The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday, said the days of the scourge of illicit drug abuse and dependency in the country were numbered.
Osinbajo spoke at the 2022 United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking held at the State House Banquet Hall, Abuja.
Speaking on the theme, ‘Addressing Drug Challenges in Health and Humanitarian Crises’, he said the renewed vigour of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the commitment of the Federal Government and the support of development partners makes it safe to say that the country is winning the war on drugs.
“We are winning this war. The days of the scourge of drug abuse and dependency are clearly numbered, but it will involve even greater investment in focus and determination for the long haul.
“The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency especially in the last two years under the dynamic leadership of General Buba Marwa, the NDLEA Chairman, has been fiercer and sharper in its determination to stamp out drug abuse and trafficking in the country. His vision and strong resolve have given the war against drug trafficking and abuse new energy, purpose and clearer direction.
“I am glad to hear that in 2021, about 8,000 drug users were counselled and rehabilitated by the NDLEA, and in the first half of this year alone, over 11,000 drug users have been counselled and treated. We must maintain a multi-dimensional and holistic approach to tackling drug abuse,” said Osinbajo.
However, the Vice President noted that tackling drug abuse in the 21st century would require the use of technology-based monitoring systems for promptly detecting and addressing drug market changes; and also accelerating mobile outreach programmes, remote consultation, and treatment for those who suffer from drug use disorders and are without the appropriate care.
Osinbajo called on families and faith-based organisations to join the fight, saying the required results would remain elusive without their support.
“As much as the Federal Government through its agencies and the state governments would lead the charge with decisive policy initiatives, these strides must be complemented by changes at the family and community level.
“The kind of change we seek regarding drug abuse cannot happen without the collaboration of families, faith-based organizations and community leadership at the local levels,” he said.
Earlier in his remarks, the NDLEA Chairman, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (retd.) said although the agency is expanding its reach by opening more rehabilitation centres nationwide, the centres would make no impact if addicts cannot come forward due to stigma from society.
He, therefore, noted that the agency has launched a toll-free number to give direct access to drug addicts who are seeking help but are too afraid to do so in the open.
Marwa said, “Building treatment facilities is a good step, but it can be rendered inefficient because of the challenge of access that is inherent in a climate of stigmatisation where someone labelled “a drug addict” is treated as a social pariah.
“To scale this hurdle, we embarked on building a toll-free NDLEA Call Centre. This project due to be commissioned on Thursday June 30, 2022, will run as a 24/7 call centre with a helpline that can be called by drug users who need help but are afraid of stigmatisation or do not know how to get help. They will be able to call toll-free and get to speak with experts such as counsellors, psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists among others.
“The call centre will eliminate the obstacles standing in the way of those that genuinely need help as we will be guaranteeing them the confidentiality they need. Similarly, the toll-free number, 0800-10203040, and the website, ndleahelpline.com.ng, will help the public to pass valuable information, report incidents and ask for help.”
On his part, the Chairman of MTN Foundation and former Minister of Health, Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, said the tech giant would continue to support the NDLEA to rid Nigeria of illicit drugs.
He said, “We feel happy that the MTN Foundation has become an intimate part of the programs of the NDLEA. We feel that the task ahead is just beginning and the NDLEA needs a lot of support.
“In Nigeria today, very many people are on drugs but few are manifesting it. That’s why the foundation of the MTN decided some five years ago to join the struggle to reduce addiction, drug abuse, and substance abuse in this nation.
“And in the NDLEA, we have found a very good and cooperative partner. We want to assure you, General, that we will continue to walk that path with you Insha Allah.”