The arrest of drug traffickers and seizures of illicit substances by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has been consistent over the past two years. Every Sunday, Nigerians are informed about fresh developments in drug law enforcement.
By now, most Nigerians are aware that our country has a drug problem. To say that NDLEA is doing a good job is an understatement. But if we are to be sincere, we will acknowledge that citizens need to help NDLEA.
One area where citizens, especially parents and guardians, can be of help is in ensuring that young people are kept away from illicit drugs. NDLEA reported that 40 per cent of Nigerian youths, between 18 and 35, are deeply involved in the abuse of drugs. This is alarming.
At the same time, society cannot completely claim ignorance of how its younger generation is lured into drug abuse.
The pernicious influence of social media in our lives has been a growing concern to modern society. Unfortunately, social media is now seemingly an integral part of our lives. For teenagers, whether they are at home, work, in school, shopping with friends, or visiting family for the holidays, their eyes are frequently fixed on the screen of their mobile phones. The good part of this is that we’re more connected to each other than ever before. The bad aspect is that social media connections aren’t the same as socialising in real life.
When teenagers spend crazy amounts of time on social media, it can heighten the chances of negative influences coming through and touching their lives. Among those negative influences is drug abuse.
In this new social paradigm, celebrities have replaced parents as teachers of norms and values. What is so heartbreaking is that these celebs and influencers are everywhere on social media teaching bad behaviour.
The danger is when favourite celebrities, influencers or showbiz idols participate in deviant behaviours online, they begin to standardise such deviant actions as appropriate.
Parents and teachers can help NDLEA stem the tide of drug abuse among youths by holding discussions with the younger ones and teaching them about the dangers of drug abuse. This should become a standard practice in every family.
Fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, and teachers need to counter and neutralise the power of corrupt social media influencers in the life of our young people.
For children or wards, who are already caught in the drug abuse web, talking to them may not be sufficient. They need professional assistance. In this regard, one of the wonderful developments in recent times is the establishment of the NDLEA Drug Abuse Call Centre. The facility is toll-free and it is open 24/7. This is a major step which will help parents in their effort to complement NDLEA activities to curb the consequences of abuse of illicit drugs among youths.
There is no better time than now for all relevant stakeholders including organisations, schools and religious institutions to join hands with NDLEA to safeguard the sanity of our youths who are supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow.
Philemon Akwu wrote from Lugbe, Abuja