Drug abuse is a global health and social problem with conditions and problems that are capable of destroying social order and harmony.
According to the diagnostic and statistical manual of the American Psychiatric Association, drug or substance use disorder is a pattern of symptoms resulting from the abuse of drugs, despite the clear problems associated with using them.
The continuous use of psychoactive substances among adolescents and youths has become a public concern worldwide because it potentially causes deliberate or indeliberate harm and injury.
Drug abuse, including drug addiction and trafficking, has a universal ramification that transverses socioeconomic, 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 consistent rise in the number of drug abuses especially among the adolescents.
The problem of drug abuse poses a significant threat to the social, health, economic status of the families, society and the entire nation. Nigeria like every country in the world is affected by drug abuse. It has resulted in increased violence and crimes, higher prevalence in Hepatitis B and C virus, HIV/AIDS, and a near collapse of social and cultural structure. It has been established that there is a link between cultism/violent behaviour and drug abuse in secondary schools and tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Nigeria, the South-West zone had a prevalence of 22.4% drug users in 2017, followed by the South-South (16.6%), South-East (13.8%), North-East (13.6%), North-West (12%) and North-Central (10%). The lifetime consumption of cannabis as well as psychotropic substances like benzodiazepines and amphetamine-type stimulants was about 11%, while heroin (1.6%), and cocaine (1.4%) were reportedly, the least consumed in both urban and rural areas. That same year, drug abuse appeared to be more common among males (25.2%) than females (approximately 8%), and the age range of first use was 10 to 29 years.
Nigeria is an enormously diverse country with over 400 ethnicities and many religious groups. Drug abuse is therefore viewed within a broader context in Nigeria, due to its multicultural nature. However, despite this multicultural nature of the Nigerian population, there is a consistent outcry from both the public, police, preachers, health professionals, teachers, regulatory agencies and parents on the growing burden of drug abuse in the country.
One of the challenges of controlling drug prevalence is that Nigeria is a transit point for heroin and cocaine intended for European, East Asian, and North American markets, thereby making drugs more readily available within in the country.
Since 2004 drug traffickers have been increasingly using West African countries, including Nigeria, for smuggling large amounts of cocaine from South America into Europe and North America. Our country now has a high rate of drug abuse due to the continued availability of illicitly manufactured and diverted pharmaceutical products containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
The harm associated with illicit drug use include increased mortality from overdose and from other directly or indirectly associated dangers such as; Increased risk of infection with blood-borne viruses (HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C); High levels of depression and anxiety disorders; Psychiatric comorbidity is common in drug misuse populations, with anxiety and depression generally common, while antisocial and other personality disorders are high in opioid-using populations; Social problems such as disrupted parenting, employment and accommodation; Lost productivity and unemployment increase with the severity and duration of drug misuse; Also, personal relationships are placed under considerable strain by dependent drug use.
The increase in banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping and Boko Haram insurgency have all been linked to high level of drug abuse in the country. In the South East of Nigeria, methamphetamine, known in local parlance, as ‘Mkpuru Mmiri’ is destroying the youths, making them more vulnerable to crimes and criminality thus robbing them of their future.
To eradicate drug trafficking and drug abuse in the country the federal government set up the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) charged with eliminating the growing, processing, manufacturing, selling, exporting, and trafficking of hard drugs. The agency was established by Decree Number 48 of 1989. The NDLEA is present in international airports, seaports and border crossing. The NDLEA also targets the leaders of narcotics and money laundering organisations.
Over the years since its formation, the NDLEA has done a lot to fulfill its mandate but its efforts have not been able to significantly reduce the menace. However, the emergence of Gen. Muhammad Buba Marwa (rtd) as the chairman/chief executive officer of the NDLEA has reinvigorated the agency.
Marwa has succeeded in pushing the officers and men of the Agency to do more and the results have been unprecedented. The NDLEA officers and men are not only catching the traffickers at the airports, border posts, and the sea ports among others, they are also going after them at their production points. Marwa has taken the war to the drug traffickers and the result had been encouraging.
Sadly, the recent recruitment into the Agency is rife with allegations of lopsidedness. According to media reports detailing names and reference numbers of successful candidates for recruitment as Narcotic Assistants (NASS) for the second batch of its recruitment exercise, it was observed that about 80 per cent of the 1000 candidates who made the list were of Northern extraction.
Meanwhile from UNODC report quoted above, the North is not the epicentre of drug abuse, so what can be the justification for such obvious lopsided recruitment? The report stated that the recruitment goes against Federal Character, which encourages a balanced intake or representation of the various regions and ethnicities in Nigeria.
Already, there are calls by non-governmental bodies to appropriate authorities for proper scrutiny and review of the recruitment process, to ensure equity and fairness to all irrespective of religion or political affiliation with nepotism alleged to be on the rise in that Agency.
Marwa is well known for his detribalized nature and should in that respect ensure that under his watch, the issue of lopsided recruitment is addressed in a transparent manner. He has revolutionized the drug war in Nigeria, going after the drug barons who were hitherto untouchables, now he must deal with the systemic lopsidedness in NDLEA and create enabling environment for all Nigerians to be part of the war to eradicate drug abuse in our country.