THE Borno State Commandant of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Mr. Ona Ogilegwu, recently alerted the nation to the growing problem of drug abuse and addiction in the states 28 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camps. The situation, as painted by the NDLEA boss, is a time bomb that may have grave implications for the lives of the IDPs and security in the state after the Boko Haram insurgency.
Ogilegwu said the command had already commenced an aggressive enlightenment campaign in the state to check the problem. A number of persons were also said to have been arrested in the camps for dealing in substances such as cannabis sativa.
This warning on the growing use of illicit drugs in Borno State IDPs is a call for help which all genuine stakeholders must answer to avert its dire consequences. The relevant authorities must check the growing abuse of drugs in the state.
Drug abuse is a serious problem which government at all levels and other stakeholders at home and abroad must address. The sheer number of Internally Displayed Persons (IDPs) Camps in Borno State alone, which has been put at 28, is enough to send alarm signals. The NDLEA has said that none of these camps is spared this drug problem.
But, drug abuse is not limited to the IDP Camps in Borno State alone. It has become a big problem in Nigeria and globally. The United Nations (UN) Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has revealed that about 200 million people worldwide are using illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, cannabis sativa, hallucinogens, opiates and sedative hypnotics. It has been further revealed that the $61 billion annual market in Afghan opiates is funding insurgency and global terrorism. In West Africa, drug addiction, money laundering, political instability and general insecurity are made worse by the global cocaine trade, put at a princely sum of $85 billion.
From the above data, it is easy to see the connection between drug abuse and global terrorism and insecurity. In the North-East region of Nigeria, the Boko Haram insurgency can be held to be immediately responsible for the upsurge in drug abuse and addiction. The conducive conditions for the malaise are particularly endemic in the North-East.
Dangerous drugs are widely available and some of them, very cheap and easy to procure. When the high profile drugs are not readily available and affordable, some addicts resort to inhaling gum and drinking certain cough syrups. And, the effect is just as potent, if not more potent than what they get with the hard drugs.
So, it is a big problem that we have on our hands. Long after the Boko Haram insurgency is over, Nigeria may find itself dealing with persons who became drug addicts in their attempts to take drugs to help relieve the trauma visited on them by insurgents.
As a first step, however, government should address the pressing problems of the IDPs. People forced out of their natural environments and comfort zones already face a number of psychological and physical problems. In the case of the Borno IDPs, many of them are still caught in the trauma of losing loved ones and entire families in the most harrowing circumstances. They need special care and attention.
Apart from food, medicines, shelter, clothing and a generally conducive environment, most of these IDPs, especially those who have become addicted to drugs, need drug addiction and trauma experts to help them manage their huge burdens. As a country, we have to worry about these IDPs and do everything to restore them to regular life outside the camps.
The resources required for the effective care and complete rehabilitation of these people are clearly beyond the purview of the states and Federal Government. That is why we appeal for even more support from the international community, relevant donor agencies and all well meaning Nigerians. A recent stakeholders summit put the figure required to rehabilitate the North-East at over $100 billion. What is presently available is a far cry from this.
However, it is of much importance that even the present resources are well managed. Though the government and its agencies, especially the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) appear to be doing their best, a lot more can be done and should be done.
Before the IDPs can safely return to their homes, a lot of resources must be expended. We cannot run away from this reality. Physical infrastructure has to be provided, including homes, hospitals and most especially, schools.
Security is paramount in all of these. Police and other internal security agencies have to re-establish their presence in all the communities affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. It is only when these places are safe and seen to be safe that the IDPs can move back to their ancestral homes and occupations.
We charge the government and the military to redouble their efforts and bring the insurgency in the North-East to an end so that the task of returning the IDPs to their communities and normal lives can begin in earnest.