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A legal perspective on drug abuse

Author: Moses Innocent Irambiya Publisher: Fab Educational Books, Jos Pages: 234 Reviewer: Dr Alphonsus O. Alubo In his foreword to Drug Problems, the Law and…

Author: Moses Innocent Irambiya

Publisher: Fab Educational Books, Jos

Pages: 234

Reviewer: Dr Alphonsus O. Alubo

In his foreword to Drug Problems, the Law and Nigerian Society, one of Nigeria’s foremost Criminal Law icons, Professor K.S. Chukkol of ABU Zaria wrote that:

“The recommendations proffered in this work are down to earth and if drug regulatory authorities and policy makers will implement them, I think the drug problem will be reduced to the minimal level”.

In the introduction to the book, which is divided into five chapters, the author notes that the scourge of drug abuse has assumed a monstrous dimension in cities from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri through Sokoto. He links the problem, through practical and graphic details from the streets of Nigerian capitals, with the economic conundrum in the country.

In chapter one, “Drugs and Drug Abuse: Conceptual Definitions and Classifications”, the author attempts to define the term drug. He notes that drug has both scientific and social meanings.

Scientifically, it is a substance other than food which, in its chemical nature, affects the structure or function of a living organism. In its social context, references are made to ‘drug abuse’ or ‘drug problem’. He observes that because people erroneously exclude from the definition of the term substances including alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

He classifies drug into licit and illicit drugs. Licit means legal or lawful drugs and manufactured, sold, used within the confines of the law. Illicit drugs are those whose manufacture, distribution, or consumption are illegal except with the permission of the law or under strict control and regulation and that they are controlled drugs.

The author discusses exhaustively drugs commonly abused such as opium or opiate narcotics from opium such as morphine, heroin and codeine; stimulants such as amphetamines, caffeine, cocaine; hallucinogens; LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) such as Cannabis sativa; sedatives and hypnotic such as barbiturates, non-barbiturate depressants, Benzodiazepines, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. The abuse of all the drugs listed above, according to the author, constitutes drug abuse.

In chapter two, the author discusses the causes and effects of drug abuse. The causes, the author argues, are psychological factors such as rebellion, frustration, imitation, personality traits, desire to improve social relations; family systems and community factors such as the existence of marital problems, stress in the family, lack of proper sensitisation of the child etc; peer influence; and other factors such as academic difficulties, enhancing performance in sports, illiteracy etc. The author contends that there is no single factor that is responsible for drug abuse.

The effects of drug abuse, which the author categorise into psychological and social effects, are also discussed.

In chapter three, “International Drug Control”, the author traces the history of international efforts to ban or control drug to 1896 when China banned opium trade. He further categorise international, drug control into three: Pre-League of Nations era; the League of Nations era and post-League of nations/UN era. The author chronicles the various protocols and conventions in this regard, stating that Nigeria is signatory to several treaties on drugs.

In chapter four, “The Legal Regime for the Control of Drug Abuse/Trafficking in Nigeria”, the author notes that the first serious and comprehensive legislation in Nigeria was the Dangerous Drugs Act, No. 12 of 1935, which principally regulated exportation, importation, sale, manufacture and use of opium and other dangerous drugs. The author discusses other legislation such as the Indian Hemp Act 1966, Food and Drugs Act, 1976, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act, 1990 (now 2004), National Agency for Food, Drug Administration Control Act, 2004 and Tobacco Smoking (Control Act) 1990.

The author observes that even though NDLEA has counselling functions and rehabilitating of addicts, not much has been heard from the agency in that respect. He discusses factors militating against effective drug control. He enthuses that enforcement is the bane of drug legislation, not dearth or laws in Nigeria. These factors the author identifies as ‘big man connections’, corruption, and the role of security agents, unemployment and the get-rich-quick syndrome, economic constraints, and lack of cooperation among the main enforcement agencies ( DLEA, NAFDAC).

The author, in the conduct of his research, has reviewed panoply of literature which has enhanced the quality of the book. There are, however, a few observations which could be taken into account in the second edition to the work. On pages 16 and 74, Columbia was used instead of Colombia. On page 57, the words “there is no single factor that is responsible for drug abuse” should be replaced with the words “there is no single universally acceptable factor that is responsible for drug abuse”.

There is need to reconcile the author’s conflicting position on the one hand that NDLEA has counselling and rehabilitation function in chapter four with the observation in chapter five that no reference is made to treatment, rehabilitation and re-integration in Section 18 of the NDLEA Act. This book is a product of fastidious, deep, painstaking research work and I agree with Professor K.S. Chukkol that the recommendations will be a tour de force in addressing drug problems in our society. The book is recommended for reading by all those who have the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians at heart.

Dr A.O. Alubo is an associate professor and head of the Department of Commercial Law, University of Jos

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