The scourge of illicit drug trade is still a challenge facing the society today. In this piece, CECILIA OGEZI traces the clandestine illicit drugs spots in Abuja where vendors ply their trade
Ladi Kwali Street off Constantine Street in Zone 4 of Wuse District is one of the most popular areas in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Aside being the location of the popular Sheraton Hotel, the area is synonymous with one thing: trade in currencies.
Buyers and sellers of different foreign and local currencies converge on both sides of the street to trade. ‘Yan Canji’ (Hausa name for money changers), day and night, beckon on cars and passerby.
But deep at the far end of Constantine Street, opposite Zone 4 Primary School, is another corner bubbling with big business, it is a drug haven where drug hawkers, mostly teenagers ply their trade most times unchallenged.
A carved out red light zone in the heart of Kubwa district, popularly referred to as Woman Boku, could compete with the Soho London red light district, an area inhabited by commercial sex workers, pimps, drug dealers, bars, and distinct night crawlers, in the drug game.
Woman Boku won its popularity owing to the criminal activities carried out there.
Recently the Task Force Team on operation tracking illicit drug vendors discovered a hard drugs depot during its covert operation at Tura-Bura, behind Apo Roundabout.
Another popular area is behind Area 1 shopping complex, where drug sellers can be seen in lonely corners exchanging their drug substances tied in nylon bags ranging from Indian hemp to other drug distances for cash. Then we have the popular red light zones in Jabi in the Mutun Biyu area, another spot where this trade is common.
Other notorious spots are the Zamfara Park in Kuje, where traders have been said to sell only to people within their circle of trade, then the Kasuwan Dare (Night market) in Gwagwalada has also been pointed as another notorious spot.
The disturbing thing is that these spots have turned the favourite meeting point for teenagers who openly purchase and use these drugs, especially Marijuana (also called weed, ganja, indian hemp, mary jane).
From all indications, there appears to be an increase in the incidence of drug abuse in the Federal Capital Territory. This is evident given the number of reported cases of youths in the city addicted to illicit substances requiring treatment and rehabilitation.
A report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on drug activities in the FCT over a five-year period, 2010 – 2014, revealed that 31,614.58kg of narcotic drugs were seized while 475 suspects were prosecuted.
The NBS report indicated that 2013 recorded the highest number of drugs seizures. In that year, NDLEA confiscated 13,622kg of narcotic drugs, which was higher than 3,807.71kg seized in 2011.
The report further showed that in 2012 and 2014, 5,094.30kg and 6,440.20kg of illegal drugs were seized, respectively.
Codeine syrup has been banned in Nigeria, but it is still consumed at street corners, in slums, inside cars and markets, at bars, gardens and homes. It is consumed straight or mixed with soft drinks. The drug can be purchased without prescription in underground markets such as Constantine Street or in pharmacies.
The illicit trade has become more lucrative since the federal government banned the importation and production of codeine as an active ingredient for cough syrup preparation.
Small shop owners have been introduced into the business. LEADERSHIP Weekend discovered upon investigation that customers openly visit the shops. One wrap of marijuana, it was found, is sold between N20 and N50, depending on the area of the nation’s capital.
Codeine syrup, which ordinarily should be sold to patients based on doctors’ prescription is now sold by owners of small shops, popularly referred to as kiosks. It was unclear how the shop owners get their supply, but they readily have the products available for any customer who discreetly walks into their shops to buy.
Mr Haruna Sule who is resident at the Jabi area who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend said: “I enjoy smoking weed it lifts my spirit. With the current economic situation, smoking weed is my escape, it gives me relief from my many worries.”
Another smoker who is a banker in Area one in Abuja who wished not to be mentioned also told LEADERSHIP Weekend that he works faster when on drug than when he is sober. According to him, “I am twice as fast in the pace of my work after smoking weed than when am working without smoking. I don’t know about whether it is harmful or not. It vary from one individual to another. All I know is that I work better when I smoke weed.”
There is cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, Indian hemp and a few others which bear criminal tags and as such banned from open sale and consumption. But no one will ever consider an ordinary cough syrup like Benylin or lizard faeces, inhaling the stench from sock away as among substances categorized as ‘hard drug’.
Those lizards, captured alive, are kept in cages, just like poultry farms and cattle ranches. They’re fed daily and their dung collected, dried and kept. The users then blend the dung and rap it in small papers for use. While some users inhale the blended dung, others smoke it like marijuana. The intoxicating effect of the dung is believed to be 50 percent higher than marijuana and cocaine.
Although, lizard dung has not officially been banned by relevant agencies of government, there are strong indications that it could turn into a multi-million naira industry with the potential of selling the ‘finished products’ at robust prices. The demand for it on the streets of Nigeria’s major cities, particularly Abuja, has beaten the standard set by cocaine addicts.
According to a consultant psychologist, Lisa Sunday, behavioural patterns in young people leading to intake of drug substances are most times seen as a rebellious act when they could actually be a cry for help. He noted that there are indications that the incidence of drug abuse among youths is on the increase.
“It’s difficult to pin point the exact time this rise started because of scarcity of records. However, recently there have been more public awareness and concerns about the rampant drug abuse both locally and internationally. As of 2017, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports 29. 5 million people with substance use disorder, which is a steady rise compared to previous years.
When contacted, the FCT Police Command disclosed that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has the responsible over the arrest, seizure and prosecution of offenders as it concern the use of illicit drug.
The Public Relations Officer of the Command, DSP Anjuguri Manzah, who disclosed this in a chat in his office, said that the NDLEA also has the power to arrest offenders as it relates with drug abuse.
A staff of the NDLEA, who spoke with our correspondent, pleading anonymity explained that there was no penalty for drug use under the law but rather that the agency facilitates rehabilitation for them in recognition that they are sufferers who need help.
He however told our reporter that the Public Relations Officer who should speak on behalf of the agency was not on seat.
However, the Dangerous Drug Act in Nigeria, part 1-7, states that, The President may make regulations for controlling or restricting the importation, exportation, transit, production, possession, sale and distribution of drugs and for prohibiting the production, possession, sale or distribution of such drugs except by persons licensed or otherwise authorised in that behalf.
It further states with reference to drugs like Cocaine, morphine and other drugs without prejudice to the provisions of the Indian Hemp Act relating respectively to medical preparations of Indian hemp and to Indian hemp in transit and its diversion, nothing in any regulations made under this section shall render lawful anything which is an offence under the Indian Hemp Act.
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