Towards addressing the rise in substance use and addiction by young Nigerians, MTN Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of the mobile telecommunication giant- MTN, has commenced the second edition of its Anti-Substance Abuse Programme (ASAP) quiz competition for secondary school students in Nigeria.
The competition is organised in collaboration with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
ASAP, according to the foundation, was launched in 2019 “as a platform to promote awareness about the dangers of substance abuse and addiction and to reduce first-time substance use and casual substance among young Nigerians.”
The foundation noted in a statement that 18 schools across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria with a prevalence of high rate of substance abuse were selected for the quiz competition by the NDLEA and the UNODC.
Young people between the ages of 15 and 35 are more involved in drug abuse, according to data provided by the NDLEA’s Director of Drug Demand Reduction, Ngozi Maduibuike.
Essence of ASAP
The NDLEA Director further noted that the rate of Nigerians suffering from drug use disorders has “become worrisome hence the need to raise awareness through the inter-school quiz competition.”
“Studies have shown that 14.3 million Nigerians use psychoactive substances with 1 in 5 persons who use drugs in Nigeria suffering from drug use disorders,” she noted.
“We need to raise more students who will act as champions in the fight against drug abuse. We hope to provide students with coping skills to help them deal with peer pressure to take drugs. We know that many people who first start using drugs have done so through the pressure of their friends.”
Speaking on the partnership with NDLEA and UNODC on the quiz competition, the Executive Secretary of the Foundation, Odunayo Sanya, said, “The reality of substance abuse in our community is one we must no longer ignore.
“In 2019, MTN, through its Foundation, initiated the Anti Substance Abuse Programme (ASAP) in partnership with NDLEA and UNODC. We remain committed to driving the ASAP message through multi-sectoral partnerships because we believe the fight against substance abuse is everyone’s fight.”
According to a 2021 World Drug Report, Nigeria could have 20 million drug users by 2030, a challenge further exacerbated by the reality that many Nigerian students may no longer believe in the dangers of substance abuse.
The report noted that though the potency of cannabis has quintupled in the last 24 years, the percentage of adolescents who perceived the drug as harmful fell by as much as 40 per cent, leading to more risk of first-time abuse in adolescents.
According to a UN report, by 2030, the number of substance users in Africa, the world’s youngest continent, will have increased by 40 per cent.
A 2018 study conducted by African Healthcare Services on substance use among secondary school students in Oyo state found that the proportion of respondents who were substance abusers was higher among students who had not received any formal lectures on substance abuse at school compared to those who had been taught.
To address this gap, non-profit initiatives and government agencies have launched programmes and campaigns to raise awareness against substance abuse in youths.
To address the issues, the MTN Foundation, through its ASAP, created a quiz competition to help make substance abuse education more entertaining and comprehensible for young students.
Updates on second edition of ASAP
Giving updates on ASAP, the foundation noted in the statement that following the elimination stage of the competition, six finalists would be competing for the grand prize on Friday in Abuja.
The finalists include PTA/NADP International College, Lafia, Nasarawa State; Girls’ Secondary School, Abakpa-Nike, Enugu, Enugu State; Girls Secondary School, Yola, Adamawa State; Katsina College, Katsina State; Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo State, and Anglican Girls Grammar School, Benin-City, Edo State.
The first stage of the quiz competition was said to have been moderated by the NDLEA’s Mrs Maduibuike, Team Leader, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Abimbola Adewumi, and the Assistant Director, Drug Demand Reduction Directorate of NDLEA, Chigbu Odoemelam.
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