By Victor Gai
The World had on June 27,2016, celebrated the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, with the theme: Listen First. Victor Gai, examines the theme and the negative trend of drug abuse internationally, nationally and at the state level, using Taraba state as a case study.
The theme for this year’s occasion was on the need for parents to listen to their children in order to know their problems and help them build positive attitudes and relevant skills needed to prevent drug abuse and other vices inimical to societal development. At least that was part of the statement delivered by the Chairman,National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (rtd), on that occasion.
The failure of parents to bring up their children the right way, has led to children succumbing to societal pressures. As a result, the rate of criminal activities like armed robbery, kidnapping; including drug abuse has increased. As a matter of fact, it has been established that there is a strong correlation between drug abuse and crime.
No wonder, as the crime rate increases, so also the rate of drug abuse increases and vice versa.
Today, the World is contending with serious crimes and they are spread across the globe in their respective strongholds.
The US is witnessing new trends in crime and other vices like illegal weapons possession, murder, and homicide that are unprecedented in its history. Europe is contending with terrorism, the gay menace, and inappropriate behaviour tied to the social media. On its part, Africa is suffering from the threat of armed banditry, kidnapping for ransom, terrorism,violence and ethnic and communal clashes.The experiences of Janjaweed militias in Sudan, Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and Boko Haram in Nigeria, suffice. These groups use drugs for motivation. All these problems are strongly tied to drug abuse, even though not completely.
According to the statement of the NDLEA boss, ‘…an estimated 246 million people across the globe, that is one out of 20 people between the ages of 15 and 64 were reported to have used illicit drug in 2013 by the World Drug Report 2015. It was equally reported that 1 out of 10 drug users about 27 million people, or almost the entire population of a country like Ghana or Mozambique, are problem drug users suffering from drug use disorders. Almost half this number, about 12.19 million, inject drugs while 1.6 million of those who inject drugs are HIV positive. Above all, about 187,000 drug related deaths also took place in 2013’.
He added that: ‘In 2015, a total of 602 new psychoactive substances were reported by member states to the International Narcotic Control Board (INCB).
To buttress the point that drug abuse is related to crime, hear this revelation.
‘Illicit proceeds derived from drug trafficking is so huge that it can be used to finance terrorism and political ambitions of drug barons. We also know that criminal acts are perpetrated under the influence of narcotics. Armed robbery, murder, rape and violent acts are most often induced by illicit drug use’.
In Taraba state, the strategy is tilted towards Drug Supply Reduction and Drug Demand Reduction.
According to the State Commander of NDLEA, Yusuf Kwajafa, Drug Supply Reduction are efforts geared towards reducing the supply of illicit drugs while Drug Demand Reduction revolves around all activities and programmes targeted at appealing to the psyche of drug dependent persons or drug users who might have been entangled in the quagmire of drug abuse. Both of the strategies he said, are carried out through prosecuting of offenders, organising seminars, campaign, counselling, rehabilitation and so on.
The agency has indeed done quite well in tackling the drug menace between January 2015 and June 2016. According to its statement, It arrested 343 male suspects and 14 female suspects, making a total of 357. Drugs seized include, 476.3kg of cannabis sativa, and 2215.8kg of psychotropic substances like Tramol,Diazepam and so on . It also counselled 73 clients and convicted 58. Campaigns were also carried out to institutions of higher learning in the state and youth organizations.
The Commander stated their challenges I opnclude: Inadequate office accommodation and inadequate operational vehicles.
He concluded his message by appealing to ‘ the good people of Taraba state, especially parents to listen to their children and proffer useful advice to them in order to properly check the menace of drug abuse which is capable of destroying our lives,communities and identities’.
Meanwhile, investigation by this reporter, revealed that drug dealers in Jalingo metropolis are having a field day and night in their business of selling drugs. One of the notorious areas is the Road block area. The Road block is a strategic point geographically; It is a meeting point for travellers coming from the far north and southern axis of Nigeria. It welcomes one to Jalingo city. It is notorious for drug abuse,prostitution and traffic. It hosts the largest motor park in Jalingo and petrol tankers and heavy trucks illegally transit along the road thereby making the area congested. It is indeed an ever busy place both night and day.
Some of the young dealers of drugs in the area revealed to this reporter that they were into the business because of poverty and unemployment.
Meanwhile, on one axis of the area are dealers in psychotropic drugs like Tramodal,Rohypnol, inhalers and other hard drugs. Also, sex enhancing drug (Aphrodisiacs) ,condoms and the ‘service providers’ are well available.
On another axis are dealers in the so called soft but fast selling drugs- Hemp.These drugs are sold openly in total disregard of the Law and its enforcers. This trend made this reporter to dig deep to find out the secret behind the boldness on the part of the dealers.
One of the dealers revealed to me that the operatives of the agency usually visited them, but on a different mission, which was to extort them and sometimes even take some of the substance with them. Perhaps, the activity of the Law enforcement agents might have emboldened them to sell the drugs openly, since they have a way of settling those agents whenever they come on operations.
However, when this reporter confronted the NDLEA with this allegation, it denied it, saying it was all blackmail from these boys who have become notorious of late. The agency, speaking through its Spokesman, Archibong Peter, vowed to fight these dealers in Jalingo to a standstill.
He said: ‘We are not taken aback when people allege. They are trying to intimidate us so as to allow them have a field day. We have graduated from that kindergarten . Such allegations do not move us at all. They have no evidence to prove that we collect money from them or we refuse to arrest them because they gave us money’.
The Spokesman added that out of the convicted persons, 23 came from there and that sooner than they arrested these boys, others enrolled in the business as if there is a force pushing them.
He identified the reason why the problem became intractable, saying,
‘If you arrest a suspect without exhibit, it is difficult to convict him. You can put them in detention and continue to feed them and when you get tired, you release them. We are trying to get to the root of the supply and it is not easy’.
He disagreed with the notion that poverty was behind the menace in Taraba. Rather, ignorance and a negative attitude towards the drug problem by well meaning members of the society, who ought to be role models to these youth, are to blame.
‘ People that matter are not coming out to condemn the drug menace, so people see it as a way of life’, he stated.
By and large, whether such allegations are true or not, the basic thing is to find ways of tackling the menace of drug abuse, and to succeed in doing so, the family, government, society and indeed the Law enforcers must take their responsibilities seriously without compromise.