Nigeria is sitting on the proverbial keg of gunpowder because of the prevalent drug use, particularly among its teeming youths. Though drug abuse is a global phenomenon, the situation in Nigeria has reached a crescendo. Drug use is prevalent and pervasive among students, especially in the tertiary institutions across the country. But it is not the exclusive preserve of the higher institutions’ students. Like an octopus, illicit drug use is spreading its tentacles to other levels of education in Nigeria.
This is confirmed by a 2008 report of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) which states that “the abuse of illicit drugs is forming a student sub-culture” in Nigeria. This probably also informed the decision of the new Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig.-Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), to propose drug tests for tertiary institutions’ students, security agencies’ fresh recruits and all newly appointed government employees.
At a meeting with commanders of the 36 states, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and special commands at the NDLEA Headquarters, Abuja, recently, Marwa disclosed his plans to seek approval from the Federal Government to commence the tests. He said he would soon propose to the government “the necessity for drug tests for all tertiary institutions’ resuming students, the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) members, new workers, all security agencies’ new recruits and random tests for government appointees”. Marwa linked the wave of insidious criminal acts to illicit drug abuse. He said: “We need not be told of the nexus between drug use, crime and criminalities.
The exponential growth of the nefarious drug activities can be directly linked to the upsurge in crimes such as insurgency, terrorism, kidnapping, cultism, political thuggery, gangsterism, rape and other maladaptation bedevilling today’s Nigeria.” Surprisingly, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has thrown its weight behind the call for drug tests, especially for those seeking admission into the university. NANS President, Sunday Asefon, expressed support for the initiative during a solidarity visit to Marwa.
He said: “We support the drug test policy. Drug has done more harm than good to the Nigerian students. We do not want Nigerian students to continue to die of drugs.” Responding, Marwa commended NANS for buying into the initiative which, according to him, has met with objection in some quarters. He said: “There have been some objections to the drug testing initiative. But we cannot watch our students taking drugs and jumping into the well thinking it is a swimming pool. “The testing of students is to determine their status early enough and decide the form of intervention to deploy.
It is by no means punitive.” The move by the NDLEA boss is plausible. It must be applauded, encouraged and embraced to save Nigeria and Nigerians from the perils of unchecked substance abuse. To achieve this, we align with the directives of the NDLEA chairman to his commanders to mop up illicit drugs across the country. He said: “All commanders must be desirous of keeping drugs out of Nigerian streets and homes. So all of you must shape up and get all those engaged in the nefarious business to face the music.
I need results from now on. Our maxim will be offensive action. This means we must go all out constantly on the offensive against the bad guys.” But this is not a job to be left alone for Marwa and his lieutenants in the drug-fighting agency.
It is a fight to be fought and won by all Nigerians and every strata of government. We, therefore, call on the Federal Government and government at other levels to demonstrate the political will to not only wage an all-encompassing war on illicit drug manufacturing/hemp cultivation, processing, procurement, distribution, sales and use but to also create conducive environment to achieve the objective of eliminating drugs from every street and corner of Nigeria. We call on the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to begin a purposeful campaign on the radio, television and importantly social media to enlighten the citizenry, particularly the youth, on the dangers inherent in illicit drug use. Also, members of both chambers of the National Assembly need to key into the move to kick illicit drugs out of Nigeria by reviewing some of the obsolete legislations on substance abuse.
The lawmakers, while not excluding members of the state Houses of Assembly, can also lead the campaign against drug use in their constituencies. In the words of Marwa, the success we make of this particular task goes a long way to determine the socio-economic stability of the nation. According to him, while strengthening enforcement activities, efforts must also be devoted to prevention, treatment and after care as well as focus on family/parenting, community, school systems, advocacy to all groups through traditional institutions, religious bodies, media, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), state and local governments. NDLEA is ready to help and we must help, Marwa added. If the NDLEA is ready, Nigerians too must be ready to end the scourge of substance abuse in the country.