Mr. Inalegwu Ameh, presenting the NDLEA chairman’s speech.
Story by Dili Utomi.
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency NDLEA, in celebration of the 2022 International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking and while rounding up the week long activities set up to mark the day has called on the society to “make our nation a safer place and drug free” .
The crowing event was the Conference that held on Monday at the main auditorium of the Rockview hotel Apapa, Lagos where the Commander of the Apapa Special Area Command, Mr. Inelegwu Amen presented a paper on behalf of the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the Agency, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (Ret.).
In the paper, the CEO said that all efforts to stop the abuse of Illicit substances and make our world a safer place to live in are being garnered.
Royal fathers and policeman at the event
“I am pleased to welcome you all to this celebration of the 2022 United Nations Day Against Drug Abuse and Trafficking of Illicit Drugs. It is a day of utmost importance to the global community in the continuous effort to ameliorate the consequences of abuse of illicit substances and make our world a safer place.
He said 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 seriously emphasised on the challenges and the aftermath of the dreaded Covid- 19 in 2021. “The drug abuse health challenge came to the fore in 2021 as the human family was recovering from the COVID-19 blight. It was the crux of the World Drug Report for 2021, which noted and I quote: “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.
Students at event.
Marwa 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 National Drug Use Survey afforded Nigeria the baseline information needed for the design and implementation of effective prevention, treatment and care services capable of reducing the demand for drugs and also prevent the morbidity and mortality attributable to drug use.” He said
The Chairman affirmed 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.
The military personnel at the event sitting with Mr. Ameh right of picture.
According to the Chairman ‘”But 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.
“At NDLEA, he continued, 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.
A group photograph of participants at the event.
“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.
“Still, we need to foster a climate of knowledge, tolerance and understanding that will allow drug users to take advantage of treatment without fear of any prejudice. As most of us in this room have come to know today, that drug addiction is a health problem affecting the brain, the public also needs to know this and throw away archaic prejudices.” Marwa declared.
Participants at the conference included technocrats, business men and women, royal fathers, military and paramilitary personnel, students as well as journalists. In his goodwill message, Chief Osita Chukwu, the President of Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders applauded the good job the NDLEA Chairman, Buba Marwa is putting in as he described Marwa’s effort as qualitative.
He added that “Everyone who witnesses what goes on in our society should know that there is actually a tremendous change in the the fight against drug importation, sale 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 right now because the right key for the right door would have been discovered and we will then be able to be witness a change that will be impactful”.
Commander Muhammed Dalhatu representing flag officer of the Nigerian Navy while delivering his goodwill message also congratulated the NDLEA for organising this year’s drug free day.
Dalhatu said “We all know the efforts NDLEA management puts in place to make our society an illicit drugs free society. We have seen it all over the places.
The controller of Immigration Apapa Lagos Seaport and Marine Command ably 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 to curtail the menace of drugs trafficking and use, he jocularly scored the NDLEA 65% for job well done as the audience murmured about this rating.
In his keynote address, Dr. Wale Ige of the Nigerian Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru used graphic and video evidence to illustrate his presentation to bring home the problem of drug abuse. Dr. Ige whose paper is 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 applied to forestall certain activities such as drug trafficking, sale and abuse that may lead to a crisis. He admonished 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.
Lt.Col. Amajuoyi, commanding at Bonny Camp wondered why the menace of drug abuse has lingered so much, but said that as in the military which use both the kinetic and non-kinetic approach, the NDLEA should lean towards these approaches in order to solve the drugs problems. The members of the National Youth Sevice Corps serving under the Apapa local government presented dramas to depict dangers of drug abuse as part of the programme.
We interviewed some of the participants, a student of the 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 as their future will be at stake if not done. 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 and also the level of drugs being trafficked. He admonished parents to start educating their children about dangers of drug abuse. Samuel Frederick and Eniola Fatade also of the NYSC of the Apapa local government also said that they have learnt more about the reality of drug abuse situation in Nigeria and that we cannot leave the problem to be solved by certain entities in the society, but that everyone has a role to play, they both agreed that there is a drug problem and we need to tackle the menace as soon as possible.
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