The Nigerian National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Needs to Consider Human RightsBenedicta Apuamah 11th April 2022 0 COMMENTS
As Humans, we are known to constantly alter the world we live in. We do this by reshaping our world both externally and internally. Thus, we alter our brain chemistry for all kinds of reasons, using substances recreationally, socially, medicinally and ritually. This is how drugs and alcohol became part of human existence since the Neolithic Revolution, 10,000 years ago. Drugs and alcohol speed up messaging to and from the human brain, making us feel more alert and confident. Like every human activity, drug use and alcohol can be abused with socio-economic consequences.
In 2018, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed that an estimated 14.3 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 years use drugs in Nigeria; accounting for 14.4% of her population. The COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020 increased the population of drug users in Nigeria and according to UNODC, an alarming 20 million of Nigeria’s population will become drug users in 2030 as reported by the Voice of Nigeria Radio.
The NDLEA was established in 1989 in response to the rising trend in demand for and trafficking of narcotic drugs and psycho-altering substances. The Act was last updated in 2004. This implies that it is 18 years behind and therefore not very useful in tackling the rising drug menace in Nigeria. It is important to note that for Nigeria and/ or the world to achieve sustainable development in the fight against drug abuse, human rights must be prioritized. The United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem in 2016 emphasized in her outcome document the importance of maintaining human rights. This is seen in the nine provisions under the human rights chapter.
Sadly, the UNGASS 2016 document is not reflected in the outdated NDLEA Act; the need for a review of the Act with proper implementation plans in place cannot be over-emphasized. The Chapter of the Act that outlines the “Power of the Agency” for instance leaves room for human rights violation to take place. Provisions like “investigations being conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the Agency that person’s life style and extent of the properties are not justified by his ostensible source of income”, can be easily misinterpreted and taken out of context.
The efficiency and effectiveness of Drug laws should not and cannot be measured by the number of drug offenders arrested, number of people jailed and the weight/size of drugs seized from drug users. The proper measure of efficiency should be the percentage of drug-related mortality rates, violence/ crime rates associated with the use of drugs, e.t.c. Tools such as the Drug Policy Metrics Map launched by the Center for Drug Policy Evaluation give a clear picture of the efficiency of drug laws/ policies.
This Drug Policy Metrics Map has indicators such as health, human rights, peace & security, supply & demand reduction, development and international cooperation. This helps a country adopt and learn from the results achieved while also learning from other countries’ result. This tool, in my opinion, will lead to countries having tailored evidence-based drug policies hence discouraging the “one size fits all” approach to drug policies.
The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director, Ghada Waly stated that youths, women, the poor, marginalized and vulnerable communities are mostly affected by the World Drug Problem. It is therefore important to include this population especially young people in the policy recommendation, drafting and implementation process. For a country like Nigeria, with the one of highest population of young people in Africa; youth inclusion in policy drafting and implementation especially with Drug Policies is highly recommended in other to harness her demographic dividend.
This is a guest post by Benedicta Apuamah MA International Health & Social Mgt (in view), B.Pharm.
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