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By Blessing Sokowoncin Shelika

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As part of activities to commemorate the UN International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on 26th June, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Monday 20th June held a press conference to kickstart the week-long activities planned out to mark the 2022 World Drug Day themed: “Addressing Drug Challenges in Health and Humanitarian Crises.

In his address, the Chairman/Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) revealed the great effort the agency has put in over the past 17 months which has yielded tremendous results.

Chairman/Chief Executive NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd).

He said:”In 2021, about 8,000 drug users were counselled and rehabilitated, in most cases through brief interventions. We continued the effort in the first five months of 2022, whereby an additional 3,523 were also counselled and treated in NDLEA facilities. Simultaneoulsy, we have continued to shut the tap of illicit flow of drugs with the arrest of over 17,647 offenders including 10 drug barons between January 2021 and May 2022; more than 2,369 convicted and jailed within the same period while 154,667.339kg drugs have been seized in the first five months of this year alone.”

Marwa disclosed that changing dynamics in the decade have forced a paradigm shift and re-adjusted perspectives that allow for drug narratives to be seen as exacerbating factors in multidimensional situations.

This he said has “made it imperative to look at the drug problem through the lens of public health and also tackling such as a broader social problem rather than through the conventional, narrow, criminal matter approach.”

It is in this light that the Chairman disclosed that the NDLEA Call Center will be unveiled in a short while. According to him, the call center will be manned by professionals and experts in counselling, psychotherapy, psychology, psychiatry and other related areas to offer help to drug users who will make use of the tollfree lines to seek counselling 24/7. This initiative has been put in place to ensure that drug users who need help can get the help and counselling they need without the fear of being stigmatized or recognized by anyone.

” Even as we rev up our drug supply reduction offensive, it is certain that we are not relenting on getting help to those suffering from drug use disorder. The forthcoming sensitization training on Drug Prevention, Treatment and Care (DPTC) for Governors Wives will bolster the effort to ensure that the consequences of drug abuse are nipped in the bud and prevented from snowballing into a public health problem that would overwhelm our society in the long run. This year’s theme will go a long way in directing our attention to an area that requires collective effort to stave off future catastrophes.”

UNODC Country Representative, Mr. Oliver Stolpe

Also speaking at the event, the UNODC Country Representative, Mr Oliver Stolpe, in his remark, noted that this year significantly marks the conclusion of the Joint European Union-Nigeria Partnership Project Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crimes, which has been implemented by UNODC and has helped shape the current response to drugs over the past decade.

According to him, based on the 2017/2018 data, it is estimated that there might be close to 6 million persons in Nigeria that could be living with a drug use dependency. This he says creates a massive public health challenge.

He therefore called on the government; both at the federal and state level, as well as International development partners and candidates standing for political offices not to lose sight of this public health crisis being caused by drug abuse.

Mr Stolpe also pointed out the urgent need to conduct a second National Drug Survey as the first one conducted in 2018 has “quickly become dated” as results from smaller surveys in selected states and among specific groups suggests that drug use has further evolved in Nigeria since then.

This data he said is needed in order to “understand better which aspects of the National Drug Control Masterplan needs to be further prioritized, and to get a better understanding of the impact of our collective efforts so far.”

“We sincerely hope that this World Drug Day provides us all an opportunity to renew our commitment in the prevention and control of drugs.”

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