The Igbo speaking ethnicity of South East of Nigeria have a profoundly metaphysical saying that ‘MBEREDE NYIRI DIKE, MA NA MBEREDE KA EJI AMA DIKE’ meaning ‘a thing of sudden occurrence may surpass the might of a great person but it is by facing sudden challenge that a strong character is determined’. This wise saying played out at the Government House in Enugu, the former Eastern regional capital.
The ‘DIKE’ being discussed here is the Enugu State governor Right Honourable Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who seem to have escalated the advocacy campaigns against the astronomic rise in drug addiction by youth in the South East of Nigeria and particularly the addiction to Mpuru Mmiri.
As the governor of the erstwhile Eastern regional capital, it is not unexpected that his meticulous decision to actively partner the federal government’s funded anti-hard drugs agency –the NDLEA, has made a phenomenal statement. The impacts surely would echo in all of the other States in the Igbo speaking areas of contemporary Nigeria and beyond. And since Igbos are global citizens, it is inevitable that the positive vibes will ring out loud and clear all around the World.
What exactly did he do?
The Enugu State governor made a bold statement that the South East of Nigeria has decided to eradicate the widespread addiction by youth of Mpuru Mmiri amongst other variants of addictive substances.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, on Wednesday, handed over four vehicles to the Enugu State Command of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to aid its operations in furtherance of the frantic efforts of his administration to eliminate all forms of drug abuse and trafficking in the state, in partnership with the agency.
Presenting the vehicles to the State Commander of NDLEA, Anietie Idim Bassey, Gov. Ugwuanyi represented by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Simon Uchenna Ortuanya, said that the state government is determined more than ever before to ensure that the state in particular and the society in general get rid of all forms of drug abuse and trafficking.
The governor recounted the harms drug abuse causes young people who indulge in it, as well as the risk such illicit act poses to the future generations, stressing that the state government will remain committed to the noble course of eliminating the cankerworm in the society.
Gov. Ugwuanyi added that it was in keeping with the realization of the mandate that he appointed a Special Assistant (SA) on Drugs and Narcotics, for the first time in the history of the state, in the person of Hon. Chidi Egbuogu.
Pointing out that the collaboration between the state government and NDLEA is yielding positive results, the governor stressed that “these vehicles represent the determination of this administration in this direction, and I can assure you that we are prepared to do more”.
Receiving the vehicles, NDLEA State Commander, Bassey, commended Gov. Ugwuanyi for the donation, stating that the vehicles, which are unbranded, would aid their operations as “we can now go out without people really knowing where we go”.
According to him, “I want to appreciate His Excellency for providing these vehicles and other interventions. These vehicles are in good conditions and they will enable us to be very flexible in our operations. We are grateful. We pray that God Almighty will always guide him.”
The timing of the aforementioned benevolence of the governor of Enugu State on behalf of the good people of Enugu State could not have come at a better time than now when the social menace of drug addiction has constituted the greatest stumbling block to the economic advancement of millions of hitherto entrepreneurial youths of Igboland.
I said earlier that the timing of the logistical supports provided to the NDLEA was strategic, this is because about the time of this unique donation by governor of Enugu State, the Chief Executive of the NDLEA and a retired Army General Mohammed Buba Marwa was announcing a landmark strategy to wage battles against Mpuru Mmiri in the heart of Igboland and other sections of Nigeria.
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency showed the resolve to walk the talk by setting up a special task force working across the country to track and dismantle drug cartels behind the production and distribution of methamphetamine, popularly called Mkpuru Mmiri, being abused by youths in parts of the country.
Chairman/Chief Executive of the NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd), disclosed this while addressing journalists at a press briefing at the Agency’s headquarters in Abuja held to mark his first anniversary in charge of the Agency, on Monday.
According to a statement by NDLEA Spokesman, Femi Babafemi, Marwa challenged communities across Nigeria to take ownership of the war against drug abuse as those in South-East states are doing by standing up to those engaging in abuse and trafficking of illicit drugs.
Marwa was quoted as saying, “If you look at the preponderance of the dealers in drugs, I’m not saying anything new but the South-East has the predominance and that’s a fact. Who are the Boko Haram people? I know they are not Yoruba and I know they are not people from Edo, but if you go to the North-West and ask who are the bandits, I know they are not from Cross River or from Lagos. If you ask the people doing the human trafficking, the women, you know from where. So definitely, we have the preponderance of the drug dealers from the South-East, but what more do you have; the greatest efforts by communities to rid the country and their communities of drug use are from the South-East. Clearly, in the same South-East, they are doing two things; first, they are telling their fellow travellers who are not decent that look you are the very few who are spoiling our names here. Stop it!
“And more importantly, they are ridding their communities of drug abuse, they have taken the ownership of the war themselves against drug abuse especially the Mkpuru Mmiri. By the way, we have set up a special task force to face that challenge and very soon you would hear and see the results of our efforts.
“In essence, what I am saying is that I am now taking the South-East as an example for all the other communities in Nigeria. This war has to start from the bottom, from the communities; set up your War against Drug Abuse, WADA, Committees. In every community, you are the ones who know those patent medicine stores that sell drugs, the mai shayi, those at the corner ends of the streets who sell and hawk drugs, you know the traffickers and you know those who use them. Take this war to your communities because you know these people, cleanse your communities, and take ownership of this war and the NDLEA will always be there to back you up. However, the NDLEA does not and will not support the flogging of the culprits and some of the other human rights abuses. We will be there to support you with counselling and treatments. And I urge the entire country to take an example of the ownership of the war against drug abuse from the South East.”
Marwa attributed the successes recorded in the drug war in the past year to God, support of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), National Assembly, Minister of Justice and other stakeholders including international partners such as UNODC, EU, and foreign governments as well as local CSOs and NGOs.
He listed the arrest of 12, 306 suspects, including seven drug barons; conviction of 1, 400 offenders; seizure of over 3.4 million kilograms of assorted drugs; drugs and cash worth over N130 billion and the counselling and rehabilitation of 7, 761 drug users as some of the achievements recorded in 2021 in the area of operation.
While promising to build on the foundation laid in 2021, Marwa said the Agency under his leadership now has a clear roadmap to the future.
He said, “The Agency has come a long way. And there is still a long way to go. We have a clear vision of where we are headed, and there is a roadmap to that destination. Today, the improvement in our fortune as an organisation is driving the NDLEA workforce to continue to push for the attainment of organisational goals and fulfilment of our core mandate of securing our country against the drug scourge. We all believe in the vision of the new NDLEA and we are committed to its mission. Our mandate is to ensure a drug-free Nigeria. We shall continue to play our role towards the achievement of that goal.”
This is why waging a result oriented war against hard drugs in the South East of Nigeria is key to the revival of commerce and trade in the South East. The Chairman of NDLEA is hereby called upon to hold brainstorming sessions in Enugu with the Governors of the Igbo states to win the by-in of these political leaders to emulate the exemplary and selfless service that the Enugu State governor has just rendered to the NDLEA and to Igbo youths in general. A well planned and structured war against drug addiction in Nigeria is imperative for a number of reasons.
First, statistically, societies that have made advances in the sciences, Art, economy, agriculture and have become stable and progressive, have always done things distinctively to ensure that the most productive segments of their societies- the youths, are gainfully employed and are busy building their capacity for economic productivity.
Also Igboland is the commercial heart of Nigeria and if addictions to hard drugs are not pushed back, the entire nation may suffer. There have been a resurgence of interests by writers and researchers on the exact hard drug that has gained notoriety in some parts of the Country and for which the different communities in the South East have on their own decided to fight it in their distinctively traditional means of Corporal punishments, naming and shaming to push back on the unprecedented scale of addiction to hard drugs.
Hard drugs are so called because of their narcotic and psychotropic components. They are of challenging nature because of their capacity to affect the physical and psychological health of people. It is necessary to state at this point that narcotics are habit-forming drugs that relieve pain or induce sleep; in excess, they can cause convulsions or actuate coma. In the legal sense, narcotics refer to a class of controlled, criminalized drugs that most commonly include opium, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, as well as many synthetic Drugs that also have psychoactive effects.’ In Nigeria, the issue of narcotic drugs: arose in Okewu v. FRN and therein, the Supreme Court thus defined narcotic Drug:
a. As a drug (as opium or morphine) that in moderate doses dulls the senses
Relieves pain and induces profound sleep but in excess doses causes stupor, coma, and convulsions.
b. A drug (as marijuana or LSD) subject to restriction similar to that of addictive narcotic whether physiologically addictive and narcotic or not.
c. Something that soothes relieves or lulls.
Originally, it is any drug derived from opium or opium-like compounds with potent analgesic effects associated with both significant alteration of mood and behaviour and with potential for dependence and tolerance. More recently, any drug, synthetic or natural occurring, with effect similar to those of opium and opium derivatives including meperidine, fentanyl, and their derivatives, capable of inducing a state of stuporous analgesia are considered narcotic. Most common in this class of drug are those taken for nonmedical or recreational purposes otherwise termed as street drugs. They comprise of various amphetamines, anaesthetics, barbiturates, opiates and psychoactive drugs and many are derived from natural resources like plants, (That is, Papaver somniferum, Cannabis sativa, Amanita pantherina, Lophophora williamsii) See the book titled: “Drug Laws Enforcement and Administration in Nigeria” By Inyang E. Ekwo).
Another of the beautiful write ups For instance was written by a commentator Edith Nkem Declan who penned down the following excellent piece on MKPURU MMIRI. She said that crystal Methamphetamine or “Mkpuru Mmiri” is an extremely potent and addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system and several other systems of the body. This substance has a molecular structure that is chemically comparable to Amphetamine, a medicine used to treat Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, and Narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. It resembles glass fragments or shiny, gleaming glass shards with bluish-white boulders. Methamphetamine or Mkpuru Mmiri is taken by smoking, swallowing the pill form, snorting or sniffing, or by injecting the powder that has been dissolved in water or alcohol.
Globally, this substance has been referred to as Meth, Trash, Crank, Biker’s Coffee, Tweak, Speed, Ice, Shards, Stove Top, Yaba, Chalk, Crystal, Crank or Shabu.
The writer also said that considering that the drug’s “high” comes on and fades very quickly, users frequently take many doses in a “run and crash” cycle, causing them to give up food and sleep, while continuing to take the drug every few hours for up to several days.
Mkuru Mmiri/Methamphetamine raises the amount of dopamine, a natural substance found in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for physical movement, motivation, and rewarding behavior reinforcement. The substance or drug’s ability to swiftly release large levels of dopamine in the brain’s reward centres powerfully encourages drug-taking behaviour. This increases the user’s desire to continuously repeat the experience.
This substance as stated by Edith Nkem is highly potent and very low in price. It can be easily made in small laboratories, with relatively cheap over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, which is an ingredient found in common cold medications.
Just like other stimulants such as cocaine or amphetamines, using even small amounts of methamphetamine can cause similar debilitating health effects. Some of these include faster breathing and an increased irregular heart rate, increased wakefulness or difficulty in sleeping, increased blood pressure and temperature, stroke, restlessness, decreased appetite, and in many cases, central nervous system disturbances such as convulsion or seizures.
There is also an increased risk for contracting infectious diseases such as hepatitis B and C, and HIV for people who inject methamphetamine. These diseases are transmitted through sharing sharp objects such as needles or drug equipment containing blood or body fluids.
Due to its ability to alter judgement, Methamphetamine use can lead to risky behaviours, such as sexual violence and unprotected sex, which also increases risk for infection.
Studies, says Edith Nkem Declan, have shown that HIV causes more damage to nerve cells, and potentially interferes with an individual’s ability to think, understand, learn and remember more cognitive problems. The use of mkpuru Mmiri/methamphetamine may hasten the advancement of HIV/AIDS and its effects.
Some other long-term effects of methamphetamine as stated by this deep thinking researcher may include serious dental problems, anxiety, permanent changes in brain structure and cognitive function, addiction, extreme weight loss, memory loss, hallucinations (seeing things and hearing voices that are not real), and death. While some of these changes to the brain are reversible, others are not. Recent studies have linked the use of methamphetamine to Parkinson’s disease- a disorder of the nervous system that affects movement and balance.
As a result of the effect of this drug on the heart, brain and other vital organs, an overdose is treated with an intent to prevent a stroke by restoring blood flow to the brain, prevent a heart attack by restoring blood flow to the heart, and by treating affected organs. Timely intervention is key to preventing further damage to the body, caused by this substance.
There is currently no approved treatment for methamphetamine addiction. Medicines and other innovative treatments for methamphetamine use, including vaccinations and noninvasive brain stimulation utilising magnetic fields, are still being researched and developed.
As with other drugs, the key to preventing methamphetamine addiction is avoiding usage. Other approaches such as cognitive-behavioural treatment, which helps individuals identify, avoid, and manage events that are likely to trigger drug use, and motivational incentives, which employ vouchers or modest monetary rewards to urge patients to stay drug-free, can help manage methamphetamine addiction. People can, and do recover from methamphetamine addiction if they have ready access to effective treatments that address the multitude of medical and personal problems resulting from short or long-term use, the author concludes.
The effects of drug abuse and addiction are enormous as observed by a researcher.
Drugs are chemicals that affect the body and brain. Different drugs can have different effects. Some effects of drugs include health consequences that are long-lasting and permanent. They can even continue after a person has stopped taking the substance.
There are a few ways a person can take drugs, including injection, inhalation and ingestion. The effects of the drug on the body can depend on how the drug is delivered. For example, the injection of drugs directly into the bloodstream has an immediate impact, while ingestion has a delayed effect. But all misused drugs affect the brain. They cause large amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate our emotions, motivation and feelings of pleasure, to flood the brain and produce a “high.” Eventually, drugs can change how the brain works and interfere with a person’s ability to make choices, leading to intense cravings and compulsive drug use. Over time, this behavior can turn into a substance dependency, or drug addiction.
Today, more than 7 million people suffer from an illicit drug disorder, and one in four deaths results from illicit drug use. In fact, more deaths, illnesses and disabilities are associated with drug abuse than any other preventable health condition. People suffering from drug and alcohol addiction also have a higher risk of unintentional injuries, accidents and domestic violence incidents. (gatewayfoundation.org).
All these signpost the positive body of contributions made by the Enugu State governor and it is the expectation of Nigerians that ERADICATING DRUG ADDICTIONS AMONGST YOUTHS SHOULD BE MADE A NUMBER ONE OBLIGATIONS OF ALL AND SUNDRY.
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was federal commissioner of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.