Drug use and trafficking have surely gained prominence among some young Nigerians, many of whom are entangled in the web of their harmful repercussions.
Drug-related cases in Nigerian courts demonstrate how profoundly drug misuse and trafficking have corrupted society’s tissues.
Drug trafficking is defined by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as an illegal trade that involves the cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and sale of controlled substances.
The use of illegal drugs or prescription or over-the-counter pharmaceuticals for purposes other than those for which they were prescribed, or in excessive doses, is referred to as drug abuse.
Drug misuse, according to medical professionals, can lead to social, physical, emotional, and occupational issues.
In Nigeria, the National Drug Control Agency (NDLEA), established by Decree 48 of 1989, is charged with eliminating the cultivation, processing, manufacture, sale, export, and trafficking of hard drugs. According to the NDLEA, any drug with psychotropic effects is listed as restricted. Some of the prohibited substances on the NDLEA List are cannabis Sativa, heroin, cocaine, codeine, tramadol, methamphetamine, Rohypnol, extol 5, diazepam, and ephedrine.
These drugs are considered to have high psychotropic effects and their use is restricted. Unfortunately, many more young people seem to have found comfort in using hard drugs for personal and business gain. The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use indicated that 14.3 million Nigerians, representing 14.4% of the country’s population, used psychoactive substances in addition to alcohol. The effects of hard drug use include an increase in criminal activity, including cyber fraud. Drug abuse and trafficking are of concern to governments, community leaders, parents, schools, and other stakeholders.
According to the attorney for NDLEA, Lagos State Command Jeremiah Aernan, the rate of abuse of hard drugs by young people has become alarming. Aernan calls for collective efforts to deal with the threat. He blames the ugly trend in part on the influence of social media, adding that “Currently, social media has improved the distribution of hard drugs, as there are now drug dealers online. So you find out that once these young people need drugs, they just order online the same way you order online shopping items.” Research reveals that these hard drugs are sold under code names.
“They can say I want to buy a pencil and the delivery man knows what he means; then it is seen that social networks have facilitated, in no small measure, the trafficking of these drugs,” he says. Mr. Aernan also blames the tendency for peer group influence which, according to him, pushes some young people into cult activities with the resulting effect of illicit drug use. According to him, while some young people engage in drug use in order to have an “experience,” out of curiosity, others become drug lords for financial gain. “Unemployment is another cause of drug trafficking.
Many people have taken drug trafficking as a business; so it now goes beyond its use to derived commercial benefits. If you check the volume of hemp consumed daily in Lagos alone, you find that it is more than 100 bags. “So if someone who sells hemp can make a profit of N3,000 or more per day, do you think that person will want to stop?” he asks.
Aernan says that while there is a control on the importation of ephedrine, its abuse is also rampant. “Codeine was originally used to make cough syrups, but rampant abuse of the drug led to its immediate ban. Some of these young people go ahead and buy cartons of codeine and drink straight just to ‘feel,’” he says. According to him, some hard drugs now have variants that are also used by young people in an attempt to have new experiences.
“For example, there is a variant of cocaine called crack, which is a combination of cocaine, heroin, methenamine, and other narcotics that our young people use. The drug recently intercepted in Lagos came from the high seas and exceeded two tons in volume. “Now there is a great need for guidance from young people on the dangers of drug trafficking.
It also requires parents to verify their wards’ schedules and to keep a close eye on their commitments,” he advises. Also speaking, Osariemen Amadasun, attributes the high rate of a drug crime to uncontrolled use of the internet, adding that many young people use the internet for the wrong reasons. She believes that drug abuse goes hand in hand with the cybercrime known as ‘yahoo yahoo’, of which she is convinced that young people are at the center.
“Some of these young men and even women stay up at night watching their laptops for the next gullible individual to fall victim to their scams. They will ingest substances to keep the mind and body awake. In their jargon, it is to be awake like a fish waiting for the next mugu. “More concerning is the fact that these young people even cook their meals with some of these hard drugs, ingest and inject them just to get a deeper feeling. It becomes a complicated case to try to rehabilitate these drug victims, as some of them see and feel that their body systems are shutting down.
“The danger of using drugs is that once it starts, it is almost impossible to stop; parents must be aware of their responsibilities,” he urges. A nurse who worked at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos State, Ifeyinwa Nwachukwu says: “Many psychiatric cases that we find in hospitals are caused by drug abuse. As a psychiatric nurse, I have been left with drug victims; By how they behave, one can easily tell that they have been on hard drugs.
“Although with medications, some of these drug users become relatively stable, it is better that young people are properly oriented so as not to deepen in the ingestion of any form of an illicit substance. Its negative effects are long-lasting,” she warns. She suggests routine seminars and other enlightenment campaigns on the negative impacts of hard drugs as a strategy to stem the wave of drug-related crime.
Ms. Nwachukwu reports that seminars can be held in schools, hospitals, health centers, and religious centers. A 22-year-old rehabilitated drug victim, Kings Uzoma, recounts that he became addicted to drugs in 2019 after establishing a small computer operating company. According to him, his work schedule made him have new friends.
“We lived around Agric in the Ojo de Lagos area. When I started having large customers, who stay in my store until the evening when it should be closing, I became interested in what they were doing. “Later, I left my parents’ house in Ojo and went to live with them on Victoria Island, where they introduced me to eat rice cooked with Codeine.
From there, we traveled to Ghana. In Ghana, I no longer understood what was happening to me. One day I woke up and found myself back in Nigeria with bruises on my body,” he said. According to him, a hospital prescribed medicine before he regained his senses. Another lawyer, Emmanuel Ozodi, calls for strict punishments for drug offenses.
According to him, judges hand down sentences as small as six months in prison or a fine for drug trafficking. He believes that such penalties have not served as a sufficient deterrent for drug offenses. The lawyer says that while Nigeria should not punish drug crimes with the death penalty, the country should show a strong will to confront the threat through strict punishments.
The NDLEA Chairman, Buba Marwa recently called for tougher penalties for drug trafficking by eliminating the fine option for drug offenders. At the annual dinner of the Institute for Change Management in Lagos in December 2021, Marwa said: “It is worrying that some of our officers lose their lives in the course of the fight against drug traffickers, but at the end of the day, some of these offenders when they are brought to trial, they are only fined and then return to the same business.”
According to Marwa, the hard drug problem in Nigeria is huge. “Basically, we have to close the pipeline. In other words, take the traffickers and their barons out of the picture. We have to embark on an aggressive drug supply reduction campaign. “It is to this end that we launched the War on Drug Abuse campaign that, in the long run, will help prevent the entrenched culture of drug abuse among the youth of society,” he said.
The analysts call on parents, guardians, caregivers, school administration, religious leaders, non-governmental organizations, corporate entities, and others to join forces with governments to control drug crimes to save young people, the leaders of tomorrow, of its bad consequences. They also urge changes in policies and legislation that will stem the wave of drug-related crime.
Terrorism: Nnamdi Kanu in Fresh 15-Count Charges
On Monday, the Federal Government (FG) filed a new 15-count terrorism charge against Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the self-proclaimed leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
The Federal Government upped the counts in the initial accusation it filed against Kanu from seven to fifteen in an amended charge filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
With the fresh charges, Kanu who has been facing a seven-count charge bordering on treasonable felony will now take a fresh plea to a 15-count amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/ CR/383/2015, signed by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) M. B. Abubakar.
The IPOB leader was scheduled to appear in court on January 18 (today) to argue his case in two separate applications contesting the competence of the earlier accusation leveled against him as well as the court’s authority.
Count one of the charges alleged that Kanu, sometimes in 2021, being member and leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra did commit an act in furtherance of an act of terrorism against the Federation Republic of Nigeria and the people of Nigeria by making a broadcast received and heard in the country with the intent to intimidate the population, and also threatened that people will die, the whole world will stand still, thereby committing an offense punishable under Section 1(2)(b) of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2013.
Count 15 of the charge reads, “That you, Nnamdi Kanu, male, adult of Afaranukwu Ibeku, Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia state on diverse dates between the month of March and April 2015 imported into Nigeria and kept in Ubulisiuzor in Ihiala LGA of Anambra state, within the jurisdiction of this honorable court a radio transmitter known as Tram 50L concealed in a container of used household items and you thereby committed an offense contrary to Section 47(2)(a) of Criminal Code Act. Cap C45 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004”.
It would be recalled that the IPOB leader breached the bail conditions granted him by Justice Binta Nyako, before whom he was standing trial. He was however rearrested and brought back to Nigeria to continue with his trial.
Fuel Subsidy: States Kick As NNPC Continues Deductions, FAAC To Meet On Wednesday
As the Federation Account Allocation Committee meets for the first time in 2022 on Wednesday, there are significant indicators that state and federal governments are once again at odds.
Officials from the state, speaking to our correspondents on Sunday, criticized the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s continuous diversions from FAAC monies to support fuel subsidies, stating that the issue would be discussed at the meeting on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the NNPC was set to remove N270.83 billion from the January FAAC allocations, which would be divided by state, federal, and local governments.
Asuquo Ekpenyong, Junior, the Cross River State Commissioner for Finance, verified to one of our correspondents that the FAAC meeting will take place between Wednesday and Thursday.
In its December 2021 report to the FAAC, the NNPC announced that it will deduct some monies as a value shortfall sustained by the oil company in January 2022.
During the FAAC meeting in January, the company said it would subtract N270.83 billion from the amount to be split by the three tiers of government.
It said, “The estimated value shortfall of N270,831,143,856.56 is to be recovered from December 2021 proceed due for sharing at the January 2022 FAAC meeting.
“This value shortfall consists of N220,110,853,427.56 for November and N50,720,290,429.00 deferred for recovery in December 2021 FAAC report.”
Deductions unjustifiable – Delta
Speaking ahead of the FAAC meeting, the Delta State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Fidelis Tilije, in an interview, said that the Finance Commissioners’ Forum had made a series of conclusive resolutions on the deductions by the NNPC to finance fuel subsidy.
According to him, state governments will continue to oppose the deductions, which he described as non-transparent.
Tilije, who chaired the finance commissioners forum’s committee on the Petroleum Industry Act, said, “The issue of removal of fuel subsidy is the Federal Government’s responsibility and not FAAC responsibility.
“Ours is to look at sources of funding and expenditure. We have made a series of conclusive resolutions on the need for subsidy to be removed on one angle and secondly to also check the NNPC because we don’t know who is checking on what kind of subsidy they are paying.
“Because they are the one collecting the subsidy and they are the one spending it. Those issues have been queried, of course, the Federal Government is in charge of the NNPC and the NNPC also behaves like a law. Until the Federal Government can take a decision on the issue of subsidy and there is nothing anybody can do.
“But unfortunately the Federal Government is also saying that it will need the state governors to guarantee the wellbeing of the people and ensure that there is no labor strike in their various states before they can remove subsidy. Who does that?”
When asked about the stand of states ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, he stated, “We have always been kicking against it (deductions for subsidy) and we will continue to kick against it, what we are saying is that the subsidy they are paying cannot be justified.
“We don’t know the exact figure we are consuming on a daily basis but their own argument is that now the price of crude oil has gone up and if you sell the crude oil at a high price and import petrol, you will have to be buying the petrol at a high price but for me, it is not true.”
It’s injustice against Ekiti – Commissioner
On his part, the Ekiti State Commissioner for Finance, Akin Oyebode, expressed the opposition of the state government to the deduction of money for fuel subsidy from the Federation Account without the consent of states.
Oyebode, who said he could only speak for his state, said such deductions, which exemplified the country’s flawed fiscal federalism, amounted to injustice to some states including Ekiti.
The commissioner said, “I have been on record at the various Federation Accounts Allocation Committee meetings to state my vehement opposition to the continued deduction of subsidy without subjecting it to the consent of the states”.
He suggested two options for the Federal Government to resolve the issue going forward.
Oyebode said, “The issue is very clear, if the Federal Government decides in its wisdom to operate the subsidy on petroleum products without getting the consent of states, then it should bear the cost of the subsidy 100 percent and that cost should be taken from the Federal Government’s share of the Federation Account, not deducted at source from the Federation Account.
“And in the event that we, as a country, agree to continue with the subsidy regime, then the deduction should be made in line with the consumption of petroleum products in each state.
“A situation where Ekiti, for example, that consumes less than one percent of petroleum products gets a deduction of N3bn a month, is a significant loss to Ekiti. We could have used that money to meet all sorts of different demands from our people.
“We believe that this is again another example of the flawed fiscal federalism structure that we operate. Of course, this subsidy request has been tabled at FAAC, all we get at the meetings are reports of deductions taken at the source which I very strongly believe are even unconstitutional because these are not subject to appropriation.
“The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, in its wisdom, just comes and reports that this is how much was taken and they call it some funny names, but we know what it is – deductions for subsidy.”
Oyebode said that a curious aspect of the whole thing was that “there is even no basis for interrogating if in truth the volume of products on which subsidy had been charged had actually even got to the consumers.”
We are not in charge of Subsidy – NNPC
But when contacted, the spokesperson of the NNPC, Garba-Deen Mohammad, told our correspondent that the issue of petrol subsidy was beyond the control of the oil firm.
He stated that with the advent of the Petroleum Industry Act, the matter of subsidy was outside the control of the NNPC but was a matter being handled by the Federal Government.
Garba-Deen said, “Subsidy is not under the control of the NNPC. The subsidy is now a PIA issue and it will be determined by the principles of the Petroleum Industry Act. Not by the NNPC.
“The NNPC is an operator now in the market, just like Shell or Chevron or like any other oil company. So I don’t know anything you are talking about.”
When probed further on whether petrol subsidy would be stopped, replied, “We are speaking the same thing, I say I don’t know. I have no idea, I am just an employee of the NNPC.”
Nigeria’s Debt Stock Hits N39.6tn In 11 Months – Reports
The overall debt stock of Nigeria increased from N32.9 trillion in December 2020 to N39.6 trillion in November 2021.
The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, in her presentation of the 2022 approved budget, disclosed that the government borrowed N6.7tn between January and November 2021, according to a copy of the presentation obtained by our correspondent.
The new borrowing in the period under review consists of N5.1tn domestic debt and N1.6tn. The domestic debt, however, includes borrowing from the Central Bank of Nigeria, according to the presentation document.
In March 2021, the Debt Management Office had disclosed that the country’s total public debt stock was N32.9tn as of December 2020.
An additional N6.7tn loan means the total public debt stock would be about N39.6tn as of November 2021.
The DMO had disclosed that the country’s total public debt increased to N33.1tn at the end of the first quarter of 2021, from N32.9tn in December 2020, showing an increase of about 200bn.
In Q2 2021, the total debt stock rose by N2.4tn to N35.5tn by June 2021.
The increase continued by N2.5tn to hit N38tn by Q3 2021, which was the last figure provided by the DMO.
However, based on the minister’s presentation, there was an increase of N1.6tn from September to November 2021.
The PUNCH had reported that within the 11-month period, debt servicing gulped N4.2tn which represents 76.2 percent of the N5.51tn revenue generated during the period.
The minister defended government borrowing and the country’s debt level, insisting the country had a revenue challenge, and not a debt problem, adding that the debt level was still within sustainable limits.
She had said, “This is to restate, that the debt level of the Federal Government is still within sustainable limits. Borrowings are essentially for capital expenditure and human development as specified in Section 41(1) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007.
“Having witnessed two economic recessions we have had to spend our way out of recession, which contributed significantly to the growth in the public debt. “It is unlikely that our recovery from each of the two recessions would have been as fast without the sustained government expenditure funded partly by debt.”
However, economic experts, including a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and former presidential candidate, Kingsley Moghalu, have countered the minister.
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