The incessant importation of tramadol and other hard drugs through Nigerian seaports is becoming endemic. Several seizures of these illicit drugs, running into billions of naira has been recorded in the last one year.
However, the influx of these dangerous drugs whose abuse is increasingly turning many Nigerian youths into agents of violence and social vices, is posing serious threats to human lives, national security and economic development of the nation.
Just last year, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) seized 51 container-loads of banned substance, tramadol from Lagos ports in one week. The 51 containers were worth N10.43 billion.
While 10 of the 40ft containers of tramadol, ciprofloxacin capsules, diclofenac sodium tablets, soffeathe, IV cannula, sidenfil citrate tablets, one 40ft container had bleaching soaps, among others.
Out of desperation to maximise profit even at the detriment of putting human lives and national security at risk, importers of the dangerous drugs offered Customs officers a sum of N150 million as bribe to clear part of the ungodly consignments.
However, the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (retd), said it was indeed worrisome to note that there are some Nigerians who are ready to make money at the expense of human lives by bringing in such quantity of drugs that have grave consequences on national security.
This was as stakeholders have urged Customs to step up its anti-smuggling efforts in 2019 to curb the incessant importation of tramadol and other illicit drugs into the country. They said that the new year would be a busy one, so importers of these illicit drugs would device other means to outsmart and beat security agencies to bring in the drugs.
While some of these drugs have infiltrated the Nigerian market, they have destroyed many lives and homes, as youths addicted to them have taken to violent crimes, including armed robbery and insurgency.
Surprised, National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), intercepted more than six billion tablets of tramadol worth about N193 billion in 2018.
The Director General of the agency, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, said that in the same year, the agency also intercepted 321,146 cartons of unregistered pharmaceutical products worth hundreds of millions of naira.
The importation of tramadol, unregistered drugs and foods has not done the nation’s economy any good. It only develops the economy of Asian countries where the dangerous drugs are being imported from. But in Nigeria, both government and importers are at the losing end. One would have imagined what N193 billion would have done to the nation’s economy supposing the importers used the money on the goods that are legally accepted in the society.
While reacting to the issues of dangerous drugs in the country, Chairman, Nigerian Ports Consultative Council, Otunba Kunle Folarin, said, “in so many companies, there is something we call social responsibility.
There is a provision in the part of memo that set up many companies which supposes that we are cautious of the social consequences of these drugs.
If we are not an import economy, if our pharmaceutical industries are manufacturing drugs that can deal with trauma or whatever causes the high demand for such items, control will be easier.
We have institutions of government set up to control the existence of these drugs either from NAFDAC or NCS. Both of them are in position, as Customs is responsible for stopping the movement of such cargo into the public domain.”
On the factors that led to importation of tramadol into Nigeria, Deputy Comptroller in charge of Enforcement of NCS, Tin Can Island Command, DC Dera Nnadi, told Daily Sun at a recent book launch, that, “it is actually failure of our social fabric, failure of our religious fabric and sometimes, failure of our economic fabric.
It is all combined. “Growing up, we had our parents; that was family cohesion; there was respect for worship centres where people have been encouraged to fear God. But these days, with introduction of social media, with the growth in communication, most young people find pleasure in training themselves. Most people don’t listen to parental guidance anymore.”
According to him, because of economic consideration, parents spend more time now looking for economic wellbeing for the family leaving children in the house with nannies and in the hands of other people to train and such children find pleasure in experimenting some of these social vices.
He added: “Again, we also have economic side of it; people trying to maximise profit in their businesses. So they intend to import some of these items to sell and make more money not minding the dangerous effect they have on the entire society particularly our youths.
“I am happy to be part of the team that is arresting this situation. My pleasure does not just end in arresting the containers; my pleasure lies in the fact that through these arrests and seizures, we are creating awareness on the dangers that it poses to the larger society.
Don’t forget that there are suspicions that people that patronise some of these drugs too get involved in other crimes that are beyond just abusing the drugs.”
He lamented that someone that would have added value to his family being hooked on some of these drugs and the money that would have been used for other development in the family being deplored for their cure and wellbeing, is a big problem.
Nnadi said beyond the seizures that Customs is making, institutions like the media, National Orientation Agency (NOA), and faith-based organisations should also join in the fight to create awareness and let the entire society know that it is an emerging problem.
He hinted: “Because the NCS is arresting some of these containers, there may be attempt to start manufacturing them in Nigeria. Therefore, government should also start thinking out of the box to regulate the production of these drugs should any attempt be made to produce them in Nigeria. Modernisation is not just about machines, it’s also about human capacity building.
What we have tried to do now is to do what we call profiling. We try not to wait for the cargo to be declared, we go through the manifest, query the history of previous importations and seizures made and forecast the possibility of somebody bringing the similar cargo, and we nail them in the board.”