The recent media report in which no fewer than 800 Nigerians are said to be currently awaiting execution in South Asian countries over drug-related crimes is extremely disturbing and an embarrassment to the country. The Principal Staff Officer, Training, Media and Advocacy of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Imo State Command, Mr Shehu Lamuwa, gave the statistics at a one-day security sensitisation programme organised by the National Orientation Agency (NOA) for students at the Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri.
Presenting a lecture on the topic “Drug Abuse: Prevention and Strategies” at the event, Lamuwa who is an Assistant Commander of Narcotics said about 14.5 million Nigerians indulge in drug abuse through intake of hard drugs and substances. He identified factors favourable to the use of hard drugs by youths to include availability, accessibility, and affordability. He also said political and economic instability facilitates the menace. Other remote causes of the menace, according to him, include improper parenting, anti-social behaviours, and early exposure to drug use especially among teenagers. “We have identified some of the norms of our society and nonchalant attitude of parents as factors fueling the incidence of drug consumption,” he said.
He further called on NGOs such as the National Association of Seadogs to collaborate with the agency to stamp out the ills of drug abuse in Nigerian communities.
Eight hundred citizens of a particular country awaiting execution over drug-related crimes is, anywhere in the world, a huge number. The statistics could be higher when the number of those still on trial is added. This, indeed, is a terrible blow to the image of the country. The fact that hundreds of Nigerians were able to leave the country at different times and places by air, land or sea without being caught with the drugs in their possession is an indictment on Nigeria. It also depicts monumental failure on the part of all security agencies that have the mandate to stop and arrest drug traffickers at all points of departure out of Nigeria. Perhaps, the number couldn’t have been this high if the country’s missions abroad had kept track of Nigerian citizens resident in South Asian countries by closely monitoring their activities. The missions must understand that they have a huge role to play in the protection and general welfare of citizens.
Aside from the factors earlier identified, there are other plausible but implicit reasons that aid drug peddling, trafficking and abuse. For instance, the manner in which the rich display their riches fuels the get-rich-quick syndrome especially in young Nigerians. As a consequence, the country’s youthful population is radically inspired to abandon entrepreneurial ventures for seemingly greener enterprises, which are most often evil but could, in the shortest possible time, fetch them a lot of money. The scandalous use of money by politicians across political parties to induce delegates during the recent primary elections in the country is a classic case of the rich wrongly stirring others to pursue wealth by any means and spend it, too, profligately. This psyche only seeks to dissuade the younger generation of Nigerians from earning their living through hard work.
While unemployment and poverty are not excuses for anyone to indulge in drug abuse or trafficking, the inability of the government to make the country’s economic environment friendly for the survival of manufacturing industries is an underlying factor. The sector, where efficient, would have catered for the employment needs of dozens of millions of Nigerians youths; making them active participants and the driving force of the economy. State governments share in this blame as many have failed to exploit and develop the natural resources in their respective states; a stride that would have certainly created job opportunities for the teeming population of youths and boosted the nation’s economy; possibly averting the very alarming indulgence of Nigerians in drug-related crimes. Governors must work to reverse this negative trend by ensuring that youths are actively engaged in productive ventures.
We call on the federal government to immediately set up a committee to review and ascertain the culpability of each case with a view to identifying those that can be protested; ensuring that no Nigerian citizen was sentenced in error. Such was the kind of intervention that saved the life of Zainab Aliyu Kila who was arrested in Saudi Arabia on December 26, 2018 after tramadol, a prohibited drug, was found in her bag. There is indeed a need to ensure that the procedures were followed and that all the accused were duly represented during the hearings in the cases.
The federal government is further urged to, under bilateral laws, engage South Asian countries to allow those whose conviction could be converted into life sentence to serve their prison terms in Nigeria. In order to change the narrative about drug trafficking and abuse, Daily Trust encourages the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to continue to organise public lectures in higher institutions similar to that which was recently held at the college of education, Owerri. Traditional and religious leaders also have a role to play here in preaching against use of drugs and trafficking.