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Saraki: Tackling drug abuse among youths -Mohammed Isa

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Worried by the rising incidents of drug abuse particularly among the youths, the Senate on October 10, 2017, adopted a motion signifying its resolve to confront the challenge head on through legislative process.

Adopting the motion sponsored by Senator Baba Kaka Garbai (APC-Borno) and 37 other senators, the Senate resolved to mandate its joint committee on drugs and narcotics and health to advise it on the needed legislative interventions to combat the menace.

Garbai, while presenting the motion, noted that the misuse of various pharmaceutical drugs was plaguing the teeming population of youths, particularly in Northern Nigeria, saying that “while drug abuse, especially that of heroin, cannabis and cocaine, has for long been a problem among northern male youth, codeine cough syrup, Tramadol and other substances were becoming the new cancer ravaging the women and girls in the North.”

Confronted with the frightening statistics, the Senate President, Dr Abukakar Bukola Saraki vowed to personally lead the crusade by immediately setting up a technical committee to, in conjunction with the relevant senate committees, organise a stakeholders’ roundtable dialogue aimed at finding solutions to the widespread use, abuse and distribution of drugs across the country.

Giving an inkling of what to expect from the roundtable, Saraki in a series of tweets on his twitter handle @BukolaSaraki, vowed that the two-day event will send a clear message to all Nigerians about the Senate’s resolve to tackle drug abuse.

“The #DrugAbuse epidemic has been of a particularly virulent nature, touching all social strata and afflicting families and young lives. Not even nursing mothers are spared; future generations are already endangered.

“We need to send a clear signal from Kano to all Nigerians that this drug use epidemic must be controlled, and can be controlled.”

The two-day roundtable held between December 18 and 19, 2017 in the ancient city of Kano, considered to be the hub for drug and substances abuse witnessed the attendance of top officials of relevant federal and state governments, regulatory and enforcement agencies, top northern traditional rulers, including the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, religious and political leaders, youths organisations and other stakeholders.

The quality of the attendance and the contributions at the event underscored how happy and appreciative opinion leaders and ordinary people of the north were with the initiative and the initiators.

In his remarks at the event, Saraki said: “To kick-start the process of bringing this epidemic under some control, we need to inquire into the strengths and weaknesses of the current policy and its implementation – as well as to understand the ways in which legislation and advocacy might improve.

“This roundtable is intended to allow all stakeholders access into discussions on the nature of the problem, as well as solutions that need to be put in place. It must be emphasised that the key objective of the roundtable is not the roundtable itself. Rather, the roundtable is expected to trigger a momentum that should resonate in individual lives, families and communities, that the drug abuse culture represents a very serious threat to lives, the economy and national security.”

Presentations and engagements at the roundtable, no doubt exposed the weaknesses of strategies being adopted in the fight against drug abuse in Nigeria as encapsulated by one of the participants who is a lecturer with Bayero University, Kano, Dr Bala Muhammad.

Muhammad noted that, from the submissions by the various regulatory and enforcement agencies at the event there was a clear disconnect and lack of synergies among them, adding that, it appeared that each agency is on its own, doing what it feels is okay independently.

Observing the lack of co-ordination among all the agencies that deals with the control and fight against drug abuse, Muhammad said, “unlike the security sector where all the security agencies report to the National Security Adviser (NSA) for proper monitoring and coordination, such does not exist to the agencies related to drugs.”

Highlight of the two- day session was the testimony by an ex-drug addict, a lady in her late 20s who under a veil explained how she got into the destructive habit and gave details of how she carried on until she was rescued.

It is gladdening that few weeks after the roundtable and even before the presentation of its report to the senate, it has begun to yield results as one of the key stakeholder in the campaign, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) had announced its readiness to inaugurate a ‘Codeine Control and Other Related Matters Working Group (CCRWG)’

Registrar of the Council, Mr Elijah Mohammed, who disclosed this, said that the group, which would consist of regulatory bodies and relevant stakeholders, would assist in the implementation of a communication strategy in the pharmacies and the patent and proprietary medicine vendors’ shops in various communities.

Reacting to PCN intervention, the Senate President took to his Facebook and Twitter pages saying, “It is great to see the PCN taking an active stance against the abuse of codeine and other drugs after the #SenateTacklesDrugAbuse Roundtable. This is a welcome development.

“As PCN constitutes this group to control the distribution of codeine and other drugs in Nigeria, my colleagues and I in the 8th Senate will continue working to provide the necessary legislative interventions to fight #DrugAbuse across the nation.”

The successful hosting of the roundtable and its satisfactory outcome that endeared the Senate President and the Senate in general to the local populace and Nigerians for what is considered timely intervention to arrest a potential humanitarian crises, particularly in the North the ball is now in the court of the lawmakers to do the needful through legislative and budgetary allocation intervention.

Isa is a Special Assistant to the Senate President on Public Affairs

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