By Ibrahim Mohammed
“Over 15 million Nigerians of all ages are now hooked on drugs, 90% of all criminalities in Nigeria today ranging from banditry, insurgency, kidnapping, rape, and others is linked to the use of illicit drugs, one in seven Nigerians take drugs, over 10.6 million Nigerians use cannabis, followed by opioids with 4.6 million and tramadol, making these drugs the most used by Nigerians, the drug use prevalence among Nigerians aged between 15 and 64 years is approximately 15 percent, three times the global drug use prevalence of 5.5 percent”.
These gory statistics about drug abuse and trafficking and their attendant consequences on our national life are indeed scary. Coming from the horse’s mouth-Brigadier General Buba Marwa (Rtd), Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nigerians particularly those at the helm of affairs must wake up to the reality of a national menace, a ticking time bomb which if left unchecked would lead to an Armageddon of unimaginable proportion.
According to the Nigeria’s Anti-Narcotics Czar, “Now the problem is much bigger as different categories of drugs are produced, consumed and trafficked in the country”. He went on to list trafficked drugs as cannabis, cocaine, heroin and psychotropic substances, including methamphetamine and tramadol.
Drug abuse and trafficking in Nigeria by Nigerians both home and abroad is assuming an alarming dimension with announcement of daily seizures of large quantities of illicit drugs by the NDLEA. Home and abroad, the menace is the same where Nigerian citizens accused of drugs trafficking are serving jail terms or awaiting execution in foreign lands. The implications of this is that if stringent measures are not taken by all stakeholders, in the next foreseeable future, the country will be saddled with leaders who are drug addicts. Imagine a Nigeria with traditional leaders, clerics, president, governors, council chairmen and legislators at the three tiers of government all being junkies? God forbid. If this is allowed to happen, Nigeria could produce drug barons like the infamous Pablo Escobar, El Chapo, Fuentes, Quintero, Salazar etc.
In view of the foregoing, all hands must be on deck to salvage the situation otherwise our future is doomed. It is thus imperative to introduce compulsory drugs test on Nigerians to prevent potential leaders from falling victims of drugs abuse. To this end, appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks must be vigorously pursued at the three tiers and levels of government where the triumvirate of the executive, legislature and the judiciary must come together and do the needful by providing institutional mechanism for the introduction of compulsory drugs test on a cross section of Nigerians. For instance, the law should make it mandatory for intending couples to undergo compulsory drug test before marriage just like its done with HIV, Genotype and Hepatitis so that the couples could live a meaningful life and raise children imbued with the right values.
In the same vein, admissions into tertiary institutions, military and other security agencies must be predicated on compulsory drugs test. When this is done, the high prevalence of cultism and exam malpractice in higher institutions of learning and the accidental discharge by unscrupulous elements in the security forces and involvement of their personnel in criminalities would be reduced to the barest minimum. Drug test must also be a pre-requisite for mobilization of youths for the mandatory National Youths Service.
Nigerians desirous of having a career in public service or the academia, must also be subjected to the test so that academic excellence will prevail in our ivory towers and integrity and discipline restored in the public service. In the political terrain, all candidates seeking elective positions in both the executive and the legislative arms must be subjected to drugs test in addition to security screening. Similarly, appointment of members of the judiciary must also follow the same suit. Election of executives of labour unions and professional bodies should also not be insulated from similar checks. The same treatment should be extended to membership of all professional bodies alike.
Candidates for appointment into appointive positions such as service chiefs, Command positions in the military and security services, commissioners, ministers, ambassadors, chief executives of parastatals, members of statutory boards and permanent secretary positions at both federal and states must also go through the same litmus test. Issuance of drivers’ license by licensing authorities should be subjected to drugs test so that the carnage on our roads can be arrested.
It is instructive to note that the strict administration of the mandatory drugs test on all categories of citizens highlighted above would serve as a great deterrent to drug abusers and Nigeria would be rid of the menace of drug abuse and trafficking. A drug-free nation breeds a healthier and productive population that will take us to the next level of development.
For those already addicted, they need to be weaned off of hard drugs through effective rehabilitation and reintegration in the society. It has therefore become necessary for governments at all levels to establish rehabilitation centers across the country. Families, friends and associates of victims of drugs abuse and the society at large must embrace them and bring them closer and continuously counsel them against continuing with their old habits. We should also stop the stigma against drug addicts so that they can feel welcome and not discriminated against. A stitch in time saves lives.
Mohammed, Public Affairs Commentator, Lagos Street, Garki, Abuja