In the first week of May, around 9am, I was in Oshodi to see off a relation travelling to Osun State. I had to walk past the front of Mosafejo Police Station just under the bridge at Oshodi-Oke. Just a few metres before the station, I saw three underaged boys smoking marijuana openly, without a care in the world that they could be apprehended by officers from the nearby station.
I took a good look at them as I got close to where they were sitting on a plank; but when they defiantly glared back at me, daring me with their look to talk, I quickly turned my gaze away from them and walked away. I was not ready to confront to those boys who were already getting “high” from smoking that morning.
I actually was not amazed by the brazen act of smoking marijuana in public because I had seen that in some other places in Lagos in the past, but I was quite astounded not just by the temerity of the boys to smoke beside a police station, but by how young they were. The oldest of the three boys couldn’t have been more than 14 years. How 14 year-old-boys who were supposed to be in secondary school at that time could become vagrants, smoking marijuana under the bridge in broad day light was quite intriguing to me.
This question was still ringing in my head when few days later, I attended a public enlightenment programme organised by the Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs) to sensitise secondary school students in Ikeja area on the dangers of drug abuse. Aside from the educative presentations on the theme by eminent personalities at the event, the segment I found most interesting was when the organisers gave the young students opportunity to ask questions.
Two of the young students, in their innocence, asked the experts two questions that they had to grapple with. One was: “Why is the Nigerian government allowing the sale of cigarette (tobacco) when the adverts says ‘smokers are liable to die young’? The second was ‘What should a young child do, if the person responsible for his or her livelihood trades in hard drugs or/and alcohol and he or she is compelled to help them with the business’?
Fair enough, one of the speakers, Dr Ayegbaju, a psychiatrist from the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, tried to answered the first question the best way he could. He explained the intricacy behind government’s policy of encouraging industrialisation to provide jobs for the citizen while still trying to safeguard the health of the people. He equally bemoaned the fact that hard drugs are sold and used openly and sometimes by young people in the motor parks. He reiterated the importance of strengthening the security agencies to enforce laws.
However, the psychiatrist’s answers, rather than clear the air seemed to even raise more unanswered questions, like the one ringing in my mind following my encounter with the marijuana-smoking boys at Oshodi. And I am sure more questions on how the society has failed and is failing the young vulnerable children are still in the minds of the students.
The fact is, notwithstanding that drug abuse is a global problem, a lot that could be done to curtail this menace in Nigeria is presently completely neglected. To start with, there are laws being brazenly infringed upon with the sale and use of certain substances, yet government and its relevant agencies have consistently demonstrated almost criminal lack of interest in bringing the law-breakers to book. Marijuana is being sold and smoked in almost all the motor parks in Lagos, yet nobody is sanctioned.
As long as government looks the other way when laws concerning banned or restricted substances are being brazenly abused and nobody is being punished to serve as deterrents to others, we shall continue to have underaged children being attracted to vices like smoking marijuana in broad daylight.
There are laws against the sale of drugs – not just prescription drugs – in market and buses; yet, Tramadol and other prescription medicines are hawked in buses and motor parks all over Lagos and other cities. The Nigerian nation must rise up to fight this evil that threatens the future of this nation, as research has shown that more young children are engaging in ingestion of all sorts of illicit substances due to diverse reasons.
Parents, too, must pay more attention to the activities of their children and ensure that they are monitored and do not engage in drug abuse as a result of peer pressure. Similarly, security agencies must be urged to do their duty in showing zero-tolerance for drug abuse in the society. If this is done, then aberrations, such as young children smoking marijuana beside a police station, will be curbed.