From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Col. Milland Dixon Dikio (retd),
has raised the alarm on an emerging new wave of militancy in the Niger Delta fuelled by substance abuse among youths in the region.
Dikio spoke when he paid a visit to the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig.-Gen. Muhammad Buba Marwa (rtd), in Abuja, saying urgent steps should be taken to curb the emerging threat.
Dikio in a statement signed on Monday by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Nneotaobase Egbe,
said that the partnership between NDLEA and PAP would drastically reduce cases of drug abuse and reposition the minds of the youths for more productive ventures to sustain the peace and development in the region.
He said: “We have a unique challenge in the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) that of managing ex-militants; we call them ex-agitators. We want to take active measures to not only manage the present ex-agitators, but to pre-empt and stop the pipeline that leads to deviant behaviour and militancy.
“It goes without saying that some of these people get their motivation by using or abusing substances, so we want to key into what you are doing on the arrest side and learn what we can do on the prevention side”.
In his remarks, Marwa promised that the NDLEA would partner with PAP to curb the intake of hard drugs and other banned substances by youths in the Niger Delta.
He decried the wave of drug-induced crime in the country, especially among youths, noting that the collaboration between PAP and his agency would focus on sensitisation and counselling programmes as a major preventive measure to curb the menace.
While identifying poverty as the main cause of drug abuse in Nigeria, the NDLEA boss explained that criminals used drugs to embolden themselves before embarking on any criminal activity.
Marwa (rtd), who used the opportunity to reel out some alarming drug statistics in the country also lauded the willingness and commitment of Dikio to make the Niger Delta a drug-free zone.
He said 80 percent of drug users in the country only required counselling, adding that records corroborated by a United Nation’s study showed that in Nigeria, one in seven persons between age 23 to 64 abused drugs.
He said: ” We have also found that the students, bandits, kidnappers, rapists, down the line youths, militants, use drugs and we will be very happy to collaborate with the Amnesty Programme.
“We don’t need to wait for people to become drug addicts first; the majority have not used drugs, others have tasted but are not addicted to it. The ex-agitators are also normal human beings that will like to marry and raise families.
“The advice we give that will deal with the drug problem is to find some source of income for them through skills acquisition and if it is affordable, some kind of wage structure.”