceeding the organisation’s recommended quality limits, thereby posing threats to health.

Consequently, the WHO stresses the urgent need to reduce fossil fuel usage and implement tangible measures to alleviate air pollution.

Analysts say encouraging sustainable alternatives and efficient use of cooking gas could mitigate these environmental impacts and promote a healthier balance between energy needs and environmental conservation.

According to them, promoting sustainable practices, such as reforestation, efficient use of wood, and alternative energy sources, is essential to mitigate these environmental consequences.

An Environmentalist, Mr Newton Jibunoh, underscored the detrimental impact of tree felling for firewood in Nigeria, emphasising that it led to loss of biodiversity.

Jibunoh highlighted that deforestation significantly diminishes habitats for diverse plant and animal species, resulting in a notable decline in overall biodiversity.

According to him, the crucial role trees play in preventing soil erosion cannot be ignored, saying that their removal, as seen in the quest for firewood, can lead to diminished soil fertility and an increase in erosion rates.

He drew attention to the role of trees in absorbing carbon dioxide, noting that widespread removal of trees for firewood contributes to elevated levels of greenhouse gases, thereby exacerbating the challenges posed by climate change.

“The significance of trees in regulating water cycles cannot be underestimated, deforestation disrupts local hydrological patterns, potentially affecting water availability in the region.

“Many communities rely on forests for resources, as deforestation intensifies, these communities experience adverse effects on their livelihoods and cultural practices”.

Experts advocate a shift to sustainable cooking practices in Nigeria by addressing the escalating costs of traditional fuels like gas.

They opine that fostering collaboration and addressing supply chain issues could stabilise and lower cooking gas prices, benefiting both the economy and the environment.

They also propose reforestation and alternative energy adoption to mitigate environmental impacts. (NANFeatures)

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