Abuse Of Psychoactive Drugs In Nigeria – Our Problem By Prof. Christianah Mojisola Adeyeye
December 6, 2018,
Speech By Prof. Christianah Mojisola Adeyeye
Director General NAFDAC
Flag-Off Of Drug Abuse Awareness Campaign
Kano Coronation Hall
6th December, 2018
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to be with you in the historic city of Kano for the National flag off of the drug abuse education and awareness campaign on the menace of drug abuse in Nigeria and to discuss – Abuse of Psychoactive Drugs in Nigeria – Our Problem. The topic is extremely important because of the segment of the nation that is most affected – our children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, mothers and fathers. In December 2017, I joined the Senate Roundtable Conference on “Substance Abuse Epidemic in Nigeria”, in Kano. Since then, I have had opportunities to speak on the same issue in Kebbi, Yobe, Abuja, Benin and in other gatherings.
Kano is home to early industrialization with the great groundnut pyramids and one of the largest trading centres in West Africa. It is the second largest commercial centre in Nigeria and the largest in Northern Nigeria. Kano has maintained its cultural and Islamic identity and has remained the largest and most prosperous province of the old Sokoto Caliphate.
Your Excellencies, every victim of drug abuse belongs to a family and every family belongs to a community of households. The recent household drug use survey revealed that prescription drug abuse is a fast-emerging public health problem that has led to increasing poly-drug use amongst drug dependent persons. It is undermining all efforts to deepen socio-economic development and is associated with crime and lawlessness.
It is high time we woke up to this epidemic that is destroying the families, the workforce, destabilizing our economy and that poses a great threat to the future of good governance in Nigeria. As the Director General of NAFDAC, I have spent a significant amount of time on issues relating to control of psychoactive drugs such as codeine and tramadol and their abuse.
The drug abuse trend is disturbing, especially in Northwestern Nigeria, where it is estimated that 70% of the boys in Kano are on drugs while a lot of young girls and women of childbearing age abuse drugs in order to overcome frustrations. The history of Kano is one of discipline, hard work, commerce, industry and learning. The good people of Kano by historical antecedents, therefore, have no business being at the epicentre of the scourge of the drug abuse problem.
How did we get to this point in our country?
Family Structure: It takes a village to raise a child but it begins with the mother and father. To raise children is not an easy task; it is a lifelong process that takes enormous amount of love, presence and time. We need to go back to the way it was 50 years ago when the father and mother were present to set boundaries for their children. A child does not need too much, just love, shelter and food. As the child grows, it needs all these plus more time, courage and tough love.
I speak from practical experience having co-raised our three children and now supporting our children to raise their children. By the grace of God, my husband and I have two orphan homes and are raising twenty other children from pre-school through university. God has endowed us in Nigeria with this capacity to help each other, let us use the gift. As a people, let us go back to our culture of “it takes a village to raise a child”. Many of us older ones were raised this way. We have the capacity. If a neighbour tells you your child is misbehaving, don’t be easily defensive; think about it and have a dialogue with your child and discipline him/her appropriately.
Role of the Teachers: Our teachers have great roles to play in the fight against drug abuse. Growing up, our teachers and principals joined hands with our parents as a village to raise us up. I enjoined teachers to continue to work with parents or guardians of the youths to point out when they observe behavioural problems in a child and to count their work as part of building the society.
Role of Religious Centres: The church and mosques and other centres should look inward and prioritize their messages to their congregations. It is written that children should respect their parents but at the same time parents should not exasperate their children. We can make life difficult for our children if we don’t take care of them. We can drive them into the hands of drug dealers. We need to change our focus and concentrate on the youths – their emotional wellbeing, their physical needs and spiritual concerns. It is high time we started talking about taking care of our bodies to ensure that drug abuse that will destroy lives is avoided.
Kano State with its over 98% Muslim population and a rich culture that is not separable from Islam should therefore take the lead in addressing the menace of drug abuse in order to achieve a drug free Nigeria. Islam has emphatically stated the need to look after the family and has clearly prohibited the consumption of intoxicants of all categories including alcohol, codeine and tramadol.
Role of the Drug Manufacturers and Importers: The manufacturers are also important stakeholders in the stemming of the menace of drug abuse by ensuring that codeine, tramadol and other substances of abuse do not get into the hands of our people. The local manufacturers and some importers are willing to partner with our Agency for the campaign against drug abuse. We invite them to introspectively decide what will be the best way to fight drug abuse. Most of the drugs of abuse are imported from other countries especially those in South-East Asia. As an organization, NAFDAC is encouraging local manufacturing that would create jobs for our youths.
Stopping exportation of psychoactive drugs into Nigeria: NAFDAC is assiduously working with governments in South-East Asia to stop allowing drugs that will destroy our youths to leave their shores. For example, the prescription strengths of tramadol for medical purpose are 50 mg and 100 mg and they can be imported and prescribed with stricter controls. However, the higher strengths of 120, 225 and 500 mg are being exported and marked as “For Exports Only” by China and India and being shipped to Nigeria. These strengths are not allowed in these countries but they don’t see any problem in exporting them to our country. Therefore, plans for high-powered discussion are underway to have a bilateral agreement that what is not good for their countries should not be shipped to our country.
A clarion call is being made to those involved in illicit and dangerous drugs to wish for their families what they wish for those who have become addicted to the illicit drugs that they bring into the country. Let us come together to build our workforce through eschewing drugs of abuse that are destroying our youths. The quality of workforce of tomorrow depends on what is done today.
Role of the government: The role of government in the life and aspirations of the youths is one of the pillars in the society. Due to decades of decay, our manufacturing industry is not strong enough for big job creations and employment. Similarly, as a result of poor attention by past administrations, educational system is very fragile and fraught with little or no preparations for research and development, translatable research and therefore lack of innovatively manufactured goods. The outcomes are little opportunities for employment.
The National Assembly could help to rid the menace of drug abuse by raising the tempo nationally through the support of the Drug Safety Bill that will impose stiffer sentences for drug peddlers instead of arresting the youths that have become the victims of drug addiction. Our judiciary should stand up against drug abuse because the addiction to drug has touched most families in Nigeria and it may touch the families we think are immune.
NAFDAC’s Investigation and Enforcement Directorate is working day and night to ensure the prosecution of drug peddlers. Three persons involved in the distribution of the banned tramadol have been arraigned at the Federal High Court, Lagos. The Agency secured the conviction of one of the distributors and the court ordered the destruction of the seized consignment. In addition, three pharmaceutical companies were temporarily shut down over poor distribution practice of codeine-containing syrup and sanctioned.
The Agency has also arraigned the distributor of codeine cough mixture exposed in a BBC documentary on codeine abuse aired in May 2018 at the Federal High Court, Lagos. Prior to this, other persons had been arraigned for the sale and distribution of counterfeit Codeine-containing cough mixture. All our efforts could be more impactful if stiffer sentences can be imposed to serve as deterrents.
Continued Role of NAFDAC: Our Agency started the campaign against drug abuse several years ago before the BBC documentary on codeine but with NAFDAC’s absence at the ports, the campaign had little or no impact. Since my resumption, we have intercepted 86 containers that have tramadol and other unregistered products. In May 2018, we destroyed twenty-five (25) containers of tramadol worth one billion, seven hundred and eight million, seven hundred and fifty thousand naira (N1,708,750,000).
Having being returned to the ports and borders by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration in May 2018, NAFDAC has been able to control and seize more tramadol and unregistered products worth more than 200 billion naira. Most recently, NAFDAC blocked twenty-three (23) 40ft containers (as part of the 86 containers) recently jointly-examined with Nigerian Customs. The shipments contained Tramadol of various strengths from 120mg to 250mg and other unregistered pharmaceutical products that are known to be injurious to the health of the public, most importantly our youths.
Prevention of these dangerous drugs from entering into the Nigerian markets would protect millions of youths from hazards of drug addiction that can pose threat to families, Nigerian workforce and the security of the nation at large. This would have increased the number of casualties from insurgency, armed robbery and other social vices that are known to be the aftermath effect of use of illicit drugs. Those containers will be destroyed very soon.
Our campaign against drug abuse is not just in inspection, seizure and destruction. NAFDAC has taken the war against drug abuse to the grass roots. I have engaged young pharmacists to join NAFDAC for awareness and education campaign on drug abuse termed – Youth Against Drug Abuse (YADA). That is what brought us to Kano for the flag off.
Role of Younger Generation: Young Pharmacists Group is a focus group within the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria. They are spread across the country and understand the language and culture of any environment from where they work. They will work with junior and senior secondary school students in order to catch them young and prevent lives of addiction and destruction. The programme is not a one off. The NAFDAC’s Governing Council has supported the sustainability, therefore, the impact will be long lasting.
Why are we concerned about drug abuse? Why the YADA program?: Aside from the destruction of the family, the workforce, the gratification or satisfaction that a person may get from abuse of drugs such as tramadol or codeine is short-lived. There is PAY DAY SOME DAY. This comes in form of the dangerous effects on the body. These drugs cause hallucination, nausea, tremor, seizures, vomiting, addiction, severe sleepiness which has resulted in coma and death in Nigeria. Tramadol-use disorder is associated with physical withdrawal symptoms and compulsive behaviour.
How do we get out of this problem? Let us go back to our roots, our cultural norms and the traditional family where fathers play their roles as providers, mothers nurture the family and also support the family financially. Let our religious centres preach family and protection of our youths from ravages of drug abuse. Let our government do more to reverse the decays of decades of failed governments. Let us provide treatment and rehabilitation centres for those that are addicted. Let our legislators and judiciary rise up to defend the family and our children by passing the Drug Safety Bill that will impose stiffer penalties for drug peddlers. Let the importers of dangerous and illicit drugs realize the next person that may die from addiction may be their relatives or friends. Let all government inspecting and enforcement Ministries, departments and agencies realize that the fight against drug abuse is a fight for the future of Nigeria. May God protect Nigeria and may God bless us all.
Prof Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye, PhD, FAS
Director General NAFDAC