Drugs Abuse: Ebonyi CSO Inaugurates Peer Educators, Decry Inadequate Treatment Facilities/Manpower.

By Oswald Agwu, Abakaliki

In its efforts towards stemming the growing rate of drug abuse and dependence in Ebonyi State, a Civil Society Organisation, Development and Integrity Intervention Goals (DIG) Foundation, has inaugurated 18 peer educators on drug free action in the State.

The inauguration was the climax of a 3- day drug free action training and youth creativity camp organised by the CSO with funding from the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, UNODC.

The trained peer educators were drawn from eight focal local government areas in the State: Abakaliki, Afikpo South, Afikpo North, Ezza South, Ezza North, Ohaukwu, Ebonyi and Ikwo.

The training, also supported by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Ebonyi State Office was held from 1st to 3rd June, 2022, n Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital.

Speaking on the objectives of the training, the Executive Director, DIG foundation, Chief Oliver Chima Aja, stated that it was meant to expose participants to the dangers of drug abuse and the need to shun it, as well as equip them with requisite knowledge and skills to enable them avoid drug abuse, and influence their peers positively.

He explained that the training was a step down of the earlier trainings by the UNODC and the European Union which he benefitted from.

Ajah said: If you look at the challenges faced in terns of drug abuse issues in the country, and Ebonyi State in particular, especially this recent Mkpuru mmiri, you will understand the need for urgent action.

"Sometime last year, I was trained by UNODC in the project Response to Drug and related organized crime in Nigeria.

"And as a foremost zonal coordinator for Community Intervention Network on Drug, seeing situation of drugs in the country, I was worried.

" I had to apply and got approval for the UNODC programme for the 2020 session.

"We need to promote drug free actions among youths, especially now that the 2023 elections are around the corner."

Aja further explained that the project was initially meant for only 2 local government areas in the State: Abakaliki and Ezza South.

He however revealed that the scope was extended following stakeholders concerns during earlier engagements.

"The stakeholders such as the Ministry of Youths and sports, NDLEA, among others, requested that other drug prone local government areas be also included.' Aja added.

Resources persons at the training including the DIG Advisor, Dr. Emma Abah; the Assistant Commander, Drug Demand Reduction Department, NDLEA, Godwim Erepa and the Principal Psychologist, Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Eze Nsi Ude, took turns to educate participants on drug related concepts: causes of drug abuse, consequences, drug demand and reduction; economic, social and health implications of drug abuse, roles of youth leaders in drug abuse prevention as well as support and amelioration techniques.

Analysing the current global drug situation Erepa stated: "One third of the World's drug users are women.

" There are approximately 3.5 million female who inject drugs, out of estimated 12 million people who inject drugs.

"Estimated 10.8 million men and 3.4 million women reported past drug use in Nigeria.

Erepa emphasized that prevalence of drug abuse promotes indiscriminate sexual behaviours, violence and neurological disorders.

He identified low self esteem, Poverty, instability in character, Chaotic family/ broken homes, medical record and Peer influence as some of the causes of drug abuse.

He charged participants against stigmatizing drug users but to rather show them care and empathy.

Ude, in his presentations decried inadequate facilities and manpower for management and treatment of drug users, and called for concerted efforts by government and concerned individuals towards improving them.

"Globally, only 1 in 6 people that need treatment receive treatment.

"In Africa, it is one out of 18, and that is because of insufficient capacity.

Ude who recommended a minimum of 3 months treatment for drug dependence persons to achieve better result, identified major forms of treatment to include counselling, detoxification, abstinence based treatment, mutual help and support group as well as drug substitution programs.

DIG advisor, Abah, while admonishing the participants noted that there was a mutual link between drug and crimes such as killing, robbery, kidnapping, incest, and other forms of abuses and violence.

He charged participants to drive the outcome of the training home to their various communities and social groups.

Abah said: " You are now ambassadors to the fight against drug and crime.

"We have prepared you here as advocates to restore the dignity of our State and country, free from drugs."

Some of the peer educators who spoke to journalists, including Oluchi Nwite and Ifeanyi Nwokporo appreciated DIG and the UNODC for enriching their capacity.

They pledged to utilize the skills bequeathed to them in fighting drug abuse to a halt in their various jurisdictions

Also in attendance at the event were traditional rulers, Town Union presidents of the focal communities; representatives of the State Ministry of Sports and youth development, the Police, NYSC, NOA, the media, among others.

They also delivered goodwill messages, applauding DIG and UNODC for the initiative.