As General Buba Marwa assumes duty as the helmsman at the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), we recall this editorial to draw his attention to this scourge plaguing the nation’s campuses.
It is estimated that nearly 15 per cent of the adult population in Nigeria (around 14.3 million people) use psychoactive drug substances and many of them young men and women in our universities, polytechnics and colleges of Education. This estimate was found in a recent survey led by Nigeria’ s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime(UNODC) and funding from the European Union.
The report showed the highest levels of drug use was recorded among people aged between 25 to 39 ( when most youths are in the universities), with cannabis being the most widely used drug. Sedatives, heroin, cocaine and the non – medical use of prescription opioids were also noted.
Drug use habits in Nigeria have devolved with young university students and other youths increasingly resorting to potent mixtures of several drugs at the high risk of fatal overdoses. For instance, “gutter water, ”a widely consumed cocktail of drugs, is a mix of codeine, tramadol, rohypnol, cannabis and water or juice. Some young adults are also turning to crude concoctions as alternatives, including smoking lizard parts and dung as well as sniffing glue, petrol, sewage and urine as inhalants.
Worried about the drug problem in Nigeria, recently President Muhammadu Buhari expressed concern about the high rate of drug abuse among Nigerians in their productive years. He said that 14.3 million Nigerians were abusing one form of drug or the other.
The President sought the help of traditional rulers to fight the drug abuse menace ravaging the nation’ s active population.
“We are, your majesties, faced with a major drug abuse and addiction problem. The 2018 National Drug Use Survey indicates that there are 14.3 million drug users between the ages of 15 and 64. Drug use is most common among those between the ages of 25 and 29 years, which are the years of peak productivity in anyone’s lifespan. “In effect, young Nigerians who should be in the prime of their lives are being ravaged by the plague of substance addiction. In addition, Nigeria’ s drug use prevalence rate is almost three times above the global prevalence rate. “These figures are stark and their implications dire.
Substance addiction poses a clear and present danger to public health and public safety. However, I invite you all to consider the complexity of drug abuse as a crime. “The diversion of opioid – based medications, like tramadol and cough syrups containing codeine from their prescribed medical use to the illicit market, has already created an epidemic of substance abuse with a corresponding rise in related mental and neurological ailments of various kinds, ”he said.
President Buhari, who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, spoke at the 11th General Assembly of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria. He noted that the monarchs would also be most helpful in effectively addressing the problem. The President decried other dangerous practices, like using unsterilised needles for injection by drug users, which has increased the spread of HIV / AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, as well as other blood – borne diseases, warning that the country is now faced by stark and dire implications.
While the president is soliciting the support of the traditional institution in fighting drug abuse, it is salutary that an institution of higher learning is making moves to stem the tides in its campuses. This is critical because most of the drug users are young, many of them are still in the secondary schools and universities.
That is why we support recent moves by the Kwara State faith – based university, Al – Hikmah University, Ilorin to begin drug test on its students. The vice chancellor of the University, Professor Taofeek Ibrahim disclosed this to reporters in Ilorin during activities to mark the university’ s 9th Convocation. The vice chancellor said the aim is to fish out drug abusers among the students. He insisted that those who failed to quit the habit would be shown the way out of the university.
The decision taken by the Al – Hikmah University authorities is commendable and should be emulated by other universities. Frequent and random drugs tests will help identify the abusers before they corrupt others with their habits, while help should be provided for those that needed rehabilitation.
We however caution that this random drug tests should be done with the support of the parents and wards of the students. This is important to avoid abuse of the process. It should also be done with the support and guidance of the Guidance and Counseling Units of universities. Even at the entry point of admission, those found to be drug abusers should be denied admission until after undergoing rehabilitation in government approved health institution.
This is very important because there is no way any self respecting university could find a drug abuser worthy in character and learning to be awarded its degree, diploma or certificate.
As the universities and other institutions of learning battle to curtail drug abuse in our campuses the federal and state governments must make concerted efforts to narrow the major gaps in Nigeria’ s healthcare system in order to meet the needs for treatment and care for people with drug use disorders. Presently, only a few government – owned clinics are adequately staffed and equipped for treating drug use while private clinics often prove too expensive for many.
Indeed, it was reported that around 40 per cent of the two – thirds of high risk drug users who reported a need for treatment for drug use were unable to access appropriate healthcare services. Accessibility to treatment should be pursued by federal and state governments, while universities teaching hospitals should be equipped with facilities and personnel to treat and rehabilitate drug abusers in their immediate environment and beyond.
We support every legitimate move to halt the spread of drug abuse in the society particularly in our schools where we train the leaders of tomorrow. We must protect the clean students from being influenced by the drug abusers, and routine drug tests on the campuses will be a welcome development. This is very important because it is common knowledge that both cultism and other criminalities in our campuses and beyond are perpetrated by those high on drugs. Let us clean up our universities. Drug tests will go a long way in this regard.