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Drug trafficking/substance abuse: Prosecuting clampdown by collective responsibilities

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The network of drug trafficking have not ceased to expand its tentacles. It has grown to become Nigeria’s most gripping transnational organised crime growing in billions of dollars. On Sunday, 21st, August, 2022, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), again disclosed that it intercepted over 2.3million tablets of illicit pharmaceutical opioids and other psychoactive substances meant for distribution in seven Northern states. NDLEA Director, Media and Advocacy, Mr Femi Babafemi, in a statement, mentioned the states were Borno, Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Zamfara, Gombe and Nasarawa.

According to the statement, a total of 2,325,553.00 tablets and capsules of Tramadol, Pregabalin, Hypnox, Diazepam and Exol-5 were seized in all. This, included 7,353 bottles of a new psychoactive substance locally called ‘Akuskura’ meant for the seven states  that were seized from locations across Kaduna, Kogi, Sokoto, and the FCT.

Furthermore,  the statement disclosed that in Kaduna, a drug dealer, Umar Sanusi, was arrested on August 12, 2022, during a follow-up operation in Kano. “He was brought back to Kaduna where his consignment of 50 cartons of pregabalin 300mg, containing 750,000 capsules, weighing 375kgs earlier seized along Abuja-Kaduna expressway was counted and weighed in his presence. Same day, operatives also intercepted along Abuja-Kaduna express road 7,068 bottles of a new dangerous substance of abuse called ‘Akuskura’ meant for Kaduna, Zamfara, Gombe, Kano and Borno. The recipients in Kaduna and Zamfara had been arrested during follow-up operations” the statement read partly.

It was also disclosed in the statement  that on August 13, 2022, 285 bottles of ‘NPS’ were recovered from a dealer, Abubakar Ahmad, in Kaduna State. It mentioned that no fewer than 696,000 tablets of Tramadol and Exol-5 among others, were also seized. They were loaded into a truck at Onitsha, Anambra State and heading to Maiduguri, Borno State, only to be seized along Okene-Abuja expressway on Friday, 19th, 2022. Also, NDLEA operatives had also recovered 300,000 tablets of Diazepam from a suspect, Faruku Bello, 30, in Sokoto State on Wednesday, 17th August, 2022.

“Anti-narcotic officers of the agency in Abuja, FCT, equally at the weekend intercepted a bus loaded with 323, 200 tablets of Tramadol 225mg and others at Onitsha, Anambra State, heading to Nasarawa State. Driver of the vehicle, Osita Nwobodo, 45, who made fruitless bids to compromise the operatives is now in custody,” the statement read.

No doubt, the fight against the misadventure of drug trafficking and the delinquency of drug abuse must be overarching and systemic as the strings have grown to establish a stronghold in the Country. Only concerted efforts can exterminate the outstretched strings of the network. It is apparent that mere clampdown with the use of force to arrest suspects and make seizures have not yielded the desiratum, hence reflecting its insufficiency to fight the misadventure and the menaces which it has clustered to spring forth.

The socio-economic impacts of the chains of the exchanges of the illicit venture and the abuse of substances have not been mild on the Nigerian society, nor has its grip been mean on the entire fabrics of the polity as a whole. The heightening of crime records and insecurity scourge in the country have not been unconnected with the pervasiveness and proliferation of hard substances, the abuse of which has been closely knitted to crimes and social delinquencies, which in their gripping impacts have posed threats to the socio-economic and political fabrics, among other working structures of the Nigerian society.

The fight against the illegitimate network is one demanding collective responsibilities, requiring efforts of all relevant institutions, bodies, and all meaningful citizens. The role of the Government is essential to set the campaign in perspective, while the contributions of non governmental organisations, including civil society organisations, religious institutions, the media, socio-cultural groups, among others must flow concertedly, as the scourge posed by the menaces clustering around the network of drug trafficking and its abuse is one posing macro effects, impacting all fabrics and classes of citizens at large. While the Government has the preserve of the use of force, the role and significance of all other institutions of the society cannot be downplayed to have an elaborate meaningful fight to prosecute a clampdown on the misadventure.

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Editorial

Articulated vehicles and the scourge of avoidable deaths

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Nigerians across the country continue to die utterly preventable deaths thanks to a lack of political will on the part of its leaders. It is an ugly fate thrust upon its citizens to live in a country whose economy is built upon the blood of the ordinary people, not out of sacrifice, but nonchalance. Articulated vehicles wipe out families, dreams, and human capital in one fell swoop. Press statements from the leaders are not enough. We need the May 2024 immediacy of the Tinubu administration in this sector too.

Last week, a falling container killed a woman in the Ogudu area of Lagos. The woman was inside a car when the fully loaded 40ft Mack articulated truck fell on it, leading to her instant death, according to the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).

In October 2023, a businessman identified as Akuma Kalu, was crushed to death by a 40-feet container that fell on his car along the failed portion of Etche-Ngokpala road in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers state.

In September 2023, five women died in a fatal accident that occurred in the early hours of Friday at Odumodu Junction, Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area along Awka Road, Anambra State. As usual, the container of the truck fell upon the bus carrying these people, killing them. We could go on and on. The story remains the same: tragedy upon tragedy.

Every year, the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, does sensitisation with little result to show for it because the arm of the law is too short to punish offenders at the root of the problem. The constant assault on the senses has led to a desensitisation on the part of the populace. Month after month, another story of a truck that erases a family, or multiple families because its brakes fail, or its container is overturned. The combination of the death of empathy on the part of leaders and the emotional exhaustion of the citizens will lead Nigeria down the path of a dystopia.

The governors of each state have a responsibility to institute laws to protect the indigenes. This, the Federal Government must also do nationwide. The FRSC has rules and regulations for trucks. The Government needs to only enforce these rules. Enough of blaming the trucks themselves because they are not the evil entities. The lack of accountability and a weak system perpetuates the dilemma.

The political class should not wait until Nigeria happens to one of their own before acting as is usually the case. Most cases bear the mark of immediate fatality. By the time a family member experiences it, it would have already been too late. We have hope that this administration will do what it takes to restore hope to the common man. Time to act is now.

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Editorial

Renewed Hope Initiative: Beating back inequality in all spheres

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Nigeria is full of inequalities that its leaders contend with administration after administration. With every President comes a partner who shares in the vision, and does her part to alleviate the pains of the citizens. Oluremi Tinubu has etched her name in the annals of history as one of such compassionate ones.

Recently, in Abeokuta she flagged off the Renewed Hope Initiative for women in agriculture and people living with disabilities nationwide in a bid to achieve this noble goal of equity in Nigeria.

“We are supporting 20 women farmers per state with the sum of N500,000 each. To this end, a draft of N10 million per state for the South West zone will be handed over to the first ladies of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo states who are the Renewed Hope Initiative (RHI) state coordinators for onward disbursement to all beneficiaries in their respective states,” she said.

“The Renewed Hope Initiative Social Investment Programme will be empowering 100 persons with disability, small business owners in Ogun State with a sum of N100,000 each to recapitalise their existing businesses.”

In Kebbi, represented by the Wife of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Fatima Tajuddeen Abbas, in Birnin Kebbi, she said, “Agriculture plays a pivotal role in achieving sustainable development and food security. Consequently, we are introducing ‘Every Home a Garden’ competition to encourage each Nigerian woman to cultivate a garden at home to feed the family and share with neighbours, we want to see food on every table.”

We commend the forward thinking and passion for national growth required for such a herculean task. If emulated in all quarters, it will stimulate the economy at the grassroots. It is well acknowledged that the government cannot do it alone. Private individuals who are capable must rise up to contribute to national growth.

It isn’t alien to the Nigerian condition, after all. The country was able to survive the assaults of the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the joint efforts of private individuals under the umbrella of Coalition Against COVID-19, CACOVID, a Private Sector task force in partnership with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The Renewed Hope Initiative joins the tradition of programmes committed to national improvement. History will look upon it kindly.

 

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Editorial

Increasing access to community healthcare

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Recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) decried the increasing threat to the right to health of millions of people across the world. The WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All has stated that 140 countries recognise health as a human right. Unfortunately, these countries are not passing and putting into practice laws to ensure that their citizens are entitled to access health services. According to the global health agency, about 4.5 billion people, over half of the world’s population, were not fully covered by essential health services in 2021.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, in her message underscored the fact that health is not only a fundamental human right, but also central to peace and security. According to her, addressing health inequities requires intentional efforts. Considerations of vulnerable groups must be addressed. Their needs ought to be purposefully integrated into health programmes at all levels to accelerate progress toward Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

‘My health, my right,’ the global agency used the occasion to call for action to uphold the right to health amidst inaction, injustice and crises. The year’s theme, according to the organisers, was chosen to champion the right of everyone, everywhere to have access to quality health services, education, and information, as well as safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination.

Moeti noted that many in the African region still need help with access to quality essential health services due largely to unfulfilled rights. She observed that this is further compounded by protracted and ongoing crises such as conflicts, climate change, food insecurity, disease outbreaks and epidemics.

Available figures show that the number of people aged 15 and over living with HIV is still high at an estimated 24.3 million in 2021 (3.4 percent of the total population) compared to 15.6 million in 2015. This underscores the continued transmission of HIV despite reductions in the incidence of people newly infected and the benefits of significantly expanded access to antiretrovirals. Moeti called on member states to uphold the progress towards fulfilling the right to health, agreed by all nations of the world in 1948 and enshrined in the WHO Constitution.

“The right to health is a universal right of all human beings, regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or another status,” Moeti stated.

Nigeria, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate, has reiterated the ministry’s commitment to ensure the health and wellbeing of all Nigerians. The minister is of the view that the right to health is not just the ideal, it is a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For millions of Nigerians, accessing quality healthcare is a challenge. However, the federal government has mapped out some initiatives to address the challenge. These include Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) and the Nigeria Health Sector Renewal and Investment Initiative and strategic partnerships through which the health ministry is ensuring access to health of Nigerians in remote communities across the country.

Unfortunately, the right to health for all Nigerians has not been enshrined in our laws. Therefore, we call on the federal and state lawmakers to make laws that will ensure the right to health of all Nigerians. We need laws that will ensure Universal Health Coverage for all Nigerians.

Such laws will ensure that every Nigerian has access to quality health at all times. These include having access to potable water, clean air, quality nutrition and quality housing, decent working environment and freedom from discrimination.

While the laws that will enforce the right to health of all Nigerians are being awaited, the government must improve access to health by ensuring that quality healthcare services are provided at the Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) across the 774 local government areas.

If the primary healthcare centres are functional, the nation’s disease burden would have been reduced by over 70 per cent. The government should provide free health services at the PHC level. For Nigeria to increase access to quality health for millions of Nigerians and ensure UHC, the health funding must be significantly increased.

Pathetically, it has become an eyesore that millions of Nigerians living at the grassroots don’t have access to quality healthcare services. This is a wakeup call to the various state Governors and their Chairpersons to reinvest in the health sector, especially the community people.

Most of the health institutions and healthcare facilities are in a dilapidated stage at the rural communities and there is no motivation for health personnel in terms of incentives, knowledge acquisition such as training and retaining of staff, the equipment in various hospitals and clinics are outdated. The federal government in partnership with international donors should reenergise in the health system for the betterment of the masses.

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