From Jide Babalola, Assistant Editor, Abuja
With millions of addicts, the north is fast approaching the worrisome prevalence level of drug abuse in southern states, with alarming signals that government, parents and other stakeholders must act fast over the increasing number of addicted women and children, participants at a U.S. -backed sensitization programme in Abuja have said.
“The North is in denial about the problem of drug abuse, some parents erroneously interpret visible signs of drug abuse as possession by some aljannu (spirits)”, Khadizat Bisalla, an architect who is part of the counseling and humanitarian unit of the Abuja-based International Centre for Islamic Culture and Education (ICICE).
In presentations made by representatives of the heads of National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS), various civil society groups and other participants at a workshop hosted by the United States Embassy in Abuja to mark the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, many expressed deep concerns over worrying indices of drug abuse.
Organized under the auspices of the USAID-backed “Reclaiming Futures in Northern Nigeria” project aimed at reducing the prevalence of drug abuse among young people in select IDP camps and secondary schools across the north, participants at the programme lamented the scant interest being focused on poverty, marital problems, divorce, inadequate rehabilitation, lack of aftercare facilities and other issues that trigger drug addiction and relapse.
Said Mr. Tajudeen Suleiman, one of the project’s directors: “The 2018 Drug Use Survey in Nigeria puts prevalence of any drug use in Nigeria at an estimated 14.4 per cent or 14.3 million people aged between 15 and 64 years; it is higher than the annual global prevalence rate of 5.6 percent.
“The survey also states that drug use was most common among youths between the ages of 25 and 39 years but noted that drug use was lowest among those who were below 24 years of age.
“What can be deduced from these statistics is that teenagers, especially those still in the secondary school education age group are not immune to drug abuse because some as young as 15 or 14 have been found to use drugs.
“The survey states that drug use was less prevalent in Northern Nigeria than the Southern parts of the country but the statistic is still alarming with drug use prevalent among 10–14.9 per cent of the population and the evidences are in every state in the north,” Suleiman stated.
While Reclaiming Futures in Northern Nigeria” project is aiming to embark on the counseling of vulnerable teenagers across the North, many participants expressed concerns over the worrying increase in the number of addicted mothers, the lack of access to psychotherapy and treatment.
The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) who was represented by Mr. Emmanuel Gopep stated that the NPS does not have any allocation or sub-head for the counseling or the prevention of drug abuse, adding that they only manage to carry out such programmes once in a while.
Gopep further said that Nigeria has only three Borstal to cater for underaged offenders, adding that there is hope that the Federal Government will soon establish one in each geo-political zone.
In her contribution, Engineer Aisha Tafida from Parents Against Drug Abuse (PADA) noted that the near non-existence of rehabilitation centers, affordable medications, specialists along with stigmatization have continued to further complicate the prevalent problem of drug abuse by making it almost inevitable for most people to relapse into drug use.