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NIGERIAN VIOLENCE: HARD DRUG CONNECTION

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Two events that happened in two different cities in Nigeria (Kano and Abuja) perfectly captured the precarious security nightmare that millions of Nigerians face on daily basis following the unrelenting spate of bloody violence by suspected armed Islamic insurgents in the last couple of years. One of the two shocking scenarios was captured by a foreign press- The Telegraph of the United Kingdom, while the second was captured in picture form by a local media- the Daily Trust newspaper.

In quick summary, the two violence-related incidents are linked by the fact that operatives of the Nigerian Police Force constitutionally charged with the duty of maintaining law and order were found wanting because they stayed away and allowed unarmed innocent civilians to suffer the consequences of the violent attacks by the armed insurgents.

In Kano, the United Kingdom based The Telegraph reported on January 27th 2012 that during one of the biggest violent attacks targeted at some government institutions by the armed Islamic insurgents that operatives of the police disappeared into thin air.

The Telegraph reported thus; “When a city of 9 million people comes under almost daily assault, the police would normally step up their presence. But not in Kano. In the biggest urban centre in northern Nigeria a new terrorist group has inflicted a steady drumbeat of violence since carrying out the deadliest attacks in its history”.

The foreign Journalist who reported from Kano wrote that; “The local police – despised and demoralised – virtually disappeared from the streets after suicide bombers destroyed two of their stations, a regional headquarters and the official residence of their most senior officer”.

According to The Telegraph; “The police stayed out of the way as Boko Haram, the Islamist extremists who claimed responsibility, pressed on with their offensive. On Tuesday night, another of Kano's police stations was destroyed; on Thursday morning, a bomb concealed inside a drink can exploded at a crowded bus station, wounding five people and causing thousands to flee in panic”.

In Abuja, on Thursday 26th April 2012, the Daily Trust online version carried a photograph showing looters carting away valuables including furniture from the bombed ThisDay Newspaper office in Abuja soon after suspected suicide bomber from the armed Islamic religious militants detonated several improvised explosive Devices (IED) and annoyingly, operatives of the Nigerian police Force took almost eternity before showing up at the bombed premises in Jabi Abuja.

I took time to reflect deeply on these two unfortunate incidents and one fact dawned on me that the unprecedented scale of violence unleashed in quick succession by suspected armed splinter groups with operational base in the North Eastern state of Borno state, could not have been possible without some elements of substance or drug abuses by the perpetrators who carry out these dastardly acts. Several observers including the Kaduna state Governor Mr. Patrick Yakowa and the Vice President Mr. Namadi Sambo have repeatedly denounced suicide bombing as un-African and strange. What then can make a young man to go on suicide mission if not hard drugs?

Again, I believe that majority of those youth who purportedly took part in the looting spree that immediately followed the bombing of the once beautiful edifice housing the This Day media office in Jabi-Abuja may have carried out these heinous and unconscionable crimes under the influence of hard drugs.

The unrelenting vicious cycle of bloody violence in parts of Nigeria must necessarily have some sinister nexus and connection with hard drug abuses by the suspected criminals.

David Friedman, an Economist published an essay recently titled; “Drugs, violence and Economics,” whereby he supported my postulation that violence and hard drug abuses have some sinister connection.

He rightly stated in that essay aforementioned that one point on which almost every one interested in drug prohibition agrees is in the existence of a connection between drugs and violent crime.

His words; “Supporters of drug prohibition typically argue that drug use leads to violent crime and should be illegal in part for that reason. Critics of the war on drugs argue that the attempt to prohibit drug use leads to violent crime and that that is one of the reasons drugs should be legal”.

In replying to the all- important interrogation of how drugs might influence crime, Friedman wrote that the link between drugs and violent crime could occur in three ways thus; “violent crime by consumers of drugs; violent crime associated with the production and distribution of drugs, or violent crime directly connected with attempt to enforce drug prohibitions.”

Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia said that substance abuse also known as drug abuse, refers to a maladaptive patterned use of a substance (drug) in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or with methods not condoned by medical professionals.

The World Health organization estimates that around 140 million people were alcohol dependent and another 400 million suffered alcohol-related problems and the UN estimates that there are more than 50 million regular users of heroin, cocaine and synthetic drugs.

Flowing from these disturbing estimates scientifically arrived at by the United Nations and the World Health Organization, it is a notorious fact that hard drug abuse rank as one of the most rapidly growing problems afflicting clearly a majority of Nigeria’s younger population.

In 2011, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) published that it seized narcotic drugs worth N31 Billion and arrested 8,639 suspected drug traffickers at different international entry points into the country.

The National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) also confirmed that in the year 2011, a total of 195,283.917 kilograms of various drugs were equally traced locally and seized from drug traffickers across Nigeria.

According to the anti-hard drug agency, cannabis Sativa otherwise known as hemp constitutes the largest seizure with 191,847.91 kilograms closely followed by psychotropic substances with a total haulage of seized drugs amounting to a whooping 2,985.45 Kilograms. Cocaine seized amounted to 410.805 kilograms while Heroin seized amounted to 39.752 kilograms.

If you think that the unrelenting circle of violence in Nigeria are not stoked by unprecedented abuses of hard drugs then take a few minutes to read the online version of a well crafted story by the Cable News Network (CNN) carried on August 1st 2009 aptly titled thus; “Drug war fought in Nigerian forests.”

In that report, the Cable News Network narrated a story of an operation by operatives of the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency in parts of Ondo Forest where they stumbled on farms illegally growing Cannabis. The commander of the anti-drug agency in Ondo state confirmed to the United States based television (CNN) that most of the drug barons are dangerously armed with machetes and pump action shot guns.

In the same report, we were informed that the Nigerian government has consistently failed to adequately fund the operations of the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency thereby exposing the operatives to corruption and bribery which in effect makes the circulation and proliferation of abuses of substances and drugs by Nigerian youth much more disturbing.

Why for instance will government treat the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) as one of those government departments under the Justice ministry that must go cap in hand begging for paltry operational funds every year?

Does government of Nigeria not know that apart from bringing opprobrium and international shame on Nigeria whenever Nigerian drug traffickers are arrested outside our shores, the consequences of the proliferation of drug abuse among younger citizens is the unprecedented violent crime in Nigeria?

The other day, the Chief prosecutor of the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency told a bewildered court room packed with Nigerians and foreign journalists in Lagos stste that the total operational fund released to the entire anti-drug department every quarter (three months) is just a little less than N25 million. The Lagos High Court had earlier returned a verdict that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency pays the Lagos based comedian Mr. Baba Suwe the Judgment sum of N25 million in damages for illegally detaining him for weeks after he was allegedly arrested and paraded for alleged drug trafficking offences which turned out to be false after several instances of laboratory analyses of his faeces/excreta.

The question to be asked is how on earth does government expect the anti-drug department to effectively police the activities of hard drug traffickers and substance abusers with such scandalously poor budgetary funding in a country of 160 million people?

If the Federal government is not yet convinced that high drug intakes by the younger population in the country inevitably leads to crime, then the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency should be funded to conduct transparent scientific analysis in places such as Maiduguri, in Borno state, Kano, Kaduna, Enugu, Port Harcourt in River State, Ibadan in Oyo state and Yenogoa in Bayelsa State to find out the extent that youth abuse substances.

Nigeria should learn from the United States of America that has an excellent tradition of waging successful battle against hard drug because successive administrators of the United States are aware of the damaging consequences to the security and stability of their country if drug trafficking and substance abuses are treated with kid gloves the way we do in Nigeria.

For instance, the battle against drugs was first called the “war on drugs” in 1971 by President Richard Nixon and he also branded drug abuse “public enemy number one. From findings, the United States government accepts the fact that reducing drug trafficking in the United States is of vital importance to all United States citizens. It is also a notorious fact that the United States has consistently waged war against drug since the 1900’s.

I sincerely believe that Nigeria needs to commit meaningful funds into waging relentless war against drug because of the sacred fact that bloody violence has brought shame to Nigeria, caused unquantifiable fatalities and has virtually destroyed the local economy of the entire Northern Nigeria.

In the United States, the government spends nothing less than $42 Billion United States dollars to enforce the anti-drug laws across the country going by 2007 estimates made by a researcher Jon Gettman.

Rob Kampia wrote thus; “why $42 billion? Because that is what our current marijuana law cost American tax payer each year, according to a new study by researcher Jon Gettman, Ph.D. $10.7 billion in direct law enforcement costs and $31.1 billion in lost tax revenues. And that maybe an underestimate, at least in the law enforcement side, since Gettman, made his calculation before the federal bureau of investigations (FBI) released its latest arrest statistics in late September (2007). The new FBI statistics show an all- time record 829,627 marijuana arrests in 2006, 43,000 more than in 2005.”

Written By Emmanuel Onwubiko

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