Monday, August 29, 2011

Checkmating Drug Trafficking and Abuse in Nigeria

In 2010, the United States of America delisted Nigeria from her drug Major List. That is heart-warming but is it an indication that incidences of drug trafficking and abuse is abating in the country? According to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Nigeria has a rising profile as an international route for drug trafficking. UNODC also said there has been a rise in the consumption of hard drugs in the country and that Nigeria is an active player in the $6.8 billion West Africa cocaine market, serving as a major route and market for cocaine from Columbia, to other centres of distribution and consumption around the world. Nigeria, according to the report, also serves as transit for drugs coming from the Indian sub-continent to Europe. About 2,000 Nigerians are allegedly arrested for drugs offences in the United Kingdom every year.

According to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), between 2006 and 2009, a total of 27,628 people suspected to be dealing in narcotics were arrested. This comprise of 26,054 males and 1,574 females. The agency also seized 871, 181.92 kilogrammes of narcotic drugs from illicit circulation with cannabis having the highest quantity with 849,867.27 kilogrammes. Furthermore, at a news conference addressed by NDLEA chairman, Ahmadu Giade on Monday, January 31, 2011, the agency claimed to have arrested 6,788 suspected drug traffickers in 2010. Giade told reporters that 793 cases were pending in court as at December 2010, while 1,509 cases were won and 26 were lost. The total quantity of drugs seized stood at 178,120.725 kilogrammes, and the largest single seizure of cocaine in the year was 450.400 kg.

A breakdown of the drugs is as follows: cannabis 174,661.59kg, cocaine 706.433kg, heroin 202.08kg and psychotropic substances 2,550.622kg. The NDLEA chairman said more women were found to be involved in drug trafficking during the year under review. "A total of 492 female drug traffickers were arrested while 6,296 male ones were nabbed." Giade also revealed that Kano state topped the arrest chart with 618 suspects, followed by Katsina and River states with 399 and 299 suspects respectively. "In terms of drug seizure, Ondo had the largest with 67,979.795 kg, Edo with 39,501.006 kg, while Delta accounted for 10,096.544 kg. These seizures were largely cannabis (Indian hemp)."

NDLEA also reported that 68 drug suspects were apprehended at the Lagos airport between January and July 2011. Recently, a 25-year old Nigerian drug courier Chilaka Ogbonna Emmanuel died onboard an aircraft on his way to Malaysia en-route Doha, forcing the pilot to divert the plane to India. Chilaka allegedly took off from the Lagos airport on Tuesday, August 2, 2011. A post mortem revealed that he had ingested narcotics. This unfortunate happenstance occurred barely few months after Nigeria lost a suspected drug trafficker, Offiah Gozie Vincent, who was arrested at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos, but died few days later in a Lagos hospital.

In July 2011, NDLEA claimed to have discovered in Lagos a factory that has the capacity to produce between 20 and 50 kilogrammes of methamphetamine per day, making it a large production centre similar to the ones in Mexico. According to NDLEA Chairman “This discovery is the first of its type in West Africa and the country.” It was reported that the street value of a kilogramme of methamphetamine is N2.5m. But the same kilogramme costs between N15m and N16m in Europe.

While drug trafficking shows no sign of abating, drug abuse has also become prevalent in Nigeria. A statement credited to NDLEA revealed that “Cannabis is the most abused drug in Nigeria. And the drug abuse cuts across age, sex and socio-economic status. A research conducted by the NDLEA has shown that drug abuse in the country is mainly a youth problem. Most hard drug users were exposed to the drugs between the ages of 13 and 19 when they are still in secondary school.” In Nigeria, there have been reports of abuse of non-conventional substances (hydrocarbons) like nail polish cleaner, gasoline, lizard excreta, zakami and rubber solution. Others are cough syrups with codeine content and pit toilets. The abuses of unconventional substances have been found to be wide spread in the North-west, North-east and North-central regions of the country.

A report by The Nation of August 10, 2011 titled “Drug: Nigeria moves from transit to consumer nation” indicated that “On the streets of major cities in Nigeria, drugs are hawked like every other item.....a drug like heroin, with street names, such as smack, skag and junk, usually sells for N1, 600 and N3, 200 per shot. Cocaine, often referred to as snow, flake, coke and blow sells a little higher at about N4, 800 to N5, 000 per grand powder. There are also Barbiturates, a.k.a. yellow jackets, reds, blues, Amy’s and rainbows but not very common and less costly. Others are street methadone, alcohol and ketamine. They are a powerful hallucinogen often referred to as Special K. Benzodiazepines is considered a family of sedative drugs. Amphetamines, known as billy or speed. Tobacco, which is at a lower rung on the list, is common in shops. Marijuana however, is another destructive herb when taken in excess. All these drugs are available in the nooks and crannies of Nigeria once you have the cash.”

Experts have identified major causes of drug abuse as peer pressure, weak parental control, child abuse, imitation, emotional stress, the availability of the drugs and the ineffectiveness of the laws on drug trafficking. On imitation, it is a sad pity that Nollywood artistes have not set good example to Nigerian youths given the way and manner some of our actors and musicians unnecessarily abuse drugs in their films and in reality. I think they should play down the use of alcohol and cigarettes in their productions. The consequences of drug abuse are very unpleasant. NDLEA says “drug abuse may lead to huge health and social problems such as morbidity, injuries, unprotected sex, violence, deaths, automobile accidents, homicides, suicides and physical or psychological trauma, dependence, and many more.” In 2010, the Agency counselled and rehabilitated 3,589 drug dependent persons while 16 persons were referred.

If the war on drug abuse and trafficking will be won, NDLEA must be well funded and detached from all forms of political interference. There is need for better awareness creation on the evils of illicit drug use and merchandising. Moreover, the legal framework requires strengthening to ensure that those involved in illicit drug trade are adequately punished to serve as deterrent to others.