The Nigerian Senate on Tuesday called for an investigation of growing abuse of codeine cough syrup and other prospective drugs with a view to checking the menace said to be widespread among youth in the northern part of Nigeria..
Adopting a motion sponsored by Bashir Garbai (APC-Borno) and 37 other senators, the Senate noted that the misuse of these pharmaceutical drugs was plaguing the teeming population of youth in Northern Nigeria.
Mr. Garbai said while drug abuse especially cannabis and cocaine has for long been a problem among northern male youth, codeine cough syrup and other drugs were becoming “the new cancer ravaging the women and girls in the North”.
He referred to reports by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, that North West Nigeria has consistently had the highest number of drugs-related arrests in recent years, with 2,205 arrests in 2015.
The senator further noted that research shows that Kano and Jigawa states consume more than three million bottles of codeine syrup daily, as abusers take up to three to eight bottles daily.
He said the increasing abuse of cough syrups and other prescribed drugs among the youth and women across the 19 northern states in the country has resulted in “meaningless deaths, rendered them largely unproductive and has devastated many upper and middle class families in Northern Nigeria.”
Also making reference to reports about young girls in tertiary institutions in Northern Nigeria taking to mixing codeine syrup with soft drinks, the senator stressed that the problem was destroying even mothers at homes, as they use codeine and other drugs as an escape from abusive relationships and invariably get hooked on them.
Mr. Garbai, who stated that the NDLEA faces a tough challenge in dealing with the problem of these “pharma-narcotics” in the North, as the agency’s mandate does not cover the category of drugs being currently abused in the area, noted that a concerted effort of relevant stakeholders – government agencies, northern state governors and traditional rulers, religious clerics, educational institutions etc, was needed to combat the menace.
He urged that the Senate be committed to ensuring that the trend was halted in the interest of the people and society.
Supporting the motion, Barau Jibrin, (APC-Kano), described the trend as worrisome, warning that it would ruin the society if not dealt with.
Calling for stiff penalties, Mr. Jibrin said: “this is a menace. The youths as well as mothers are involved and it continues because the necessary penalties are soft. I urge the Senate and other necessary agencies to implement stiffer penalties”, he said.
The leader of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan (APC-Yobe), in supporting the motion, said the abuse of the drugs was causing the nation a huge loss in terms of human resources because it involves both the rich and the poor.
Mr. Lawan who frowned at the fact that most of the children involved in the abuse are out of school, said the future of every country depends on its youth and called for steps to check the menace.
He called for an amendment of the NDLEA Act and rehabilitation of those involved, by setting up rehabilitation centres in each geo-political zone. He advised that the motion be taken seriously.
Ben Murray Bruce (PDP-Bayelsa) said before trying to curtail the menace, it is necessary to know the reasons why the victims go into the use of drugs as well as sensitise them on the consequences.
He cited unemployment, misery, poverty, hopelessness and depression as some of the reasons for which people go into drugs.
“The economy needs to be in order and provide jobs as well as support businesses. The education sector needs to do everything possible to ensure that everyone involved is sent to school – at all levels and the National Orientation Agency should begin sensitisation especially about the consequences involved, ranging from suicide to robbery and even murder,” Mr. Murray-Bruce said.
The Senate thereafter resolved to mandate its Joint Committee on Drugs and Narcotics and Health to advise it on the needed legislative interventions to combat the menace.
It also resolved to urge the Federal Government to partner with relevant stakeholders, state and local governments, traditional rulers, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, NGOs to create a holistic framework in fighting the category of drug abuse especially in Northern Nigeria.
Other resolutions are: “To urge the National Food and Drug Agency, NAFDAC, to embark on a vigorous sensitisation campaign on the dangers of drug abuse and steps on achieving a successful rehabilitation for people with the addiction”, and
“Mandate the Government to provide drug rehabilitation centres and clinics where victims of drug abuse can go seek help when needed.”
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, called for amendment of the NDLEA Act and called on the Committees on Health and Narcotics to come up with a lasting means of curtailing the menace.
He also stressed that the establishment of drug rehabilitation centres is key and hoped that it is included in the 2018 budget.