By Chinonye Anyatonwu
To mark the end of the Drug Awareness week, that commenced last week, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), in celebration of the 2022 International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug, has called on the individuals and society to join together for fight against drug free society.
The celebration which took place at the main auditorium of the Rockview hotel Apapa, Lagos, was chaired by the Chairman, Chief Executive Officer of the Agency, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (Rtd), represented by the Commander of the Apapa Special Area Command, Mr. Inalegwu Ameh
In his paper presentation, Brig. Marwa, said that the celebration is important to the global community in the continuous efforts to stop the abuse of Illicit substances and make our world a safer place.
In his word “I am pleased to welcome you all to this celebration of the 2022 United Nations Day Against Drug Abuse and Trafficking of Illicit Drugs.
And the theme for this year which is “Addressing Drug Challenges in Health and Humanitarian Crises.”
turns the spotlight on an aspect of the drug problem that is critical for Nigeria and indeed the world at large.
The NDLEA Chairman quoted that, “Drug use killed almost half a million people in 2019, while drug use disorders resulted in 18 million years of healthy life lost, mostly due to opioids. Serious and often lethal illnesses are more common among drug users, particularly those who inject drugs, many of whom are living with HIV and Hepatitis C.” End of quote.
He admitted that the concerns of World Drug Report 2021 were not far fetched because here in Nigeria, there are similar patterns with findings of the National Drug Use and Health Survey in 2018 with the risk of the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases was high and this in turn raises the stake of a public health crisis. Hence, there was no questioning the rationale of treatment for drug users.
The Chairman stated that there were challenges associated with these substance. “But there were obvious challenges. As the report noted: “Two-thirds of high-risk drug users reported a self-perceived need for drug treatment. Around 40 per cent of those reported that they had wanted to receive drug treatment but were unable to access such services.” Aside from the cost of treatment, the stigma associated with substance use and access to required health services are major barriers to treatment in the country.
Marwa maintained that this year’s theme has provided the impetus to break down those barriers and pave way for the unencumbered treatment of health concerns related to drug use.
Continuing, “At NDLEA, we have a sense of urgency in tackling the health consequences of the abuse of illicit drugs. We not only acknowledge the importance of improved access to treatment, care and rehabilitste and we have also integrated these into our activities as part of the radical reforms in the Agency since January 2021.
In this regard, we are open to options that could effectively help to stave off the public health problems that are drug abuse-related.
In the past month, the agency has been involved in a series of training, including on Drug Prevention, Treatment and Care( DPTC) for our officers to refocus from the criminalisation of drug users to provide the full gamut of health service for them.
“This year alone, we have counselled and rehabilitated 3, 523 drug users mostly through brief interventions in our facilities”.
We also extended the DPTC training to several NGOs to empower them with the requisite skills and knowledge to cascade the effect to communities and the grassroots.
Brig. Gen Marwa added that they are lobbying the private sector, by encouraging the leading lights in the business community to build or contribute to the development of rehabilitation centres as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.
“Building treatment facilities is a good step, but it can be rendered inefficient because of the challenge of access that is inherent in a climate of stigmatisation where someone labelled “ a drug addict” is treated as a social pariah. To scale this hurdle, we embarked on building a toll-free NDLEA Call Centre. This project is due to be commissioned on Thursday 30th June, 2022, will run as a 24/7 call centre with a helpline that can be called by drug users who need help but are afraid of stigmatisation or do not know how to get help. They will be able to call toll-free and get to speak with experts such as counsellors, psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists among others.
The President of Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders and CEO of Cargo Desk Petroleum and Oil Limited, Chief Osita Chukwu, appreciated the good job the NDLEA Chairman is doing, describing his effort as a qualitative one.
He said that our people has started to understand the difference between somebody who has already kill his soul with abuse of drugs, drug peddling, drug abuse and all that is involved in drugs.
He further stated that “Everyone who witnesses what goes on in our society should know that there is actually a tremendous change in the fight against drug importation, sales and abuse, if other sectors of the economy can do very well like the NDLEA has been doing as at today, we will not be searching for running mates for Presidents and running mates for Governors right now because the right person for the right post would have been discovered and we will then be able to witness a change that will be impactful to the society.
Chief Chukwu emphasised that drugs is being witness in Nigeria today because the other end where the drugs are coming from are not working assiduously like our country is doing today.
He thanked the youths for their presence at the event, also assured of his support any day, anytime he is called upon.
The controller of Immigration Apapa Lagos Seaport and Marine Command, represented by C.S.O Adewunmi also congratulated the NDLEA for the commemoration of 2022 International Day against Drug Abuse,
Adewunmi commended the NDLEA for the great work they are doing day and night to see to the eradication of drug abuse in our society.
He implored the society to rally round and support NDLEA to make our society a drug free society.
Dr. Kayode Farinto, the acting president of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents in his goodwill message said that the Association has been collaborating with the NDLEA for the last two years and he commends the efforts put in place to curtail the menace of drugs trafficking and use
He ascertained that that 75% of our youths are into drugs and advised on the increase of sensitization awareness.
Dr. Kayode maintained that “If drugs are not cleared at the sea ports, it will not find its way outside the market and our youths will not have access to it”, he warned that any member that deliberately found to be facilitating clearance of drugs will be found culpable and will be punished as well.
Still speaking,”We went extra mile on the 21June, when we sent a letter to Canadanian embassy that we want to have one on one talk with them because we noticed from investigation that 75% of drugs are coming from Canada”.
“At National level, we are going to write to Brig. Marwa on a diplomatic relationship between Nigerian and Canadanian Government to sensitise them that drugs is not allowed in our country even if it is allowed in Canada, so that our members will be free”Dr. Kayode stated.
Dr. Wale Ige of the Nigerian Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, in his address, illustrated his presentation with video clips to enlighten the audience more on the dangers of drugs application.
In his paper titled “Addressing challenges in health and humanitarian crises in the maritime corridor”, pointed out that health is described as the general condition of a person and that the UN defined health as a state of complete physical, mental and psychological well being and NOT as a mere absence of illness.
Dr. Ige noted that humanitarian crisis can have physical, mental and psychological implications on the human person and so should be eradicated. He said that by reason of the participants being mainly those close to the port corridors and a place of transhipment of cargoes, care should be taken to forestall certain activities such as drug trafficking, sales and abuse that may lead to a crisis.
He advised parents and leaders to show responsibility and refrain from engaging in activities that will introduce their children and wards to the dangerous arena of substance abuse.
One of the student from Apapa High School, Mary-Magdalene Francis said she had gained a lot of information from the conference on the good and bad drugs as she urges her mates to speak up if they are being introduced to drug abuse, also Chinonso Moronu, the CLO to the Apapa local government NYSC members said that the event has equipped him further about the activities of the NDLEA. He advised parents to educate their children on dangers of taking drugs.
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