State governments in Nigeria have been urged to prioritise the fight against substance abuse in their strategic work plans for a safe and secure society.
The call was made during the inaugural session of a two-day training on drug prevention, treatment, and care (DPTC) hosted by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for the spouses of state governors in Abuja.
Key figures, including the First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Attorney- General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, and the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the NDLEA, retired Brig.-Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa, in their separate remarks underscored the importance of this endeavour.
In her keynote address, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, who was the Special Guest of honour, tasked the states on the need to see iwar against the drug menace as a collective effort.
The First Lady, who was represented by the wife of the Inspector-General of Police, Mrs. Elizabeth Egbetokun, commended Marwa and the Nigerian Governors Spouses Forum for the initiative.
“I commend the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, under the leadership of His Excellency, Brigadier- General Mohammed Buba Marwa (Rtd.) CON, OFR, for organising this vital training and for your ongoing efforts in combating drug abuse in Nigeria.
“I equally commend the Chairperson of the Nigeria Governors Spouses’ Forum, Her Excellency, Ambassador (Dr.) Olufolake Abdulrazaq, for this significant collaboration,” she said.
According to her, we must recognise that drug abuse is not just a law enforcement issue but a public health crisis that requires a compassionate and multi-faceted response.
“We must challenge the stigma and discrimination associated with addiction and foster a culture of empathy, understanding, and solidarity towards those struggling with substance use disorders.
“As mothers, we understand the profound impact that drug abuse can have on our children’s lives.
“Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to protect, nurture, and guide them towards a future free from the shackles of addiction.
“As leaders in your respective states, you wield a unique platform to drive meaningful change.
“The role of governors’ spouses in combating drug abuse cannot be overstated.
“Through advocacy, we can ensure access to prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation services for those affected by addiction.
“However, our efforts must not end with this training. We must translate knowledge into action, collaborating with stakeholders such as the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, other government agencies, civil society organizations, healthcare providers, educators, and students.
“Together, we can implement evidence-based strategies for prevention, early intervention, and holistic treatment approaches,” she added.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, in his remarks, commended the resourcefulness of the NDLEA leadership in utilising the Nigerian Governors Spouses Forum to cascade the drug war into the grassroots and the community level.
“The issue of drug use is not confined to any region or social strata but affects every corner of our nation and propagates crime and other criminalities across the world.
‘The critical role of the attendees in shaping policies and practices in the communities is therefore recognised,” Fagbemi said.
The NDLEA boss, Brig.- Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa in his remarks said the devastating effects of substance abuse on public health, the environment and its nexus with the spate of insecurity faced across the country has made it mandatory for a whole-of-society approach to curb the scourge.
He said this has been the focus of the War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) advocacy campaign by the NDLEA since 2021.
While urging the governors’ wives to take advantage of their positions to mobilise support for drug prevention and treatment in their states, Marwa said ” our commanders and officers in your states are always available to work with you and the governors.
“Please create the needed access for them so that they can serve you and society better.
“Together, we can effect meaningful change and create healthier, safer communities for all.
“Your collective effort can become the biggest catalyst for the nation to triumph over the illicit drug challenge.”
He said that as part of efforts to curb the cultivation and production of illicit drugs in Nigeria, the agency is adopting an alternative development plan that will encourage cannabis farmers to switch to other licit crops.
“I’d also like to draw your attention to the devastating impact activities of drug cartels involved in illicit drug cultivation are causing humanity; that is deforestation, which results in environmental degradation.
“In search of a lasting solution, we are working to implement an alternative development plan.
“This will provide cannabis farmers with better options, like switching to other crops.
“I have recently set up an Alternative Development Unit in my office. We need you to make this reality and our alternative development plan one of your takeaways for the immediate consideration and support of our governors.
“We will keep you posted as we flesh out the plan for this year,” Marwa stated.
He said that by joining forces and working collaboratively, we can turn the tide against drug abuse and build a brighter, healthier future for generations to come. Together, we can do it.
Minister of Education , Prof Tahir Mamman, SAN represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education, Mrs. Didi Esther Walson-Jack, emphasised the pivotal role of first ladies in the fight against the scourge of substance abuse.
The minister assured of collaboration between his ministry and NDLEA in combating substance abuse among students.
“The curriculum in schools has been updated to include the added spice of drug issues with the necessary knowledge to avoid drug use.
“Drug-free clubs in federal unity colleges enable children to make healthier choices,” she added.
Other speakers at the opening ceremony were UNODC Country Representative Dr Oliver Stolpe; Representative of the European Union, Letizia Torretta and the Director-General of, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr Gambo Aliyu.