Updated: Feb 7
A Review of the book: ‘Cocaine Hoppers’ by: Dr. Jude Roys Oboh.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. It is the Lion of Africa, with a population of over 200 million, and at least 3/5 of that is made up of the youth. This provides a large market for any commodity or product that finds its way into its shores.
In the last decade, drug abuse and trafficking have become extremely popular in the country, and many Nigerians have been arrested. Even some executed, both at home and abroad, while a significant portion of its youth and even grownups with money have been sucked into the vortex of drug use and abuse.
Drug abuse is a serious problem everywhere in the world and has had a devastating impact on Nigeria. According to the book: Cocaine Hoppers by Dr. Jude Roys Oboh, Nigeria plays a massive role in global cocaine trafficking due to its position as a:
1. Consumer country: Its large population and position in Africa makes it an excellent consumer country and, unfortunately, a profitable drug market.
2. Transit country: Due to its geographic location directly across the Atlantic Ocean, making import and export easy.
3. Nigerians in diaspora: Nigerian citizens are spread worldwide. They have a broad reach and influence.
Its connection to Latin America and Brazil, and recently, its alliance with China, leads to its participation in drug trafficking. Brazil is just another Transit country; cocaine is made in Colombia.
Internal unrest, poverty, and corruption make it possible for the drug trade to flourish. In contrast, technological advances in recent decades have made it impossible to stop. Nigeria transitioned from a military to a Democratic government, which hadn’t helped with the corruption that breeds criminals and organized gangs. The corrupt elite, which seeks to enrich themselves, fast go into the drug business and coerce or entice poor citizens to traffic the drugs for them in exchange for financial gains. They are the ones responsible for the importation of different types of drugs into the country and the widespread drug abuse among the citizens.
According to Dr. Oboh, Nigeria’s history of Instability and unrest makes it a ripe territory for the rising drug trade. In the past decade, many Nigerians have been arrested and executed at home and abroad, and millions of dollars worth of drugs and cash have been confiscated.
Nigeria tops the list of trafficking and user countries in West Africa, and over 170,000 Nigerians are in prison in Europe. Not all cases are reported, so it's hard to get accurate figures. The activities of Nigerian drug traffickers subject many Nigerians to unnecessary humiliation worldwide.
Nigeria also exports to countries such as the US, the UK, Indonesia, and China.
According to UNODC reports, illicit drugs include cannabis, Cocaine, Opiates, amphetamine-type stimulants, and new psychoactive substances, and trafficking is a worldwide phenomenon (2016). He argued that cocaine was foreign to West Africa until the 1970s military regime era, which was rife with corruption. But the presence of drugs in Nigeria can be traced back much further, all the way to WWII when returnee veterans brought Cannabis into the country. Slavery and colonialism are also culprits, and even speculations of some of the missionaries being guilty of the crime of introducing illicit drugs to Africa.
By 2022, Nigeria will stand as one of the top drug trafficking countries in the world. Between January 2021 and August 2022, the NDLEA secured 3,111 convictions, seized 5.4 million kilograms of illicit substances, and had brief interventions and counseling/rehabilitation for over 12,326 drug users. Channels TV 9 Nov. 2022.
THE EPIDEMIC OF DRUG ABUSE IN NORTHERN NIGERIA.
Growing up in Yola, Adamawa State, a very conservative part of Northern Nigeria. Narcotics and illicit drugs were something I only saw in movies and on Tv. It is not something that I ever thought would find its way to my state. However, by 2022, it will be so widespread that many of our youth have fallen victim to drug abuse, robbing them of their future and destroying our society. Many were introduced to it through friends in secondary schools, and they succumbed to peer pressure. Some came from broken homes and found solace in drugs. Women and girls who are usually victims of forced or unhappy marriages are also not left behind.
ACCESS TO DRUGS
Pharmacists have become greedy, and they release pharmaceuticals quickly without a prescription. You can walk into any of the thousands of pharmacies in the North and buy prescription medication without any prescription from a doctor. Few pharmacists will insist on one as they value money over protocol, and the regulatory bodies are either inept or too corrupt to stop it.
Some of the drugs widely taken are Rathanol. Codeine, Diazepam, Exol, D5 silver, Tramadol, pain killers, Benelyn. Those can easily be gotten from Pharmacies, while hard drugs like cocaine, cannabis, and heroin, otherwise known as weewee, can be bought from drug dealers.
Some of the youth that cannot afford the expensive drugs resort to other unconventional methods of getting high, such as:
1. Soaking rusted nails in water overnight and drinking them to get high.
2. Sniffing soakaways and soaking rags in dirty pit toilets or gutters and then sniffing them to get high on the methane.
Many factors are to be blamed for the monumental rise in drug abuse in Northern Nigeria, and poverty and lack of employment are at the top of that list. Nigeria has a large population of over 200 million, and most of its youth are unemployed. According to an article in Daily Trust on 30 Aug 2022 on 'National Drugs, Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has said that there are 14.3 million Nigerians abusing drugs in the country while three million of them are already dependent on drugs'. A large percentage of those drug abusers were youth and women in the country, particularly in northern Nigeria. That is alarming. Many of them come from poor or broken and unhappy homes. Lack of parental care and guidance, peer pressure in schools, high cost of living, and primarily unemployment led to depression and the feeling of worthlessness. Girls and women are mostly victims of forced or unhappy marriages. Society pressures girls to marry and pushes them into abusive homes. Some manage to get divorced but then deal with stigmatization from the same society. They all find solace in the pleasurable escape that the drugs provide them. It is born out of a cry for help, and many try to stop it subsequently, but their bodies have become adapted and dependent on it, so they cannot control it. Negligence of the authorities involved makes the spread more accessible and faster. Most drugs mentioned above are easily bought from pharmacists without a prescription. They only care about money and hardly regulate its use of it. Corruption from police officers tasked with arresting and prosecuting offenders and the involvement of some of the high-profile citizens in the importation and distribution of drugs make it extremely hard to control. There is a lot of money to be made in selling and distributing the drugs, and demand is highly dependent on the addiction of the youth. That is why some of the well-to-do are involved in it.
1. We should focus on the human aspect. There should be a difference in how the authorities deal with dealers and users. Users are Victims. They are addicted and cannot help themselves. They need help and rehabilitation, not arrest. When thrown in jail for their addiction, they only get worse because they meet corrupt individuals who take advantage of them, and even though they stay away from the drugs while in prison, it only makes them crave more for it, and as soon as they get out, they overdose. Therefore, when arrested, they should be taken to rehabilitation centers and given therapy. Dealers, on the other hand, are the ones corrupting society. They should face the full wrath of the law. pharmacies should be regulated, and law violators should be punished regardless of status.
2. Parents, teachers, and caregivers should be educated on recognizing early detection of drug use in their wards and how to react. Guidance counselors should be trained on the issue and supported. Government should create and fund organizations and NGOs, etc, that would go to schools and homes to educate the public on the issue of drugs and how to deal with addicts and addiction.
3. Government should also create meaningful employment opportunities and programs to keep youth engaged and off the streets. The youth are full of energy and if that energy is not directed at something productive, they can easily be misguided and used by corrupt individuals for nefarious purposes. Drugs is one of the ways they control them and blur their good judgment to do anything they want. So, keeping them occupied and off the streets, either through employment or recreational activities, is one way to curb drug abuse among the youth in Northern Nigeria. Places of worship should also organize programs to help their members and keep the youth busy. They should also provide counseling and, mentoring.
4. The government should regulate food and commodities prices to curb rising inflation and help the poor. As I stated earlier, poverty is one of the leading causes of drug abuse among the youth. Inflation is an ever-rising thing in the country, and marketers make all the rules without government regulations. That will only lead to disaster unless the government takes steps to control the situation, things will only get worse.
5. We should take the issue of mental health seriously. People should be educated on the issue of therapists and encouraged to go for counseling. They should understand that not everything is a spiritual problem and that medical intervention may be the way. Hospitals should have rehabilitation sections that the government should fund to make counseling affordable for the poor. The NDLEA and relevant authorities should also regulate those rehabilitation centers. The issue of bullying and harassment in rehabilitation centers should be addressed.
6. Parents should pay attention to what their children are doing at all times, the company they keep, and question what they bring home. Authorities and religious bodies should regulate marriage and divorce and, most significantly, custody of children to ensure that children of divorce are taken care of to prevent them from falling victim to abusers. The issue of Almajiri should also be checked and regulated.
In conclusion, drug trafficking is a global problem. Nigeria has made significant efforts in the past two years to tackle the issue and has recorded unprecedented success in the arrests and rehabilitation of culprits. Through collaborating with African countries, Nigeria is winning the war against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking. More effort is still required to curb the menace at home, but with cooperation from all of us, there is hope for the future.
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