Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, has warned that the rising spate of drug abuse in Nigeria will become catastrophic if left unchecked.
Saraki said a British Broadcasting Corporation Africa’s ‘Africa Eye’ documentary, titled ‘Sweet Sweet Codeine,’ which detailed the prevalence of drug and substance abuse in Nigeria, was another eye-opener.
“Nigerians can now see that if care is not taken, we could be sitting on a catastrophe. We cannot all just fold our arms and expect this issue to fix itself. This is everybody’s problem,” he stated.
Saraki made this known in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sanni Onogu, in Abuja on Tuesday.
The Senate President stated that documentaries like ‘Sweet Sweet Codeine’ were real-life attestations to the need for Nigeria to take its drug abuse problem more seriously.
He said, “The widespread nature of this substance abuse problem in Nigeria is why the Senate convened the stakeholders’ roundtable in Kano in December. Even though I have been working on this issue for a few months now, watching the BBC documentary was another eye-opener. Nigerians can now see that if care is not taken, we could be sitting on a catastrophe. We cannot all just fold our arms and expect this issue to fix itself. This is everybody’s problem.
“As things stand, following the Roundtable on Drug Abuse that held in Kano in December 2017, we have already developed a draft legislative framework for the control of narcotics and psychotropic substances and the provision of mental health and substance use services in Nigeria.”
Saraki noted that with the Drug Control Bill about to be introduced, the mandate of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control, as well as other law enforcement and regulatory bodies, would be strengthened to eradicate the illicit production and trafficking of controlled substances.
He added, “The Mental Health Bill will ensure the availability of mental health and substance abuse services in every state, as well as guarantee the enforcement of minimum standards of care for people with mental health disorders. This is because we cannot continue like this. We cannot continue to have one psychiatrist for every 1.6 million Nigerians and expect this substance abuse problem to go away.
“This legislative framework that we are preparing recognises the low number of mental health practitioners in the country, and works to rectify that problem by ensuring that quality mental health and substance abuse services are available for this underserved segment of the population.”