In many societies across the world, the issue of drug abuse has reached puzzling proportions, leading to evolution and revolution of policies and actions both at global and country levels to counter its spread in scope and its increasing number of victims.
In the olden days it was alcohol, cocaine, heroin and marijuana; then came the manufactured drugs like MDMA, LSD, PCP mescaline, MAD, DMT, STP and Tramadol. There were also inhalants like solution and perfumes; depressants like the all-popular cough syrup with codeine; and even the unconventional method of inhaling from sewers and smelly drains. Majority of these abusers are young people.
Drug abuse used to be the exclusive preserve of males, but now the females have grown into a strong competition. Future mothers and leaders, who by their maternal instincts are prepared to save humanity, have now lost it all; some of them even abuse drugs from their matrimonial homes.
This sad state of affairs has drawn the attention of the government of Nigeria, leading it to set up various policies and agencies to regulate the importation and development of drugs of abuse and also their distribution, marketing and use. Despite their efforts, which have been duly recognized by Nigerians, the problems persists. Several other stakeholders have done their bit to make a difference in this area including development institutions, the civil society and NGOs.
The Northern Governors Wives Forum (NGWF), a platform for the first ladies of the 19 northern states has also keyed into the fight against drug abuse. Made up primarily of mothers of the states; they hold an important position in making a difference in this area.
Since individual, one-off solutions don’t seem to work, the mothers have joined forces under the NGWF platform in order to succeed.
At their quarterly meeting of 23rd January, 2018 at Lokoja, Kogi state, they took a position to intensify the fight against drug and substance abuse. They also agreed to embark on the design and implementation of an action plan in their states. These efforts are to be peer-reviewed at a national workshop for the purposes of synergy and the establishment of a common front for action.
Wife of the President of Nigeria and founder, Future Assured Programme, Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, who was Special Guest of Honour at the event acknowledged the seriousness of the problem and commended the organizers for tackling it head on. She also called on government to show more commitment and ensure a drastic reduction in the cases of drug abuse.
The event witnessed the commissioning of the Kogi State Drug Rehabilitation and Resource Center, which was upgraded and equipped by the Forum in collaboration with Kogi Women and Youth Foundation (KOWYAF), the pet project of the wife of the Governor of Kogi state, Mrs. Rashida Bello.
Speaking at the occasion, His Excellency the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello appreciated the support of the NGWF in equipping the Kogi State rehabilitation and resource center and spoke on the need for state governments to take the bull by the horn and address the issue of drug abuse.
“In Kogi state,” he said, “we will tame our own (abusers) and we shall rehabilitate them, so that they can become useful to themselves, their families and their societies.”
In her address of welcome, wife of the Governor of Kogi state, Mrs. Rashida Bello reiterated the theme of the meeting, which is, “SAY NO TO DRUG ABUSE! describing it as both timely and necessary, as there is an epidemic of drug abuse ravaging the North and other parts of the country.
“We cannot keep silent in the face of such widespread destruction of lives and potentials among our people. We are here today to join our strong voices with other well-meaning citizens to SAY NO TO DRUG ABUSE!” she said.
She described drug abuse as cutting across social status, tribe, age and gender. Going emphatic, even poetic, Mrs. Bello charged her colleagues thus; “We must continue to sensitize our people heavily on the dangers of drug abuse as well as the role peer pressure plays in promoting the habit, we must emphasize doctor’s prescription for drugs containing codeine, and hold pharmacies and their staff accountable for breach, we must enlist the law enforcement agencies in this task at all levels.”
Mrs. Hadiza Abubakar, the chairperson of the NGWF, stated that the rehabilitation center is designed to tackle both clinical issues involved with addiction, and the underlying emotional ones, and will help drug addicts to overcome substance abuse and recover from the physical and mental ravages of the disorder. It will also provide expert counselling and post-treatment support to help reintegrate patients into the society.
She added that the provision of the rehabilitation center shows that the administration of His Excellency Governor Yahaya Bello and KOWYAF are poised towards creating opportunities to connect with those who need help with drug-related issues including provision for treatment.
Mrs. Abubakar said for a while now, the Forum had focused on drug abuse and how members can partner with relevant authorities to put an end to it. Being mothers, she explained, they cannot just fold their arms and watch their children being destroyed; in order to achieve this, therefore, “governors’ wives need to intensify efforts in our various states through our different pet projects to see ways we can put an end to this menace that is gradually destroying the future of our young ones.”
She blamed drug аbuѕе for the imprisonment of many youths, as well аѕ crime and hеаlth problems in our ѕосіеtу. “The number of youths іnсаrсеrаtеd in various prisons асrоѕѕ the country has increased оvеr the lаѕt few decades; most of these youths were аrrеѕtеd for either drug оffеnces or having a drug аbuѕе рrоblеm.”
Commander of the Kogi state command of the NDLEA, Mr. Idris Bello, gave a scary picture of the situation, saying that between 2016 and 2017, over 11 tonnes of various dangerous drugs were seized in the state. This, he said is very serious and calls for concerted effort from different segments of the community and implored members of the public not to stigmatize or criminalize drug users.
Incidentally, and as evidence of government’s commitment to address the issue, the Federal Ministry of Health has just launched drug-related health polices and guidelines documents. Two of these are especially related to the issue of drug abuse. The National Policy for Controlled Medicines, which was developed in collaboration with the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC), is meant to protect human health by ensuring access to controlled medicines for medical and scientific purposes while preventing diversion and abuse.
The second is the National Guidelines for Quantification of Narcotic Medicines for Estimation of Psychotropic Substances and Precursors which outlines the methodology and tools to scientifically estimate the controlled medicines and precursors required for medical and scientific purposes in the country.
Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Oduwole, speaking at the launch said, “importantly, this data can also be used by law enforcement officials to monitor the use of precursor chemicals and their potential misuse” hoping that the data will contribute to improved health outcomes and reduce diversion of these controlled substances for illicit purposes in Nigeria.
He emphasized that the Minimum Standards for Drug Dependence Treatment policy document would guide policy makers and hospitals to assess compliance with standards by the health facilities involved in the treatment of drug dependence.
The Northern Governors Wives Forum needs to be commended for their intervention in this area. They also need to be supported during the planning and implementation stages, especially by experts in the area, development institutions and government. As discourse on the issues of drug abuse continue to pervade national space and the attention of stakeholders, it is hoped that solutions will soon appear on the horizon.
Suleiman Haruna is Director of Information to Wife of the President