President Bola Tinubu has vowed to tackle illicit use of drug in Nigeria by raising consciousness of the threats that it poses to society.
He equally warned against the social and structural stigmatisation of drug use victims, which he said prevents them from accessing needed care and support.
Speaking on the occasion of the celebration of the United Nations International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Monday, he expressed his endorsement of the theme of the celebration which is “People First: Stop Stigma and Discrimination, Strengthen Prevention”.
He said the theme stresses the imperative to prioritize the well-being and dignity of individuals affected by drug abuse, recognising their inherent worth and the importance of providing them with effective prevention and treatment interventions.
Tinubu stated: “We could not agree less with the importance of this theme now that the most vulnerable population, especially women, young people, people living in marginalised environments, high-risk drug users, people displaced by armed conflicts or natural disasters and people in rural settings, are exposed to stigma, discrimination and exclusion from mainstream opportunities.
“These groups often face barriers in accessing the healthcare and social services within the society in addressing their drug use problems. Therefore, interventions to address drug use and its associated consequences need to be mindful of the fundamental rights of every individual.
“Stigma both social and structural, which continues to affect people who use drugs and implicated as one of the most common barriers to access support and services must be removed.”
The president noted that educating the citizenry on the dangers of drug abuse and the need to stop stigma and discrimination is crucial, calling for support for those affected.
He added: “We must empower our youth with the knowledge and skills they need to make informed decisions about their lives and provide victims of drug abuse with the resources they need to avoid falling victim to drug abuse.
“We must also support those who are struggling with drug addiction, and provide them with treatment and necessary support they need to overcome their addiction.
“In the face of these challenges, it is imperative that we adopt a people-centered approach that focuses on prevention and treatment as key pillars of our response.”
Tinubu reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to combating drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking, assuring: “We will tackle the drug menace and its associated consequences in all forms.”
He urged governments, international organizations, and civil stakeholders to take urgent actions to protect society, and all people by tackling the problem of illicit supply and abuse of drugs, to help raise consciousness of the threats that it poses to society.
Speaking at the occasion, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, stressed the need for empathy for drug use victims, saying that addiction is not a death sentence.
Represented by his deputy, Benjamin Kalu, he expressed the readiness of the National Assembly to support all Federal Government policies that engender gainful engagements of Nigerians, especially the youths who are prone to drug abuse.
He advised that the treatment of drug abusers and their families with empathy, respect and dignity should be ingrained in the strategic approach to the ongoing fight.
“Drug addiction on its own is not a death sentence. Therefore, members of society who are battling drug addiction deserve our support and encouragement to enable them to overcome the addiction,” the Speaker stated.
Earlier, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig Gen Buba Marwa (rtd) said that the agency cannot win the war against illicit drugs without the active collaboration of all stakeholders.
He also cautioned that rather than stigmatising individuals under the web of drug addicts, such persons deserve sympathy and support.
He said: “By focusing on “People First,” we recognize that individuals struggling with drug abuse are not defined solely by their addiction.
“They are human beings with inherent dignity, deserving of understanding, empathy, and support. Hence, we must work to break down the barriers that prevent people from seeking help and foster an environment where they feel safe, respected, and encouraged to access the necessary treatments and interventions.
“A crucial part of this assignment is addressing stigma and discrimination in attitudes and practices that create additional hurdles for those seeking assistance. Our prejudices hinder their access to healthcare, employment, and social support systems.
“By raising awareness, educating communities, and promoting acceptance, we can challenge these harmful stereotypes and foster a society that embraces individuals on their path to recovery.”
Speaking on behalf of MTN Foundation, who are partners with the NDLEA, the chairman, Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, whose speech was read by Dennis Okoro, stressed that the “fight against drug abuse is everyone’s fight,” saying that it must be intensified to rid the system of the menace
He described the scourge of substance abuse as “a clear and present danger, more so as the statistics indicate that a staggering number of people are caught in its snare.
“We must tackle this as a situation of national emergency; deploying the use of policy and partnerships as a strategy to contain this scourge.
“Distinguished guests, as a matter of urgency, we must scale up this fight against illicit drug use so we can, in the shortest possible time, have a nation free from drug abuse. The event ends today, but the conversation must continue.”
SOURCE: Nigerian Tribune