The caches of drugs discovered by military operatives fighting terrorism in the North-East of the country is an eye opener for the country in terms of what needed to
be done to curtail not just the insurgency but also other forms of threat to the nation’s security.
Interestingly, the drugs discovered were not just the illicit hard drugs but also everyday pain killers as well as cold and flu medications that insurgents abuse for their psychoactive properties. The National Agency for Drugs and Food and Administration and Control (NAFDAC) had been in the practice of tightly regulating some of these medications because of their propensity to be abused.
Sadly, it is not only terrorists that procure and abuse these over the counter medications as there are emerging reports that members of street gangs, street urchins and even adventurous youths find ways around regulatory safeguards to obtain these drugs for recreational purposes. The primary aim may be recreational or just a perverted desire to evade reality but the result, as can be seen with the insurgents, is the growing propensity to commit crimes.
This perhaps explains why some of the crimes reported in the media are mind boggling given the fact that they are often disconnected from the expectations of reality from a right thinking perspective. It could also be part of the root causes of the growing epidemic of statutory rape that have appallingly become a staple in media reports.
The ease with which people get these medications is not unconnected with the influx of these substances ranging from aphrodisiacs better known as buratashi or kick starter to steroids and performance enhancing drugs as well as the likes of Tramol, Tramadol and all manner of drugs available in the market. One can only fret to think of what would have been if NAFDAC had not made efforts to greatly reduce this influx to the barest level.
It has used advocacy, seminars and direct engagement of both the users and the sellers to deal with this menace. The agency has used formal settings like its public lectures and informal ones, like during raids of patent shops where these aphrodisiacs are sold without prescription, to highlight the ills of drug abuse.
Thus, while the Armed Forces are doing their best to curtail the activities of these terrorists, NAFDAC has gone very far in discouraging the consumption of these substances known for their psychoactive and perception distorting properties. The import of this activity is best understood against the backdrop that what is a lifesaving or pain managing medication for members of the public is being used as the final impetus for a suicide missions in the hands of terrorists’ cell leaders.
Beyond using over the counter medications to manipulate would be fighters and suicide bombers, insurgents might have also used aphrodisiacs obtained in like manner as a boost for fighters that seek to intimidate civilian populations with rape as a weapon. This tallies with the army’s discovery that Boko Haram members carry sexual performance enhancing drugs instead of theological literature and that hard drugs must have played a major role in the terrorists’ brainwashing that created a zombie army of fighters and suicide bombers who have been indoctrinated to the point of weirdness and insanity. Only under such influence would a man live below the moral point of humanity to use a knife to slit his fellow’s throat.
This realization of the role that otherwise legal drugs play in the insurgency, and of course in other crimes, should prompt a national response. Without the use of these drugs it will be highly impossible for some of these criminal elements to take their own lives not to talk of their neighbors’. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) could easily deal with the class “A” hard drugs but that still leaves the difficult task of managing over the counter medications in ways that genuine patients are not left suffering from regulation induced scarcity while at the same time keeping such medications out of the reach of would be criminals.
While NAFDAC has in no small measure played a significant role in reducing insurgency by managing access to these drugs, the agency needs further government backing to further control how medications that could be applied for unintended uses are distributed. It made significant headway with medicines containing codeine and could draw on that experience at a time like this.
The three arms of government must support NAFDCA to realize this goal while Nigerians must also give their backing. At a time like this, NAFDAC needs reassurance of the executive arm that the political will is there for its activities. The legislature should look to strengthening the ability of the agency to better regulate drugs that people can get without prescription while the judiciary should be decisive in dealing with those convicted upon prosecution by the regulator. Dr. Orhii’s knowledge of our laws and exiting legislature is therefore needed to step up this campaign while we await Mr. President to forward in some necessary documents for parliamentary actions.
Finally, the military is winning the war against the terrorists and their insurgency would soon be a thing of the past going by assertions from top military leadership. When the insurgency is over, there will remain the trouble being caused by street urchins and street gangs who are high on over the counter medications. We also face the unpalatable prospect of earning the title of the statutory rape capital of the world. We must thus support NAFDAC on a sure footing to deal with the next line of threats posed to the nation’s security and wellbeing by drug fueled crimes and the time to act is now.
Comrade Agbese Philip is a civil rights activist based in Abuja.