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President Tinubu Rallies Support For Drug War, Assures NDLEA Of More Help

……Agency’s drug test kits a necessity for every home, school, office, says Marwa

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has expressed support for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, in its fight against substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking as well as its ramped-up efforts to prevent the Nigerian populace from falling prey to the drug scourge.

According to a press release on Wednesday, 26th June 2024 signed by the NDLEA Director of Media and Advocacy, Femi Babafemi, said that the President gave the assurance on the occasion of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, otherwise known as World Drug Day on Wednesday, 26th June 2024, at the State House Conference Centre Abuja. Speaking on the theme of the day, which is “The Evidence is Clear: Invest in Prevention,” President Tinubu, represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume, said: ” I enjoin all and sundry to support the War Against Drug Abuse initiative, otherwise known as the WADA campaign, launched by NDLEA three years ago. I commend and urge everyone to redouble their efforts to combat drug abuse and trafficking in the country.

On this score, I wish to reassure you of this administration’s support. The Renewed Hope Agenda places the youth at the centre of its focus. Therefore, we ensure that our young people are protected from anything that could derail their future or destroy their potential.”

While noting that illicit drugs and substances have wreaked havoc on individuals, families, communities and countries worldwide, the President said: “In the face of such a formidable challenge, prevention is the most potent weapon that we can deploy. Prevention not only saves lives; it also saves resources that would otherwise be spent on treatment and rehabilitation. It empowers individuals to make informed choices, promotes healthy lifestyles and creates resilient communities capable of withstanding the pressures of drug abuse.

“Investing in prevention is not merely a moral imperative, a prudent way of safeguarding our future. By allocating resources towards evidence-based prevention programmes, we can break the vicious cycle of drug abuse and protect our youth from falling prey to the menace.”

The President further noted that “The assignment before us as a country requires that we prioritise evidence-based prevention strategies, allocate adequate resources and foster partnerships for greater impact.”

He consequently gave strong assurances that: “This government will support NDLEA to build on the success recorded in the past few years. We shall work with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that we have positive statistics from the next national drug use survey that will be conducted in the country.”

He urged all Nigerians to join hands in this noble cause. “This is an assignment for all patriotic citizens of this country, including religious leaders, traditional leaders, educational institutions, opinion leaders, and civil society organisations. NDLEA has created a formidable platform for cooperation vis-à-vis its War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) social advocacy initiative,” he said.

In his welcome remark, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Brig Gen Mohamed Buba Marwa (Rtd) said that the ‘Save Our Families’ social advocacy campaign launched at the ceremony by the President, is designed to prevent and tackle drug use through early detection and intervention by making the Agency’s newly produced special drug test kits a necessity in every home, schools and workplaces.

According to him, “The Agency has introduced the Drug Integrity Test initiative anticipated to metamorphose into an anti-drug culture for every Nigerian. The test is intended for secondary school students, students seeking admission into tertiary institutions and returning students, workers in government and private offices and individuals seeking political offices as well as prospective couples before taking their marriage vows.

The drug test will serve as a tool for the prevention of drug use and early detection of the individual’s status of drug use for the purpose of appropriate intervention including treatment and rehabilitation. Let me also add that our drug integrity test, which has been adopted by some government institutions and tertiary institutions in the country, is a preventive mechanism.

“As a result, we have produced tens of thousands of special test kits capable of detecting 15 different substances, now available in all our commands across the country. This is for use in homes, schools, workplaces and others. Apart from helping in early detection of drug abuse especially by our youths so that we can get them help in form of treatment, this will also create some deterrence effects.”

Speaking on the theme for this year’s World Drug Day, Marwa said drug use prevention lies at the heart of NDLEA’s strategy in addressing the drug problem because it is far more effective and cost-efficient to prevent drug abuse than to deal with its consequences.

“In this regard, we have used our War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) social advocacy initiative to campaign vigorously at the grassroots and create awareness for our people to shun illicit substances. WADA is a sensitization and advocacy initiative that employs the whole of society approach to engage all stakeholders including the Government sectors, institutions, and Non-Governmental Organisations with emphasis on youths in and out of school, community gatekeepers including traditional and community leaders, as well as religious leaders among others.

I am proud to state that the programme has been a tremendous success as an effective tool of advocacy for social action and an awareness driven vehicle for public engagement and collaboration against the drug scourge. For instance, between 2021 and 2024, the Agency embarked on 6,423 sensitization and education programmes targeting young people in school and 987 programmes for Out of School youths in order to create awareness on the dangers associated with drug use. This is in addition to the millions of homes reached with our anti-substance abuse messages through our aggressive and impactful media campaigns using various traditional and new media platforms.”

He said apart from the various plans and initiatives deployed as preventive measures against the availability and access of illicit substances as well as their abuse by citizens, the Agency has been providing counselling and treatment for people struggling with drug dependence across 30 of its treatment and counselling centres nationwide where 33, 453 drug users had been treated in three and a half years.

The NDLEA boss said is equally not relenting in its effort to cut off illicit drug supply channels and dismantle trafficking networks. “After all, when you cut off drug supplies, you deny users availability and access to them, including insurgents, terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and sundry criminals who rely on drugs to foster their criminalities”, he added.

In this regard, he noted: “The magnitude of our effort is reflected in the statistics of our drug supply reduction activities. We have arrested 52, 901 drug traffickers, including 48 barons, in three and a half years. Over 9, 000 of the suspects have been convicted in court. We have also seized over the same period 7.6 million kilograms of assorted illicit substances.”

The outgoing UNODC Country Representative, Dr. Oliver Stolpe also made a number of recommendations. “After the exceptionally successful testing of the school-based drug prevention programme UNPLUGGED involving half a million secondary school children in Nigeria, the programme should be rolled out to all 28, 000 public and private secondary schools. We need to enhance the resilience against drug use among the millions of out-of-school children, for example through sports-based initiatives such as LINE UP LIVE UP (LULU). Furthermore, we need to strengthen families in their ability to recognise and address drug use in effective and constructive ways.”

Dr. Stolpe further said: “Most importantly, there is an urgent need to repeat the 2018 national drug use survey. Without up-to-date data, there is no way in which we can assess whether our collective efforts have long-term impact and address the actual priorities.”

The Minister of Education, Prof Tahir Mamman, who emphasized the importance of testing in schools expressed the ministry’s support for NDLEA drug test campaign while he called on agencies of government “to work together and support all these efforts.”

According to him: “The most important place where this prevention fight should start is the education sector. And we will do our own part, even last week, it was something we considered and promised to review the existing policies so that we can work with NDLEA to take it to secondary schools and primary schools. To establish at all levels compulsory and sustained testing. It has to be compulsory and sustained, right through the years and period of their education.”

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Drugs and Narcotics, Hon. Abass Adigun called for more budgetary provisions for NDLEA in the face of its multi-faceted mandate. “We at the national assembly are ready to work with the NDLEA and we need the federal government to look into this.”

Others who spoke in the same light include Senator Sadiq Umar who represented the Senate President; Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN; Chairman of MTN Foundation, Prince Julius Adelusi Adeluyi and guest lecturer at the event, Dr. Vincent Udenze of Intersect Consortium, among others.

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