The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), among other stakeholders in the health sector, have vowed to collaborate in the fight against illicit drug production, trafficking, and use, as well as in curbing related organised crime.
The pledge was made on Thursday in Lagos at the launch and dissemination of the 2022 Annual Report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the Precursors Report 2022.
The Director General of NAFDAC, Mojisola Adeyeye, described narcotics and psychotropic substances as indispensable for the relief of pain and suffering and said that they are controlled within the framework of the three international conventions because they possess abuse liability and produce dependence in users.
‘’They are classified not on their chemical nature but on the potential for abuse and the need for medical use of the substance’’, she said, adding that one of the control objectives is to ensure availability solely for medical and scientific uses while minimizing the possibility of diversion to illicit channels and abuse.
According to her, the policy thrust of the agency is to ensure availability, access, and rational use while preventing illicit use and abuse. The international drug control conventions, she added, are thus interpreted to mean improved access to controlled medicines to enable countries to meet their drug needs.
In order to ensure adequate availability of controlled medicines, the NAFDAC boss disclosed that the agency, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Health, carried out two quantifications of narcotics and an estimation of psychotropic substances and precursors in 2017 and 2019.
She said the results of these surveys provide an evidence-based estimation of our national annual requirements for these substances and enable the country to develop measures to achieve that delicate balance between access and control.
‘’According to the 2018 National Drug Use Survey, the prevalence of any drug use was 14.4 percent, or 14.3 million people between the ages of 15 and 64, she said, noting that this is comparatively high compared with the global annual prevalence of 5.6 percent among the adult population in 2016.
Adeyeye pointed out that the challenges arising from drug supply and consumption are not restricted to people who use drugs but have wider health, social, and economic consequences for the family, community, and country.
The report, she stated further, revealed that cannabis is the most commonly used drug, stressing that an estimated 10.8 percent of the population, or 10.6 million people, had used cannabis in the past year, with the average age of initiation of cannabis use among the general population put at 19 years.
“Cannabis use was 7 times higher among men (18.8 percent among men vs. 2.6 percent of women), while the gender gap in the non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids (such as tramadol) was less marked,” she said.
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She, however, said that Nigeria will not support the trend of legalizing cannabis for non-medical use as Nigeria lacks the financial capacity to fight cultivation, production, and illegal use of the substance.
The non-medical use of cannabis, according to Adeyeye, contravenes the 1961 Single Convention of the United Nations, which classifies cannabis as a highly addictive substance.
‘’The Nigeria Indian Hemp Act, as well as the NDLEA Act, prohibit the cultivation, production, distribution, sales, and use of cannabis and its extracts or derivatives for medical or non-medical purposes.”
She commended the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) for the assistance and support it provided to the country in the fight against illicit drug production, trafficking, and use, as well as in curbing related organized crime.
“We also appreciate INCB’s support for NAFDAC towards enhanced regulatory control of narcotics and psychotropic substances.”
Speaking in the same vein, the Executive Chairman of NDLEA, Buba Marwa, decried what he described as an upsurge in cannabis abuse amongst Nigerian youths with its attendant negative effects on society.
He disclosed that the NDLEA, with a view to addressing this problem, conceptualized the War Against Drug Abuse (WADA), which was launched by the Nigerian President, Mohammadu Buhari, on June 26, 2021.
Marwa, who was represented by Victoria Ekase, noted that NAFDAC has been ensuring that controlled drugs essential for human survival are made available for use where necessary in line with the requirements of INCB, adding that NDLEA on its own part collaborates with NAFDAC in ensuring that the measures put in place to prevent diversion of such medicines and substances to illicit use are adhered to.
“In some instances, NDLEA has arrested and prosecuted some traffickers of controlled and narcotic substances intended to be diverted to illicit uses’’, he said, noting with dismay that it’s quite worrisome that chemicals intended for research and industrial purposes are finding their way into illicit drug manufacture.
“This is the area where NAFDAC and NDLEA need to deepen collaboration to ensure that such unwholesome acts are completely eliminated,” he said, adding that the launch of the precursor report will go a long way to complement national efforts in this regard.
General Marwa pledged that NAFDAC and NDLEA will continue to collaborate with major stakeholders at all levels to develop an efficient value chain and support system that will ensure access to narcotics and controlled substances for medical and strategic purposes while preventing diversion for illicit use.
“I sincerely hope that the global launch of the report will enhance the integration and cooperation amongst stakeholders in ensuring effective implementation for the overall benefit of society.
The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Hameed Ibrahim Alli, who was represented at the event by A.N. Dappa, also commended NAFDAC, observing that NAFDAC and NDLEA have been most wonderful.
He pledged the loyalty and support of the customs service in the task of ridding the nation of illicit drugs. “We have always been in partnership, and we will continue to work in close partnership with you,” he said.