With the recent unveiling of a comprehensive framework for curbing drug abuse by the Nigerian Senate, efforts to tame the increasingly rampant menace, especially amongst the youth, may have finally got the felicitous impetus that will help the nation win the war. The upper legislative chamber has particularly shown how serious it is in the intervention by passing the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Bill, a legislation with a template that can holistically address this worrying issue.
According to a statement from the Media Office of the Senate President, the intervention through the Bill will also entail having a legislative framework for operations of law enforcement and other agencies towards reduction in the supply of illicit substance abuse, and control of illicit psychoactive substances.
The statement also noted that sections of various legislations and policies that deal with Drug Control are being pooled together and harmonised into one Drug Control Bill to ensure there are clear mandates for the various law enforcement and regulatory agencies like NDLEA, NAFDAC and the Nigerian Police to enhance interagency cooperation.
It is indeed admirable that the Nigerian Senate is concerned about the worrisome issue of drug abuse and has decided to take steps to address it. It is also exemplary that the lawmakers are determined to address the lack of clarity in inter-agency cooperation, as well as the multiple areas of overlap, towards the common objective of safeguarding the health and well-being of Nigerians. This senate’s efforts must be applauded and supported by all Nigerians because it is a step in the right direction. In fact, this has been long overdue because if proactive measures to address this issue had been taken before now, the nation would not have been in the current quagmire. However, it is better late than never.
However, while we commend the Nigerian Senate for its decision to help confront substance abuse which has become a hydra-headed monster threatening to destroy the future of the nation, we must hasten to stress that the Senate’s intervention must urgently move from the realm of rhetoric and translate to clear national policies and strategies that can be implemented.
Substance abuse must be seen as a national emergency as reports have shown that even youngsters in secondary schools are getting addicted to all sorts of drugs. States in the northern part of the country have been prominently documented for this, but there could be worse cases elsewhere. Therefore, while it is imperative to have clear strategies as enunciated by the Senate, it must be emphasised that the nation does not have the luxury of time to dillydally, as more youths are embracing this dangerous trend daily.
We must stress that beyond the effect of substance abuse on the health of individuals ingesting the substance, it also has serious linkage with the spiraling incidences of crime, violence, insurgences and other social vices that are now common occurrences in the country. In fact, the nation may unwittingly be sitting on a keg of gunpowder if it does not promptly tackle this problem as the present effects of drug abuse are ominous signs of much more perilous vices that could and would occur if we fail to act and stop the practice.
The Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) deserves commendation for its efforts in dealing with the challenge of drug abuse in the country. Indeed, the PCN and NAFDAC have big roles to play in implementing the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDGs). Implementing the NDDG will go a long way in tracking the distribution of drugs in the country and consequently checkmate the distribution of ethical medicines that are abused.
The mass media and the social media must also be mobilised in the task of halting the spread of drug abuse. It is quite unfortunate that the dangerous habit is currently being glamourised with songs and slangs by some Nigerian musicians and celebrities who are supposed to be agents of change. That notwithstanding, the Nigerian government should counter this wrong notion by engaging prominent and respectable Nigerians and celebrities from all works of life in a massive national enlightenment campaign that will save millions of Nigerian youth from the perils of drug abuse. The time to start is now.