In Lagos State, there are some areas and markets that are renowned for the sale and distribution of some goods across the country. For example, if you mention Ladipo Market, what comes to people’s minds is automobile spare parts. Alaba International Market, Ojo, is for people shopping for electronics, while Computer Village in Ikeja is regarded as home of information and communication technology products and accessories.
But in recent times, when you mention some areas in the state, what comes to mind is hard drugs.
These areas are notorious for sale, distribution and consumption of illicit drugs. The areas and the drug trade therein are are no longer hidden but recognised even by security agencies.
Haven of drugs
According to Daily Sun’s investigations and information provided by sources within security agencies in the state, there are 10 foremost areas regarded as centres of illicit drugs in Lagos State. In these areas, youths call the shots and also determine supply, demand, distribution and price of the illegal substances.
Like every other market, the illicit drugs are openly displayed in broad daylight and hawkers jostle for customers, sometimes ending in violent confrontations.
In January, the state police command destroyed hard drugs worth over N400 million. The substances, comprising cocaine, tramadol, codeine, marijuana and others, were destroyed in Elepe, Ikorodu.
In the top-10 list, Akala Street, in Odi-Olowo/Ojuwoye Local Council Development Area (LCDA), was ranked number one.
This street and its environs are well known within and outside the state as a major market for illicit drugs trade. A security source informed Daily Sun that the illicit drugs merchants and the cartel in the area are well organised and deadly, making it difficult for security agencies to penetrate the area. He added that many officers have lost their lives in the process of enforcing law and order in the area.
It was gathered that the notoriety of Akala Street in drug-related crime has never been in doubt. The street holds the dubious record of being the hub of drugs and other criminal activities in the state.
Stories of criminal escapades in the area are better imagined. It is such that security operatives have branded it “headquarters of crime” in Lagos.
For over a decade, Akala has been a notorious coven for all sorts of criminal activities, ranging from cult killings, armed robbery, rape, illegal possession and sale of arms and ammunition.
The activities have become a nightmare not only to security operatives but also to residents who are constantly at the receiving end of crises.
Sources also disclosed that the crime machine in the area is mightier than the security agencies and this always shows whenever there is raid in the area.
“Many of our officers have lost their lives in this area. Raiding the area is like going to the lion’s den. Who wants to die? To clean up that area, many things have to be in place.
“Currently, there is no motivation not to talk of equipment needed in doing the job. I cannot even remember when last we raided the area because the situation there has overwhelmed us,” a police source said.
Seventy per cent of operators and consumers in Akala are between 14 and 40 years old.
Ranked number two on the list is Patey Street, Lagos Island. This area is regarded as an Indian hemp den because of the way the substance is sold and consumed in the area and its environs.
There is no time when security agencies raid the area without loss of life. It is another deadly area for security operatives to do their jobs. The number of lives that have been lost in the area in connection with the fight against illicit drugs is worrisome. The situation in this illicit drugs zone is getting worse by the day, while the number of addicts, young and old, continues to increase.
Like Akala, 70 per cent of operators and consumers in Patey are teenagers and youths.
Oshodi is ranked number three.
This is another notorious spot, where many teenagers and youths are wasting away, with the rate they consume Indian hemp.
A newcomer to the area would easily spot the rough-looking young boys and girls, clutching black polythene bags containing illicit drugs, switching on cigarette lighters to draw attention, even as their eyes dart around and the consumers stop by to purchase the various stuff required to make them high.
Again, Indian hemp smokers and sellers in this area are young people, male and female. Some of them are barely out of diapers. Here, it is common to see military men in uniform, pregnant women and nursing mothers carrying their babies smoking hemp in the open.
Apart from Indian hemp, there are many other illicit drugs and alcoholic drinks used to get high here.
“Indian hemp, cocaine and heroin, which one do you care for? We have all the stuff. A wrap of hemp is N100. If you want white or brown, they are all available. White is cocaine, brown is heroin,” a young dealer told this reporter, mistaking him for a perspective buyer.
How these teenagers could become hemp addicts in the full glare of the bustling Oshodi beats the imagination and raises cause for concern. More worrisome is the fact that a police station sits about 10 metres from this spot
A source said: “What is shocking and worrisome in this area is level of involvement of young boys and girls. They call the shots here. If anybody is looking for a child that ran away from home, they should come to this spot to search. The more we arrest them, the more they increase. We are tired of arresting them. You can easily identify them by their unkempt looks, wrapped weed in between their fingers, thick smoke unfurling and melting into the atmosphere, and, of course, the nauseating odour in the area.”
Ajegunle in Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Area is ranked number four.
Ajegunle and Oshodi share a similar record. Teenagers also run the drugs business in this area even as sale and consumption of hard drugs are done openly without fear of security agencies. Most of the Indian hemp smokers and sellers in this area are very young, male and female.
Abattoir in Oko-Oba and Akerele Street, both in Agege Local Government Area, are ranked number five. The two spots are among the areas where kid Indian hemp smokers hold sway. Selling hard drugs in Abattoir/Akerele is not a secret thing. It is a free market for both sellers and buyers.
Particularly at Akerele Street, along Ipaja Road in Agege, the pattern of trading in hard drugs is similar to what obtains at Akala and Patey. Potential buyers face no stress to get what they want in this area.
Ikotun, in Alimosho Local Government Area, occupies the sixth position. From the bus stop to many adjoining streets, hard drugs merchants and their customers strut their stuff. For those who have a good nose, they don’t need to make enquiries to identify the spot in the area. Age bracket of players who are fully involved in drugs in this area are aged 14 to 45. The recent arrest of some youths in the area in possession of Indian hemp by the police is an attestation to what is going on there.
Afrika Shrine in Agidingbi, Ikeja, occupies the number seven position. Despite being close to the seat of power in Alausa, hard drugs merchants still do their business, day and night.
On a weekly basis, the spot becomes busier from Thursday till Sunday. Illicit drugs hawkers and prostitutes position themselves to attract passersby and established patrons. The culprits in this spot ane within the age bracket of 16 and 40.
Ijora “Under Bridge,” Makoko Oto and Odumara in Mainland Local Government Area occupy number eight position.
This is another area where illicit drugs thrive and the sellers and buyers do their business without hitches; buyers don’t need to make enquiries before they get what they want. In these areas, those calling the shot fall within the age bracket of 14 and 40.
Ojuelegba “Under Bridge” and the entrance of Our Lady of Lourdes Girls Primary School on Clegg Street in Surulere are now hemp smoking rendezvous.
These notorious joints are very visible to passersby. The two spots harbour hemp-smoking kids on a daily basis. Some secondary school students are also setting the pace here. At the close of school every day, the youngsters take charge and smoke marijuana till the wee hours of the day. Age bracket of culprits is between 14 and 40.
Mushin inside Ojuwoye Market by Aganra Street and Idi-Araba jointly occupy position number 10.
These areas are also major markets for hard drugs. Operators of these markets have field day running their business without hitches.
Here, Daily Sun gathered that smoking, particularly among the teenagers, is like a carnival.
These illegal activities are not only limited to the aforementioned areas. There are many other drug dens across the state. This trend cuts across the major bus parks and bus stops across the Lagos metropolis.
From Badagry to Ojo, Epe to Ajah, Bariga, Somolu, Ketu, Mile 12, Ajelogo, Majidun, Ajegunle, Agric Ikorodu, Itire and Obalende, the story is the same.
Hordes of teenagers, who should be in school or at vocational training, preparing themselves for a meaningful future, are smoking away their future with impunity.
Drug abuse among teenagers and youths
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), drug abuse is “the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs.” It is estimated that about 76.3 million people struggle with alcohol use disorders, contributing to 1.8 million deaths per year. The United Nations reported that around 185 million people globally over the age of 15 were consuming drugs by the end of the 20th century.
Drug abuse is a situation where a drug is taken without any prescription or more than it is prescribed. It could also be described as the use of illicit drugs, or the abuse of prescription, over-the-counter drugs. It could further be defined as the deliberate use of chemical substances for reasons other than intended medical purposes and which results in physical, mental emotional or social impairment of the user. The abuse of legal drugs can happen when people use the drugs in a manner other than directed by the manufacturer or for purposes that are not legitimate.
Drug addiction occurs through excessive, maladaptive or obsessive use of drugs for non-medicinal purposes. It is characterised by a compulsion to take drugs on a steady basis in order to experience its effects. Drug addiction leads to habitual dependence on drugs, which gives rise to mental, emotional, biological or physical, social and economic instability.
Drug addiction has distressing and extremely awful consequences on society. Violence, social deviance, mental disorders, upsurge in crime, corruption, destruction of individuals, erosion of societal values, undermining of national economies and premature death are some of the consequences of drug addiction.
Teenagers used as shield to evade arrest
Daily Sun discovered that many teenagers involved in trafficking of hard drugs are recruited by merchants and cartels to evade arrest by security agencies.
It was gathered that some of the kids are products of broken homes, who possibly have nobody to lean on for survival and, therefore, take solace in bad peer groups.
If the kid hemp smokers are potential recruits for the world of crime, they are also potential patients for psychiatric homes. The question thus arises: why are they left to waste away at these spots and at bus terminals, when their parents, government officials and even the police could have kept them in check?
Our sources disclosed that the operators of the illicit drug zones take advantage of the helpless, homeless and hopeless teenagers, who do not know the implications of their actions, to perpetrate the crime.
Most of the teenagers cannot be prosecuted if they were arrested because they are not up to 18 years old. They are minors in the eyes of law.
Recently, the commander of Area ‘F’, Lagos State Police Command, Adesoji Olasoji, led his team to raid some spots under his command, including Oshodi, and many were arrested, but a later visit to the spots confirmed that nothing had changed. The hard drugs zones were still as busy as ever.
A senior police officer who was part of the team that raided the area said, “Oshodi is a peculiar terrain that remains a concern to the police. When we arrest people we know are underage and cannot really be arrested under the criminal justice system, we take them to juvenile homes for care because some of them get involved in it because of lack of care.”
In his remarks on drugs problem, the state police public relations officer, Bala Elkana, said the command would continue with its strategy of continuous raid of all the areas.
“We are not relenting, continuous raiding of all these areas are constant things we are doing. Very soon the story will be different from what it is now,” he said.
Daily Sun contacted the acting commander of the National Drug Law and Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Frederick Ezeorah, on the issue, through text messages but he did not respond.
The executive director and founder of African Youths Initiative on Crime Prevention (AYICRIP), a non-governmental organisation based in Lagos, Comrade Chris C. Ibe, said his organisation has been making great impact through its crime prevention and campaign against drug abuse in repositioning the mindset of young people in Nigeria and other parts of Africa for the purpose of developing youths and reducing crime rate in communities and society at large.
He attributed the current trend in the state to poor funding of the agencies saddled with the responsibility of curbing the menace. He said both NDLEA and NAFDAC have gone to sleep.
A consultant psychiatrist at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Olajumoke Koyejo, was also contacted on the trend in the state and she stressed that government should be blamed before any other agency because of poor policies.
Koyejo, a specialict in addiction psychiatry and founder of Health Advocacy Foundation (HAF), gave an insight into what drives people to addiction, especially underage children, and how to curb it.
She said failure of government to formulate proper policies and enforcement of the ones that in existence were factors that cannot be ignored in checkmating the surge of drug abuse in the society.
Apart from that, she said, based on her experience in addiction psychiatry, peer group pressure, decadence in the society, broken homes, depreciation of culture and tradition, socialisation, foreign cultural influences and lack of parental care, among others, have contributed to the trend.
“In the family, there should be better monitoring, put the right values in the children. For organisations, there should be training and re-training of addiction professionals to meet up with current trends.
“Also, government policies should be in such a way that will finance preventive advocacy. These will help in the area of substance abuse,” she said.
The psychiatrist said that some young people abuse drugs because of curiosity: “Children come back from school and we lock them in; the school system is eroded.
“Schools are not structured in a way to have big fields to play and at the end of the day, you are tired and you go to bed early.
“The children tend to do so many things because they are seemingly not occupied. Some people use it to belong in groups, while some use it to meet targets at their places of work.
“There are problems and there are several complications to their bodies, family and workplace, because they become unproductive,’’ Koyejo said.