Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee For The Elimination Of Drug Abuse, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa, on Monday, said the country would be finished if drug abuse is not comprehensively tackled.
Marwa was speaking on Channels TV Sunrise Daily monitored by EkoHotBlog where he shared some insights on his committee’s report on drug abuse in the country.
According to a 2018 report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 14.4 percent (or 14.3 million) of Nigerians are drug users.
This is high when compared with the global average of 5.6 percent, the UN agency said.
Another statistic by the UNODC revealed that cannabis is the most popular among drug users in Nigeria.
But the report has not been implemented as it is being reviewed by a second committee chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.
According to Marwa, the second committee is expected to meet later this week and he would be “surprised” if its implementation does not “start in another month.”
“The drug control scourge in Nigeria, unless it is tackled, we are finished,” Marwa said.
“Whether it is Boko Haram, banditry, kidnapping, they all use drugs.
“Let me tell you, last week someone in Auno, Maiduguri, mentioned to me that there was a woman in one of the buses being burnt alive. She threw her child out so that at least the child would survive. The insurgents picked the child and flung him back into the bus. What kind of depravity could that be unless somebody was completely out of his senses?
“So this is the root cause of most of our problems, including security, and must be tackled.”
Another Drug Agency Needed
Among the recommendations of Marwa’s committee is the declaration of a state of emergency against drug abuse and the establishment of a new agency – the National Drug Control Commission.
“We discovered that the various agencies that are tasked – the NDLEA, the police, Customs, NAFDAC, Ministry of Health, etc, – none of them have the convening authority to drive the campaign where others would respect it,” Marwa said. “So they seem to be all going their separate ways; there is no collaboration, no coordination.”
Marwa, when asked why the NDLEA simply couldn’t be expanded, he said the existing agency would be “moved to work in partnership” because it “faces supply reduction”.
“And that is just one aspect,” the former Military Governor of Lagos state continued. “There is a demand reduction which is an equally strategic aspect that does not fall within its purview.
“Then you have the narcotics and control drugs, psychotropic drugs, which the NAFDAC is handling. We are going to bring that under the umbrella. So there is one body that coordinates and has the convening authority to drive the whole campaign.”
Marwa’s committee also noted that solving poverty and unemployment was key to winning the drug law.
‘Cannabis Not Good For Nigeria’
In light of the legalization of cannabis, also known as marijuana, in some countries such as Canada, Marwa said it was harmful to the country’s health.
In US states where cannabis has been legalized, there are three times more admissions in hospitals for drug-related incidents and crimes, Marwa said.
If Nigeria legalizes it, he said, the number of cannabis users will increase.
“Cannabis is not good. It affects the brain. It has a health consequence. You completely get out of your mind with the use. And you get stuck with it. It is something to avoid.”
He also noted that his committee recommended cutting out of adverts for recreational drugs like alcohol to discourage its use.
“You really can’t say zero-alcohol because people have the rights,” he said. “But when you consume more than is required and perhaps you are caught driving drunk, you know there is a penalty. So these penalties also have to be enforced.”