The recent concerns about inclusivity for youths in Nigerian politics and other endeavours speak volumes about a country that cares for its future. More than 60 per cent of Nigeria’s population of over 200 million is in the youth range. Therefore, policies and politics should include this critical group to prepare them to take over the leadership of the country.
However, attention ought to be paid to other factors in our country’s social developments that could truncate the bright future of Nigerian youths. Right now, the government needs to clamp down on vices that young people freely indulge in. Among those vices that can “assassinate” the future of youths is the abuse of illicit substances, which unfortunately has become rampant in the country presently.
It has been proven beyond doubt that the abuse of these psychoactive substances and psychotropic drugs is not harmless. Academic failure, juvenile delinquency, and mental health instability are some of the consequences of young people’s indulgence in illicit substances. Usually, the burden is passed to families and relatives, and ultimately to the society.
In the past 30 months or thereabouts, NDLEA and other relevant organisations have been up and running.
- Despite flood alert, states yet to evacuate citizens
- FG investigates failed cataract surgeries at Kaduna National Eye Centre
The NDLEA recently declared the recreational use of nitrous oxide popularly called laughing gas a menace that must be stopped in the country. This step is highly commendable because nitrous oxide is mostly abused by partygoers, mostly youths. They even advertise the substance on social media, in balloons and containers.
Our memory is still fresh of how the abuse of methamphetamine, popularly known as “mkpuru mmiri,” rocked southeast Nigeria in 2022. And we are still grappling with widespread abuse of cannabis, a substance smoked with impunity by young people and their role models in urban and rural areas.
There was also the widespread abuse of tramadol and codeine, which in 2022 was on a dreadful scale before the NDLEA, NAFDAC and customs crackdown on the pharmaceutical opioids.
However, it needs to be emphasised that the family, which is the first agent of socialisation, should be at the forefront of the effort to ensure that young people are not derailed.
Parents and guardians have first contact with teenagers and therefore should put more effort into ensuring that their futures are not destroyed by the abuse of illicit substances.
The onus is therefore on parents and guardians who are aware that their young ones are abusing these drugs and substances or even have the faintest idea that they might have been experimenting with them to raise the alarm and help get them the appropriate help.
We also need to broaden the drug abuse discussion in the country. In doing so, young people should be brought to the roundtable. It will not be out of place to have drug abuse-related subjects (with emphasis on the dangers to human wellbeing) in the country’s education curriculum, especially in secondary school and as general courses in tertiary institutions. This will afford young people the requisite knowledge about illicit substances as they grow and advance in their academic endeavours.
The UNODC report on the drug situation in Nigeria had dire findings that, as of 2019, were so alarming that the previous administration of President Muhammadu Buhari deemed it fit to reinvigorate NDLEA to tackle the drug menace.
Now that the baton has been passed on, it is expected that the Bola Tinubu’s administration will sustain the “War on Drugs” being spearheaded by NDLEA.
Indeed, NDLEA is making progress, given the results, initiatives and activities of the agency in the past 30 months.
There is a need, however, to continue to strengthen these institutional efforts to curb the trafficking of illicit drugs and mitigate the consequences of substance abuse in the country.
This is an assignment for us all families, communities, governments and institutions.
We shouldn’t forget that if it is well done, we will succeed in protecting our young ones from the scourge of illicit substances and by the same token, safeguard the future of this country.
Adekunbi Lawal, a youth advocate, writes from Jabi, Abuja