From 19th to 20th October 2017 the African Youth Initiative on Crime Prevention AYICRIP in partnership with the Civil Society Network on Substance and Drug Abuse CSNetSDA organized her Annual National Youth Summit on Drugs and Substance Abuse Prevention in Nigeria with the theme: ‘Drugs and substance abuse, an impediment to youth development and national productivity’ at the former SGF Office in the centre of unity, Abuja, Nigeria. The Summit which is the 3rd edition saw the participation of 227 youth leaders from the National Youth Service Corps, Universities, Communities, Secondary Schools, Faith Based Institutions and the Civil Society Organizations within the country with the aim of appraising the fight against drug/substance abuse and illicit trafficking among young people and proffer suggestions on the way forward.
The summit was chaired by Mr Jake Epelle, President of Albino Foundation while Dr Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe, Director, Gender, Youth and Drug Control of ECOWAS who was represented by Mr Daniel Amankwa delivered the keynote address. The Director General of the National Orientation Agency who was represented by Mr Onoja Attah, Deputy Director, Public Education and Enlightenment presented a goodwill message. Our resource persons and facilitators were experts drawn from the academia and our partner organizations which include the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, UNODC, ECOWAS, United Religious Initiative, URI, PADDI Foundation, YouthArise, International Centre for Leadership Development in Nigeria, Centre for Development of Institutions, CDI, University of Jos and Global Initiative for Rural Health (GIRH).
The participants were trained on prevention, sensitization, counselling and advocacy skills which reflect world best practices in the global fight against illicit trafficking, drug and substance abuse prevention. The summit also covered topics that educated the youths on the health, social and economic implications, consequences and repercussions associated with illicit drug trafficking, drug and substance abuse among young people. Participants were also trained on how to mobilize through advocacy their law makers (State and National Assembly Members) to make appropriate drug and substance abuse prevention.
As part of the activities, the participants re-enforced their commitment in the fight against drug and substance abuse by showing a red card to illicit drug trafficking and drug and substance abuse in Nigeria and two invited secondary schools, Loyola Jesuit and Wisdom Field Academy took part in a debate competition and school presentation and this session gave the participants another great insight on the level of involvement of young people in the fight against drug and substance abuse.
The participants were advised to intensify effort and action in the campaign against illicit trafficking and substance abuse considering the negative effect it has on the lives and image of our youths, community and country. Participants agreed that it is no longer acceptable to see young Nigerians languish in rehabilitation homes and prisons while some are executed abroad because of drug and substance related cases.
The two day summit saw the presence of hundreds of young people from different backgrounds that significantly interacted with the speakers and among themselves. Young secondary school students were at the centre of the events: through the debates and discussions they expressed their minds on drug and substance abuse issue, and that edified the audience on how important is listening to the mid-level students that constitute the main affected part of the youth as far as drug and substance abuse is concerned.
Almost all the speakers pointed out the weak family education, peer pressure, widespread poverty and unemployment being the major causes of drugs abuse in West Africa. The solutions ranged from the restoration of family moral values, the training of peer educators, the introduction of drugs issues in school curricula to the maintenance and sustainability of the Rehabilitation Centres. The NDLEA got the occasion to reaffirm their availability to Nigerian youth for counselling and sensitization, this role coming before any penalty to the drug users. The Project Coordinator of ECOWAS Drug Control Unit emphasized on the strong family bonds as a prevention method against drugs abuse; the Government being in charge of setting up and applying laws to curb drugs and substance abuse that is one main impediment to youth development. In the long run, if not solved, the scourge of drug will have a very negative impact on the West African economy. The UNODC warned the audience on the dangers of drugs and substance abuse on their physical and mental health that jeopardizes their future.
As part of the resolutions, it was agreed that drug and substance abuse among young people is on the rise and every citizen, CSOs, Corporate organizations and the government must rise up to the challenge without which the situation will be worst. That prevention, sensitization and advocacy campaign approach must be considered above any other form of approach based on the fact that if objective and adequate prevention campaign is done, there will be no need for rehabilitation and treatment
That government should stop paying lip services in the fight against drugs and substance abuse prevention by way of creating jobs for young people, enforce already promulgated laws and policies where necessary, as well as provide adequate funding for the Drug Law Enforcement Agencies and Civil Society Organizations to enable them increase their capacity and facilities for effectiveness and increased productivity. That drug abuse victims should be treated as patients and not criminals considering their mental state and poor sense of judgement which leaves them at a helpless and mercy state.
That National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and government should formulate a rewarding system in form of drug prevention Ambassador or Champion to encourage young people who are committed to the prevention, sensitization and advocacy campaign against drug trafficking and abuse. And government should build recreational facilities and centres that will meaningfully engage the strength and energy of young people thereby diverting their energies from drugs and substance abuse.
The summit participants appreciated the commitment of ECOWAS, UNODC and other partners in the drug and substance abuse prevention project which has become a bane at our country’s development. The participants called on government, ECOWAS and the UNODC to increase their support for summit of this nature to enable AYICRIP and other NGOs take the campaign to other states and countries within the West African Sub –Region.