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LASKADA: Breaking the jaws of drug abuse

Tuesday, 28 August 2018


The ongoing International Youth Camp (IYC), with the theme ‘Awakening Humanity in Youth and Fostering Generational Z Leaders’ organized by the Nigerian Red Cross, is targeted at combating drug abuse. The camping exercise, which started August 26 to end on September 2, is in progress at the Resettlement Camp, Igando, in Ikotun-Igando Local Council Development Area (LCDA) Lagos State. This year’s edition of the camp is somewhat timely coinciding with the national urgency to rescue our youths from the claws of drug abuse. 

Aside from the recent ban of codeine, the government has been making efforts to tackle drug abuse, which is currently a global concern. One of such interventions is Lagos Kicks Against Drug Abuse (LASKADA) recently launched by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. Speaking about the initiative, Governor Ambode said “This campaign tagged: `Lagos State Kicks against Drug Abuse (LASKADA)’ is a clarion call and a reminder of our responsibility as individuals, organisations and society to rise and safeguard our collective future. We must condemn in strong terms, the excessive and persistent self-administration of drugs without regard to medical prescription. As a responsible government, we will not fold our arms and allow this unhealthy practice to create a blurry future for our tomorrow. This is what informed the establishment of Youth-friendly Centres in all the Local Government Areas and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs). These are to serve as avenues for relaxation and recreation as well as to further engage our youths in productive ventures so that the menace of drug abuse can be drastically reduced.’’ He also mentioned that Drug Dependent Rehabilitation Centres located in Isheri and Majidun were established to give support to the young ones addicted to drugs.

Mrs. Adebola Kolawole, the Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Red Cross (Lagos Branch), said “In Lagos, drug abuse is something everybody is campaigning against, and we are working with the Lagos State Kick Against Drug Abuse (LASKADA).” This is kind of collaboration we need to fight this epidemic. At the federal level, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) needs to redouble its effort to block all avenues through which these drugs get into the hands of our young ones. Handling this social vice with kid gloves is the most unreasonable thing to do.  Given the enormous scale of this problem, we need strategic collaborations between the government/nongovernmental organizations and the private sector considering the critical need for information, resources and volunteers. For instance, there is a need to get current information on the different kinds of drugs abused and prime locations where drug addicts congregate. Insights gathered from studies should also be shared. It would also help to reward citizens who send useful information to law enforcement agents, especially leads to arrest “merchants of death” who go about selling these destructive drugs.

More and more volunteers will be needed to work with government social workers to help out on the field. Training is of essence. The volunteers need to be trained and motivated properly. Young people ought to be encouraged to participate in this kind of life-saving project. This writer was particularly delighted when Mr. Agboola Dabiri, the Commissioner of Youth and Social Development said that the Lagos Kicks Against Drug Abuse (LASKADA) was birthed from his parley with the Divisional Youth Ambassadors that emerged from IBILE Youth Academy of last year. As part of their efforts to make a difference, the ambassadors had gone to secondary schools to sensitize their students on the dangers of drug abuse. This is exactly what happens when youths are included in the process of decision-making and governance. It’s time we involved young people in the process of building our great nation.  

Enlightenment about the dangers of abuse must continue in schools, churches, mosques, in public fora and everywhere young people can be found including the rural areas. The media needs to help us bring to the fore burning issues that touch on the economic progress and wellbeing of our society. Mass media organizations are great opinion moulders. Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in Public Opinion Quarterly in 1972 pointed to the agenda setting function of the mass media. They suggested that the media tells people the important issues to think about. In the light of this, television stations, newspapers, magazines, radio stations, blogs and other online platforms can help to focus on the destructive effects of drug abuse and appeal for action from parents, regulators, civil society groups, religious leaders, educationists and government at all levels. To complement the enlightenment programme, we need stiffer penalties to deter both distributors and abusers of these harmful drugs.

The unsettling revelation that came out of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)’s investigation on drug abuse earlier in the year awakened our legislators to their oversight/lawmaking duties but sadly codeine had already wreaked a lot of havoc. In her report titled “How cough syrup in Nigeria is creating a generation of addicts”, BBC’s Ruona Meyer explained that “…codeine is in the same chemical family as heroin. It's an effective painkiller, but is also capable of giving you a euphoric high if consumed in large quantities. It is highly addictive and, taken in excess, can have a devastating impact on the mind and body.” The question on my mind: why is it that we often wait for things to go bad or become worse before we do the needful? The production and importation of codeine has been banned by the Senate and the war against drug abuse is being intensified.  Like it’s said, better late than never.

We have so many government agencies that are heavily funded every year yet we hardly feel their impact. It is when there is a negative development like this or the media beams its light on issues that touch on them that such agencies start looking for a way to remedy the situation. The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) was like that for long until the late Professor Dora Akunyili got in the saddle. Appointing people who have no demonstrable sense of patriotism and credentials to head government agencies is a disservice to the nation.

By and large, we need robust networking, coordinated response, continuous enlightenment, political will and relentless enthusiasm to break the jaws of this Mephistophelian menace and salvage the precious lives of our young ones and the future of our nation. 

Idowu Omisore, youth development advocate, writes from Lagos.

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