By G9ija

Retired Brigadier General Buba Marwa, Chairman, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, said the Agency had arrested 18,940 drug traffickers in the last 18 months.

“This is an indication of the magnitude of the problem, and indeed a problem with dire consequences,” Marwa added.

Marwa spoke on Thursday in Abuja at a one-day: “Drug Awareness Conference, 2022,” with a theme: “Drug and Substance Abuse: The Effect on Mental Health and National Security.”

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the conference was organised by the Initiative Against Addiction and Substance Abuse and National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria and NDLEA.

Marwa said: “Today, the public is familiar with NDLEA’s arrests, prosecutions, convictions and seizures.

“We are doing much more behind the scene.

“We are scaling up efforts for the prevention, treatment, care and rehabilitation of drug-dependent individuals in our facilities.

“In this regard, we have counselled, treated and rehabilitated not less than 12,326 in the past 18 months.

“In collaboration with and support of UNODC, we have launched standard guidelines for our counselling in all our centres.”

Marwa said that the agency had inaugurated a drug abuse call centre with the toll-free helpline 0800-1020-3040 where drug users, their families or employers can call in for help and are offered tele-therapy services by certified professionals.

“They include counsellors, psychologists, psychotherapists and other mental health experts. And this is free of charge – both the call itself and the services offered are free,” the NDLEA chairman said.

He said the NDLEA had found out that there was a strong nexus between illicit drugs and the spate of insecurity being unleashed by terrorists, bandits and other non-state destabilising actors.

In a message to the occasion, the National Security Adviser, retired Major General Babagana Monguno, represented by Ambassador Mohammed Ahmed, said that Nigeria was experiencing rising demand and trafficking of illicit drugs.

Monguno also said that the ugly development had given rise to crimes, banditry, kidnapping and other related security challenges.

The Etsu Nupe and Chairman, Niger Traditional Council of Chiefs, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, said the drug problem in Nigeria was an emergency that required a collective action.

Abubakar, who is also the Chairman, Board of Trustees of IAASAN, said: “We are deeply concerned about the escalation witnessed in recent times in the trafficking and use of unwholesome substances and drugs in the society.”

He said that IAASAN was determined to complement efforts to curb the menace of substance and drugs abuse in the country.

The convener and CEO of IAASAN, Ambassador Princess Raphael, said that traditional rulers play key roles in fighting the drug menace in the country.

Raphael said: “Some of the victims of drug and substance abuse feel more comfortable to talk to the traditional rulers.

“Therefore, we will increase our collaboration with them to complement the efforts of NDLEA to fully combat the menace.”