Drug Use: UNODC Calls For Updated Data

By Mnena Iyorkegh, Abuja

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The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), has stressed the need for a new data collection to accurately reflect the current situation of drug use in Nigeria.

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The UNODC Country Representative for Nigeria, Oliver Stolpe made the emphasis at an engagement with the media on anti-corruption, police accountability, and drug prevention among others.

The parley, which had selected Journalists in attendance, was held on Tuesday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Mr. Stolpe, also explained that the last comprehensive survey conducted in 2018 is now outdated, noting that UNODC has been making efforts to secure resources for this purpose.

“The last drug use survey was in 2018. This remains as far as I can tell the most cited study that you will know UNODC has ever published anywhere in the world. On the use of drugs and it’s various impacts. Obviously, this data is outdated.

“That is the big challenge in particular in a country with young and vibrant Nigerians, having data that dates back to six, seven years. This is insufficient. So we have been making this point, of course with MDAs but also with the international development partners that they need to give us the resources in order to be able to do these things.

“Also the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) that was the principal collector of the data is very much on board. I think our challenge is really soliciting the resources. It’s everything in Nigeria, because of the large size of the country, is very expensive in particular when we’re talking about data collection. And I think a very critical question that media could ask at that point is really well, how can we still refer to 2018 data to describe today’s levels of drug use? Because that’s the truth. We can’t and we need to get better at this on wildlife and forest crime,” Stolpe said.

 

The UNODC, Country Representative, speaking on the National Assembly’s proposed death penalty for drug traffickers in Nigeria, explained that implementing the law could undermine international cooperation in intelligence and information exchange crucial for major drug seizures.

“On the death sentence of drug traffickers, as it is proposed by the Senate, you’re all aware of the legislative process it needs now to go back to the house. We are expecting the House to vote this down. We our stand as UN is clear on the death penalty we are principally and categorically against it. And from a very practical viewpoint, I have to say, it doesn’t make sense.
“The deterrent effect of death penalty has never convincingly been proven. There is no proof of the effectiveness of death penalty. It would greatly undermine the effectiveness of any work in particular when it comes to international exchange of intelligence and information,” He said.

It will be recall that days ago, the House of Representatives said it will approve the death penalty for hard drug dealers and peddlers when the bill arrives at its chamber from the Senate for concurrence.

The Nigerian Senate had during the plenary approved the death penalty for dealers and importers of cocaine, heroin, and other hard drugs into the country.
The proposed capital punishment also applies to manufacturers and traffickers in or delivery of hard drugs by any means.

The Senate had arrived at the resolution on the floor of the red chamber after deliberations on the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act (Amendment) Bill, 2024.

Addressing the broader context of drug use, Stolpe stressed the need to distinguish between drug trafficking and drug use, with the latter being treated primarily as a health issue rather than a criminal one.

In his remarks, the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), retired Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa represented by the Agency’s secretary Shadrach Haruna, while sharing concerns about the perceived leniency towards arrested individuals, explaining that possession is an offense regardless of quantity, but minor offenders are sometimes offered rehabilitation as an alternative to prosecution.

He also noted that illicit drug landscape is a rapidly changing scene, and modern drug law enforcement has to keep up with the dynamics, which calls for training in various activities targeted at curbing abuse and trafficking of illicit substances.

“Such training should not only enhance the capacity of anti-drug agencies but also reform their systems and processes and instill in them the essence of best practices. At NDLEA, we yearn for training and UNODC has been forthcoming, providing various capacity development trainings in the past three years for our personnel and stakeholders across a broad spectrum of activities that include drug supply reduction and drug abuse prevention and treatment.

“We have also noticed remarkable positivity and better reporting from the media on illicit drug matters. So, we do not doubt that this training, which is broader in scope, will further empower media personnel with deep knowledge of pertinent issues in law enforcement in general and drug law enforcement in particular” He noted.

The NDLEA Chairman commended the media for their efforts in the fight against drug abuse.

The two day workshop organized by UNODC, MacArthur and National Bureau of Statistics is aimed at empowering media personnel on the pressing issues of anti-corruption, police accountability, wildlife crime, and the vital task of sensitizing the public on abuse or misuse of drugs.

 

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