·As NDLEA seeks public support in rehabilitation of drug users
By Paul Emeka Chimodo
About 17 per cent or 2.1m people in the South-South now abuse drugs, so said the Nigeria Drugs Law Enforcement Agency.
This is as the Agency 15 per cent of people in Rivers State or 580,000 persons in Rivers State also commit the same offence.
Mrs Stella Ngwoke, the Area Commander, Port Harcourt Ports Command, has however called for public support in rehabilitation and combating of the stigma and discrimination against drug users.
Ngwoke gave the prevalence situation rate of the use of illicit drugs in the South-South as 16.6 per cent, with 2,124,000 people within the age of 15 to 64 years.
Mrs Stella Ngwoke, the Area Commander, Port Harcourt Ports Command, made the call in commemoration of the 2023 United Nations International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking in Onne Seaport in Rivers.
Ngwoke explained that the 2023 International Drug Day with the theme; “People First: Stop Stigma and Discrimination, Strengthen Prevention” is apt as the urgency arises for more awareness campaign.
She stated that the aim of the campaign is to combat stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs by promoting language and attitudes that are respectful and non-judgmental.
Ngwoke said: “The misuse of psychoactive substances such as alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, as well as prescription medications exact tremendous toll on the individuals, families, communities and societies has impacted negatively on public health,” she said.
Ngwoke stressed the urgency in raising awareness about the importance of treating people who use drugs with respect and empathy, providing voluntary services for all, offering alternatives to punishment, prioritizing prevention and leading with compassion.
Ngwoke hinted that the NDLEA under the administration of Brig Gen Mohamed Marwa (Rtd) had achieved major breakthroughs in the fight against drug abuse and illicit trafficking in the country.
She also stated that Port Harcourt Port Command Onne interdiction efforts had yielded a seizure of large drug shipment from Canada-cannabis indica (Canadian loud), weighing 76.9kg.
According to Ngwoke, the Command had also mopped up operations around the port corridor with the dislodging and seizure of 23.1kg of cannabis sativa and arrested two suspects who she said have being charged to court.
Ngwoke acknowledged the tremendous synergy and cordial relationship that exist within the Agency, the Nigeria Customs Service, Department of State Security (DSS), Nigeria Port Authority, terminal operators, among others.
In her speech, the Keynote Speaker, Prof Rosemary Ekechukwu, the Director, Counselling and Human Development Centre, University of Port Harcourt, urged the public to stop making critical statements to the drug users.
Ekechukwu who spoke on: “The Challenges of Stigmatization of People Who Use Drugs”, stated some of the challenges to stigmatization as strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, poverty and unemployment, decline of family values, increased tolerance and physical withdrawal state, among others.
Ekechukwu advised agencies in control of illicit drugs trafficking and drug abuse to bring the drug traffickers to book and prosecute them to reduce the rate of influx of illicit drugs in the country.
In his speech, the Deputy Comptroller of the Nigerian Custom Service Onne, Cmptr. Ojike Iheanacho, who represented the Area Comptroller of Area II Command Onne, Cmptr. Baba Imam, commended the NDLEA for its efforts in fight against illicit drug trafficking and drug users.
The Comptroller stated that Nigeria Customs would continue to uphold the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the sister agency in combating illicit drug trafficking in the country.
Our Correspondent reported that the dignitaries present at the occasion include Cdre. Bobmanuel Effiong, the Commandant of the Nigerian Navy College Onne, represented by LT Cmdr. Jude Dibia. Others were the Deputy Police Officer Onne Seaport, Remy Obirieze; the Managing Director (MD) of INTEL Nigeria Limited represented by Mr Giuseppe Anzeino, the Deputy Head of Risk Management INTELS, among others.