NDLEA warns of new ways of drug abuse as COVID-19 worsens Nigeria’s drug status

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has warned Nigerians, especially on a new style of drug abuse that puts the children and youth populations at greater risks.

This is as the Rivers State Commander of the agency, Ambassador, Rachael Shelleng, also stated that the Coronavirus pandemic of 2019 worsened the nation’s drug status from a transit (courier) to a consumer nation.

The Rivers State Commander, made the revelation in Port Harcourt when the leadership of the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) paid a visit to the NDLEA to understand how the drugs war was shaping on in the state.

She added that besides the challenges of loss of jobs and crash of the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic provoked heavy consumption pattern in the youths.

She explained that the drugs dealers turned to heavy consumers because they could not move across the states to peddle drugs adding that the situation also led to the cheapness of hard drugs and thus availability to consumers who seemed to sit all day consuming drugs due to restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

She admitted that there are also drugs problems in Rivers State which seems to fuel youth restiveness, cultism and crime saying that drug abuse was very high in Rivers State with cocaine and heroin being the most abuse drugs in the state.

She said there was a correlation between violent crime and drugs and lamented that drugs are massively destroying the youth.

“Drugs also fuel terrorism such as Boko Haram and those who boldly attack police stations, Shelleng stated, adding;

“When we catch them, see how they break down the moment the effect of drugs wears out. They hardly show the same zeal they had before the attacks.”

The State Commander wondered if most states knew how deeply drugs had eaten into their societies and the full impact of drug abuse in their areas and thus the value of fighting drugs they would have pumped more resources and articulated robust policies for a full-scale war against drugs menace.

Shelleng stated: “It is having a devastating impact on parents. Often, they come here to report very bad cases involving their wards and you need to see them weeping. The US does not joke about drug issues. Nigeria has moved from being a couriers nation to a drug consumer nation.”

She lamented over the lack of adequate logistics support such as vehicles to go after the barons but commended the Rivers State government for donating three vehicles. “We have six commands plus state headquarters. Much help is needed.

“We also need vehicles to take accused persons to court regularly. Often, when the vehicle has gone to court, we get calls that somebody we have been tracking is seen somewhere. It’s a huge challenge. We need more vehicles. The recent visit of the NDLEA chairman, Buba Warwa, helped us with the donation of vehicles.

“Our operatives are ready to give the drug barons a fight but logistics challenges cause huge drawback. We know that the Federal Government knows the importance of fighting drug abuse though it also has its financial constraints. That is why we plead with the states to work closely with the NDLEA state commands to deepen the fight.

“If Nigerian does not tackle drug menace, citizens may soon find it difficult to even move on the streets. Parents must take responsibility. We urge them to make friends with their children so they can read them and interpret them early.

“They must know what is happening to each child. Parents these days seem to pay more attention to paying school fees and expect that that school would play parents’ role. Look, the school cannot replace the parent.

“Candies are now sold even in supermarkets. They are now dangerous because they are getting laced with drugs. Children eat them and soon get addicted. These drugs are addictive.

“Look out for early signs in your growing child such as wearing dark glasses (they do not want you to look into their eyes and read it), withdrawal syndrome, aggressiveness, heavy perfuming to kill off the odour.

“Parents should be able to notice these signs early and sit down with such a child. If it gets more than this, involve the NDLEA so that the soft side of the agency can come in quickly.”

She gave patterns in Rivers State and said all drugs are being abused. “Rivers State is involved in all drugs especially cocaine, heroin. Ice (metanephrine) is now being produced in illicit labs in Nigeria and its use is now widespread. Drug users prefer it for its instant hit on their nervous system.

“It looks like Ajinomoto seasoning ingredient. It hits harder than other drugs. It reacts faster to the central nervous system. We suspect nearby labs either within or nearby states. We are still searching. Rivers people just like drugs.”

On what can be done to save Nigeria from drugs, Shelleng and her top operatives point at unemployment as a major issue.

“Idleness after school seems to be the first. Young men finish school and remain unemployed for years. They soon suffer depression and begin to embrace drugs. So, unemployment is fueling drug abuse. They are rather victims and they get caught and wasted by security agencies.”

The State Commander pleaded with all governments to elevate job creation as an urgent task. “As a matter of urgency, don’t allow the youths to remain idle. It is an explosive situation. Let job creation be the new focus of every government, not just as a social benefit but now as a security measure.

“Again, there is a need for mass education and awareness on radio and other media outlets. Aggressive enlightenment is needed urgently. There is a need for fortification of operations with good logistics back up to NDLEA.

She advised parents to be friends with their children and closely monitor their development changes. “Tell your children and wards especially the infants never to collect anything at school to eat. The family foundation is weak these days thus making youth grow up without strong resistance fibre to fight vices and drugs early.”

Earlier, the leader of the delegation of journalists, Amaechi Okonkwo, explained that correspondents were crucial in reporting the fight against drug abuse.

“We realise that the NDLEA in Port Harcourt is under-reported and that a lot could be happening without public notice.

“We are here to seek closer collaboration so we get information backed by facts and report frequently. We also need to understand the challenges there are here so we can expose them to the larger society and to the federal and state governments.”

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