A governorship candidate of one of the leading political parties in Kano just finished a rally in Tudunwada area of the metropolis and the convoy was driving back to the city when some hoodlums, who seemed to have laid an ambush, attacked.
A pandemonium ensued, and by the time calm returned, not less than six persons were severely injured. At the scene of attack were broken pieces of bottles, substances and a trail of blood. But the police on the convoy made arrests. A few hours later, those arrested were released at the request of some influential politicians in the state.
“The politicians are contributing to the problem of drug abuse because they’re the ones buying it for them and using them for campaign. And when we arrest them, you’ll start getting calls,” said Magaji Musa Maji, spokesman of the Nigerian Police Force, Kano State Command.
In 2017 alone, the Command said it recorded 601 major crimes, which included 334 cases of rape, 35 armed robberies and 52 kidnappings. In the same year, 497 members of different Yandaba(miscreants) gangs were arrested on allegations of violence. In 2018, the Command arrested over 3,400 alleged criminals.
According to Maji, 90 percent of those arrested confessed to using drugs and psychoactive substances “There is a 100 percent linkage of drug and substance use to crime in Kano because 90 percent of those we arrested for various crimes admitted using drugs,” Maji revealed.
The prevalence of violent thuggery in the state was corroborated by Dr. Ibrahim Abdul, a Narcotic specialists and Kano State Commander of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA.
Abdul revealed that the Command arrests not less than 30 suspected drug dealers or users every other month in a state noted for high prevalence of drug and substance abuse. In 2018 alone, 502 suspects were arrested and five of them were females.
“There is lack of cooperation with the agency in Kano because some people come in to our facilities to forcefully rescue suspects. Three of our officers were injured in some of those incidences. There could have been more injuries if not because they had been trained in drug policing strategies. But some of our Area Command offices were burnt,” Abdul revealed, adding that politicians are part of the problem.
The NDLEA Commander was a guest at a one-week education programme on drug abuse hosted at the ‘American Corner’ of the Murtala Muhammed Library Complex in Kano. The event tagged: ‘Reclaiming Futures In Northern Nigeria (REFINN)’ was funded by the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund of the U.S. Department of State with support from the U.S. Embassy in Abuja.
Dr. Abdul was delighted that the project was brought to Kano at a time campaigns for election had intensified, and “some misguided politicians use the youths to perpetrate thuggery.” He warned that unless something drastic was done to stop the trend of drug abuse, it may plunge the country into more chaos because “all the crimes of terrorism, robbery and so on are committed by people who abuse drugs.”
REFINN, according to Ejikeme McBishop Ogueji, Leader of the alumni team behind the project, was conceived to halt the trend of drug abuse among youths in Northern Nigeria. The project, which took off from Kaltungo, Gombe State, would also be taken to Kaduna State and the Nation’s capital, Abuja.
“The project is to expose the youths, those living with addiction and those who’re not, to the dangers, risk factors and impact protective and life skills that would ensure they don’t succumb to the menace,” said Ogueji, adding that the project was already showing significant signs of success.
The project is designed to be interactive, relying on what the participants already know and further exposing them to current realities. Questions that form the basis of the daily interactions include: “What do you know about drugs?’, “what is drug abuse?”, “what happens to you when you abuse drugs?”, ”what are the symptoms of drug abuse in a user?”, “ What would you do if you think someone is abusing drugs?,” and “ can you tell if someone is having substance use disorder?”
Na’ajatu Abdullahi, a student of the Federal College of Education, Kano who attended the programme for one week, said she had never engaged in any form of drug abuse. “But we see people in our community- little children and youths-using drugs every day. I have learnt a lot here to refrain from drug abuse and I also learned how to talk to others about it.”
But Adam Adam, a commercial motor cyclist who’s just 23, said he’d abused not less than seven different types of drugs and substances, including diazepam and cannabis. He was invited to the programme, as all the 55 participants, by the Kano-based Youth Awareness Forum on Drug Abuse (YAFODA) at a time his mother’s worry over his life had reached fever level.
“When I came here and heard what everyone said, honestly I was encouraged and motivated, and now I’m sure my recovery has begun,” he said in Hausa.
But for REFINN to succeed, youths recovering from addiction must be kept busy. “This is why we’re also planning to have another project on skill acquisition and empowerment so that these youths would no longer be idle and go back to drugs,” explained Mr. Ogueji who is also the Founder, Life Challenge Intervention Outreach, a Non-Governmental Organization with interest in youth empowerment.
Drug abuse or addiction is a menace in Kano where the population of unemployed youths are said to be very high. Quite a number of these are turning to drugs. The NDLEA in the state said it confiscated 9,607.722 kilograms of hard drugs and other prohibited substances in Kano state between January and December 2018. This include 1,697.744 kilograms of Cannabis, 27.7 grams of Cocaine and 10.9 grams of Heroin. Other substances intercepted were 1,760.08 kilograms of Codeine; 5,886.454 kilograms of Diazepam; 149.453 kilograms of Pentazocine and 343.7 kilograms of Rephynol.
The NDLEA Commander disclosed that only drug dealers and traffickers are prosecuted while users caught are sent for rehabilitation in line with the new “paradigm shift” in drug policing. In 2018, Kano convicted 92 drug traffickers, while 55 cases are still pending in court. Abdul added that 157 drug users were referred for a brief intervention and 43 of them were counselled and would engage in skills acquisitions in order to earn a living.