Prevailing efforts to totally resolve the conflict in Jos, the Plateau State capital, is yet to yield the needed result. The Jos conflict which began in 2001 as an ethnoreligious crisis has taken different dimensions to include rival gang/cultists clashes, thuggery, robbery, among other kinds of violence. And this conflict has cost lots of lives and properties over the years.
From a distance, however, it seems the underlying conflict in Jos is ethnoreligious, but a cursory look shows that there are varied dimensions to it than meet the eyes. And an intricate driver of the conflict which has been acknowledged in many quarters is the use of illicit drugs by the youths, which is also fast spreading in the city.
- Nigeria’s debt stock rose to N39.5tr in Dec – DMO
- Chinese in Nigeria now into smuggling of contraband — Customs
For instance, in 2019, the discovery of a corpse around Anguwan Damisa in the Dutse-Uku area of Jos North Local Government Area of the state had sparked off crises. Many people who went for Sunday service that day found it difficult to return home as the incident began when most church services were yet to close.
Violence broke out after the corpse was discovered, not only in the area the corpse was discovered, but other communities within the area. The places affected were Dutse-Uku, Cele-Bridge, Tina junction and Rikkos. Apart from those killed and houses burnt, several people were also injured, while others were displaced from their houses.
Even though those areas are usually flashpoint areas and are situated at the edge perceived to be rival communities divided along ethnoreligious settlement, it was discovered that the crisis under discourse began among youths who converged at specific joints within the boundary to smoke hemp and take other illicit drugs.
In the course of taking their drugs/smoking, a quarrel broke out between two of the youths there, leading to the stabbing of one of them who later bled to death. But as soon as the corpse was discovered, it was given a religious colouration and boys began blocking roads and attacking anyone who belonged to the other religion, whose member was accused of stabbing the victim to death.
There are other instances where quarrels by two people/parties unrelated to their ethnoreligious difference would quickly take an ethnoreligious dimension and people, mostly youths, who know nothing about the issue will begin to fight each other, and if not quickly checked would spread beyond the place the fight/quarrel began from. So, all these are often blamed on the use of illicit drugs.
Hence, the common understanding, therefore, is that once the use of illicit drugs and other banned intoxicants can be curtailed, the conflict in Jos can effectively be checked because the youths who use these drugs and fuel the conflicts are believed not to be in their usual senses and that they are being influenced by the drugs to commit the nefarious acts.
Worried by this trend, a foundation last year canvassed illicit drug control to halt the conflict, not only in Jos but in Plateau State communities in general. The foundation called Zishiya Empowerment Foundation called on the government to intensify drug abuse control in communities across the 17 local government areas of the state in order to tackle the spate of violence and criminality.
The Director-General of the foundation, Violet Kaburuk, during a four-day workshop for social workers across the 17 LGAs, harped on the need to ensure effective inclusion of drug abuse in the education curriculum to mitigate the drug menace ravaging some of the communities.
Kaburuk equally suggested that mechanisms should be put in place to ensure constant checkmating of students right from primary to tertiary institutions of learning in the state, adding that there is a compelling need to educate all wards to understand the dangers behind the use of illicit drugs and desist from the act. Checkmating drug use, she said, is key in de-escalating the conflict in the state.
Commenting on the menace, Haruna Yusuf Abba of Angwan Rogo area of Jos North told our correspondent that the majority of those at forefront of any conflict or crime are drug addicts and that it has been part of his youth’s campaign for awareness to educate fellow youths in the city on the dangers of using drugs.
Abba who is an author and an advocate of youth governance said youths in Jos engaged in this are fond of taking Marijuana, tramadol, codeine, beneling, rapinol, exxsol, belying, gam, among others.
“The way forward is only for the government to checkmate this menace by ensuring the prosecution of those selling it like in the pharmacy, chemists, and wholesalers around communities. It is also worthy to know that some of the security agents that are meant to enforce the law and intensify the fight against this menace are also taking it and that is why the youths engage in taking it or the dealers of such illicit drugs are treated lightly,” he said.
Equally, the Plateau State Chairman of the youth wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pharmacist Markus Kanda, said drugs, especially the stimulating ones, have a way of altering perception and sense of young people’s judgement and cause them to make wrong decisions.
Substance-abusing youths, he said, are at higher risk of mental health problems, including depression, personality disorders, and suicidal thoughts.
“When youths take drugs and related substances, their sense of judgement becomes impaired. They no longer think straight and hence can be seen to behave weird and make themselves available as willing tools during crises. Drugs being abused by youths mostly include tramadol, codeine, cough syrups, shoe-making solution, among others,” he said.
Furthermore, in December last year, stakeholders at a consultative meeting of key religious and ethnic/community leaders in the state, held in Jos fingered drug abuse as an integral cause of Jos conflict.
In a communique at the end of the meeting, the stakeholders called on the security agencies and the authorities to clamp down on the use of illicit drugs by youths because they are the major propeller of conflict and criminal activities.
“The way forward is for the government to checkmate this menace by ensuring the prosecution of those selling these illicit drugs.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state, ASP Ubah Gabriel Ogaba, confirmed that drug abuse has been contributing to the conflicts in the state.
He said the police have been working with the National Drugs and Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to check the menace.
He said the police have mapped out areas where youths converge to take drugs, and have been raiding such places.
Similarly, the spokesman of Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), Major Ishaku Takwa, said most youths who perpetrate the conflicts abuse drugs and that often, the operatives have found drugs on some arrested hoodlums.
He said many of the youths, even though they don’t carry the drugs on them, while engaging in acts of violence, often take the drugs at their specific hideouts before coming out to unleash violence on people, as well as destroy properties.
He said whenever youths who perpetrate violence are arrested by their men, such youths are often handed over to the police for further investigation and action.
Similarly, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Plateau State Command, Longbit, Chrisantus Madaki, said there was a strong link between drug abuse and high rate of violence in the state.
He said that is the reason his men conduct regular raids at hideouts where the youths converge to take illicit drugs.
In an attempt to intervene and to find a solution to drug abuse in the state, the Pastoral Resolve (PARE) mobilised and engaged youths in Riyom and Bokkos local government areas to discuss the issue.
The programme under the theme ‘’Drug abuse as a driver of conflict’ addressed drug/substance abuse among youths as one of the drivers of conflict in their various communities.
The Chief Superintendent of Narcotics of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Mangu LGA of Plateau State, Ku’ulyidam Hassan, said the problem of violence and conflicts would be highly addressed if drug abuse among youths was tackled.
She called on communities to always report cases of drug abuse by youths to the agency for quick intervention.