Pubdate: Thu, 28 Dec 2006
Source: Nigerian Tribune (Nigeria)
Copyright: 2006 African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc.
Author: Kunle Awosiyan


Despite the efforts of the National Drug Law  Enforcement Agency
(NDLEA) at curbing the increase in  the use and sales of marijuana, it
seems more people  are getting addicted to it, writes Kunle Awosiyan.

NIGERIA's booming marijuana trade is more than the  National Drug Law
Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) can  handle, Commander Okey Ihebom, the
agency's commander  in Edo state, a centre of the trade, told a major
newspaper last week. An undermanned, under-equipped,  and
under-budgeted anti-drug agency can't compete with  rising domestic
and international demand and few other  economic options for northern
farmers, he said. In its  2006 International Narcotics Control
Strategy Report,  the US State Department noted that
"marijuana/cannabis  is grown all over Nigeria, but mainly in central
and  northern states. Cultivation is generally on small  fields in
remote areas. Its market is concentrated in  West Africa and Europe;
none is known to have found its  way to the United States. However,
domestic use is  becoming more widespread. The NDLEA has destroyed
marijuana fields, but has no regular, organized  eradication programme
in place. There are no reliable  figures to determine cr! op size and

"The drug war in this part of the country is higher  than any other
place because, essentially, Edo state is  a home for the cultivation
of cannabis," Commander  Ihebom said. "They plant Indian hemp in large
quantity  in this state. The cannabis being produced in Edo and  Ondo
states is the best in the world. So, there is a  ready market for it
anywhere in the world. We also  understand that the cannabis from
those two states is  more expensive. The producers and the peddlers
are  therefore willing to take any type of risk to produce  and export
the drugs."

The state only has one vehicle for marijuana law  enforcement and no
good jail, Ihebom complained, and  farmers have been known to fight
back. "You cannot get  a vehicle that can carry you to such farms. The
farms  are not accessible by any form of vehicle. You will  drive into
the forest and stop about 20 kilometers away  from the farm and trek
to the place," he explained. "At  the farms, the farmers are mostly
armed. They know the  area better than us. After an exchange of fire,
when we  overpower them, we make arrest and commence the  destruction
of the farms. It will take us days to  destroy a large farm. At times,
they will regroup and  fight us back with sophisticated weapons. That
was how  the command lost two of its men recently."

It also lacks an effective prevention campaign. "People  smoke
cannabis out of ignorance," Ihebom said. "When we  enlighten the
public on the adverse effect of smoking  the drug, I am sure a good
number of people will stop  the habit and those that are not in the
habit of  smoking will report to us those they see smoking."  While
Ihebom emphasized violence linked to the  marijuana trade, he conceded
that wasn't always the  case, but he worried that the inflow of money
to the  impoverished region would be harmful. "The perception  that
cannabis producing or consuming communities are  violent, may not be
entirely true. Look at Ondo, a  leading cannabis producing state in
the country and yet  it is a peaceful state," he said. "But when you
consider the inflow of cash from both within and abroad  into cannabis
producing communities, you realize that  the cash flow encourages
crime. That is exactly the  case in Edo state. You know because of
drug peddling  and this international! prostitution, there is a lot of
  money here and so crime rate is also very high."

The late Afro Beat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti never  hid his love for
marijuana. Despite brushes with law  enforcement agents, Fela kept on
smoking it, praising  to the high heavens the efficacy and potency in
the  banned drug as performance enhancer. After the body of  the
legend Afro beat musician was laid to rest, his  children began to
pick his legacies to revamp the  lyrics of his unique song. The birth
of the African  shrine by his first son, Femi, within Agidingbi, Ikeja
  marked the beginning of Fela's immortality. Fela was  not only known
as an artist but also as an addicted  smoker of cannabis, a legacy
Femi would not like to  inherit. During Fela's lifetime, most people
trooped to  his shrine to smoke marijuana, a secret that was not
really revealed to Femi. He erected a giant structure  and forbade the
smoking of Indian hemp. In the  beginning, it was all songs and no
smoking. Gradually,  he started losing customers and had no option
than to  allow smokers.

At present, smokers of cannabis, cocaine, heroin and  opium have
turned the African shrine to their second  homes. For passersby who
can perceive the odour of  marijuana, it always fills the air,
especially at  night. Within the shrine, a gram of marijuana is sold
between N25 and N30. Mid-week Tribune learnt that the  cost of
cannabis reduces as the quantity demanded  increases. The sale of hard
drugs is not hidden in the  area. People sell cocaine and opium
without fear that  the police may come round. Investigation revealed
that  a gram of cocaine is sold between N1,500 and N2,000. A  journey
by Mid-week Tribune to the shrine last week  showed that policemen
hardly interfere in the smokers'  affairs.

It is not only at the shrine that smokers parade  themselves, in most
nooks and crannies of the state,  they freely engage in their
nefarious activities. In  fact, marijuana has gained popularity like
cigarette.  In spite of its psychological effect, some addicted
smokers still believe that cannabis is a good herb. A  smoker who
refused to give his name once told Mid-week  Tribune that he took
Indian hemp whenever he felt like  flying. According to him, cannabis
cools the brain and  makes the smoker to think extraordinarily. "Your
thinking becomes supernatural and makes every creature  looks very
small to you. At that time, you regard  yourself as the best thing
ever created and you can fly  in the spiritual realm," he added.
However, an  ex-addict, Mr. Jide Ajagunna said that this
extraordinary thinking of an addicted smoker is the  beginning of
insanity, which, if not stopped, might  lead to permanent madness.
Ajagunna, who is now the  Communication Director of Goodwork! er
Movement  International, a non-governmental organisation that
rehabilitates drug addicts, revealed that marijuana and  other hard
drugs could only lead to mental retardation  and nothing more.
According to him, the effect of  smoking is determined by the
physiology of the smoker.  He said, "some people smoke for the first
time and run  mad while some run mad after a long period of addictive
smoking." He explained that a cocaine smoker becomes  addicted after
four weeks of regular smoking and might  find it difficult to quit the
habit. As he put it,  "cocaine and other narcotics are more
psychoactive than  marijuana but almost all drug abusers in Nigeria
have,  at a time, smoked Indian hemp because it is cheap and  can
serve as a good alternative to the expensive  narcotics. Smokers
graduate from cannabis to  narcotics." Almost all hoodlums on Lagos
streets are  cannabis smokers and this is clearly demonstrated by
their level of sanity. To a street boy, smoking is a  s! ign of
civilisation or maturity but to a sane human  being, it! is a de ad
wrong habit. The increasing number  of mad people in Lagos has however
been traced to drug  abuse.

In his comment, the Executive Director of the  Goodworker Movement
International, Pastor Tunji  Agboola, said not less than 10, 000
Lagosians have been  exposed to drug abuse. He said some of them had
been  admitted into his rehabilitation centre. According to  him,
about 75 drug addicts are now at the Goodworker's  rehabilitation
centre out of which 45 of them were  marijuana smokers. He stated that
there are many drug  addicts who live on the streets and are
mentally-retarded and who could cause havoc, especially  during this
period of intense politicking. This might  be true as most politicians
now move with thugs who  smoke Indian hemp indiscriminately at every
political  rally. They do not care. They are ready to destroy,  kill
or maim people while on drugs. According to  Agboola, the
rehabilitation centre is established to  promote mental health within
the society.  "Rehabilitation is not synonymous to treatment," he
noted. As he put it, "Rehabilitation changes the h! uman  behaviour
and his thinking while treatment only removes  the plague that has
infected him." Speaking on how  expensive it is to rehabilitate an
addict, Agboola  stated that it costs a lot of money, adding that an
addict spends about N40, 000 a month. However, he said  that his
organisation would soon build an ultra-modern  rehabilitation centre
to augment government's effort  towards rehabilitating most depressed
youths in the  country. To him, smokers of marijuana have caused many
road accidents while the habit had made many Nigerian  youths

The Story of an addict:

Nathan is 20 and a recovering drug addict. He first  used marijuana
when he was 12 and was a heroin addict  by the time he was 16. When he
was 18, he got clean. He  has been in a treatment centre and is
attending  Narcotics Anonymous, a self-help group for drug addicts
that want to stay clean.

This is his story:

I came from a good family and I never wanted for  anything, but what I
got was never enough - I think  that was where my addictive behaviour
started from. I  started getting into trouble at primary school... I
used to get bullied and then I became a bully. My mum  and dad were
freaking out because their little angel  had turned into someone who
just didn't care anymore.

I ended up getting chucked out of class when I was 10.  I was stealing
stuff from the janitor's office and  stealing sweets. My mum and dad
weren't happy at all. I  left primary school and during the summer I
first took  drugs with a group of local lads, we were all playing
football and everyone stopped and started rolling  joints and stuff
and I smoked it and I was out of my  head. I didn't enjoy it and I
didn't like the feeling.  I remember running home and scrubbing my
face with a  toothbrush because I hated it. So I left it for a  couple
of months.

I was a bit of a loner to start with and I saw this  group of older
guys I wanted to hang about with who  were running about joking and
getting into trouble. My  mum and dad didn't know how to control me. I
used to  get a lot of positive attention when I was younger, but  as
soon as I started getting into trouble, I craved  attention and it
didn't bother me if it was positive or  negative, as long as I was
getting attention.  Eventually, I started hanging about with these
guys, I  was stealing from shops and I started smoking cannabis  all
the time. I was sitting in class stoned and not  listening to what was

I started getting suspended from school. From then I  just went
downhill doing anything. I was a bit  different from everyone else and
I was always looking  for something and I found it in drugs, in
cannabis at  that time. I went through school like that and I  started
taking speed and LSD and I didn't speak to my  family at this point. I
was sent to a child  psychologist, I was quite glad, because I was
getting  an afternoon off school. My mum and dad were freaking  out -
they couldn't handle that their son was like  this. The whole family
was having to see the  psychologist so my older brother wasn't happy.
I went  downhill - my life just revolved around drugs and  stealing
from local supermarkets and stuff.

At about age 13 or 14, I was stealing from the local  supermarket and
I was getting caught by the police and  stuff like that. Then, I
started selling drugs at  school - cannabis and amphetamines. I was
taking  amphetamine at school and snorting it before I went  into
class and snorting it in PE. I thought I was  really cool, because
drugs had always fascinated me. I  always wanted to be this cool drug
dealer or a cool  bank robber. I thought by selling a couple of wraps
of  speed, I was achieving my goal. So, I carried on like  that and
then it was towards the end of school that I  first took heroin. I
injected and then I got expelled  from school for selling drugs. My
mum and dad were  going mental - they couldn't handle that all their
friends knew that their son got expelled for drugs.  Even then I was
not that worried - I was just worried  about getting money for drugs.

The police came round to my mum and dad's house and  searched it - it
was really humiliating for them, but  as I said, it didn't bother me.
My face was in the  local paper and I didn't care. They let me back to
do  my exams and I walked back in to school in my school  uniform full
of heroin, not caring about anyone. It's  quite bad because my little
brother goes to that school  now and he's had to go in after the
reputation that I  had. I went on to college and I was taking heroin
all  the time and stealing from shops, stealing computer  games and
selling them, and scoring with older guys...  injecting all the time.

I was going out with a lassie who found out I was  injecting. We split
up and we got back together and I  promised I'd stop injecting, but I
had no intention of  stopping. My good mates I went to school with
started  finding out I was taking heroin, so slowly but surely  they
started drifting away. I just became the local  junkie. I thought it
was an exciting lifestyle - it  took away my feelings. Looking back,
it was just crap.  I was injecting in college toilets, stealing,
sharing  needles with people I didn't even know. Lots of dirty  stuff.

At Christmas when I was 16 or 17, I was sitting in my  bedroom with
one of my mates, injecting heroin, and my  mum looked in the window
and saw me and my mate  injecting. That was the first time my mum
realised I  had a serious drug problem. She freaked right out and I
ran away. I was so humiliated. I thought I wanted to  stop but,
subconsciously, I still wanted more. I moved  into a flat in a
skyscraper and my life started going  right downhill from there. I was
living next to people  who sold crack cocaine, prostituted women. I
started  going about with them and started using crack, doing
anything I could to get money.

I'd just turned 18 and in desperation I sought help  from my mum and
dad to get into a local treatment  centre. I went in there and I
couldn't admit that drugs  were a problem, I could only admit that
heroin was a  problem. They said I had to abstain from all drugs in
order to have a good recovery, and I thought no way, so  I lied my way
through the treatment centre and came out  and just started again. I
was smoking cannabis one  night and the next morning I woke up and I
thought  well, I'm not clean anyway, so I'll just take heroin  and
I'll start clean tomorrow.

My life was an isolated world, sitting in my flat with  the curtains
drawn. I was scared to go out because I  thought people were after me.
A lot of it was just in  my head, I was just going mad. I couldn't get
out of  bed before I injected myself. My life was a mess and my  body
was run down. I was well underweight. I couldn't  eat. My mum and dad
thought I'd been cured so they were  going mental. I was doing a lot
of crazy stuff. I was  slowly and surely killing myself... my life was
crap.  The final time I went back into a treatment centre,  life was
that bad, I was suicidal. I was in the  treatment centre for six
months. This time I  surrendered. This time I chucked in the towel and
said  I know my way doesn't work, show me how to do it.

In there, I learned a lot about myself I managed to get  clean and
stay clean. My life just got better, slowly  but surely. My family
started speaking to me, started  phoning me and having good
conversations. I went out a  couple of times for the weekend speaking
to them, and  then I left the treatment centre. I made a lot of good
friends there - I never really had friends before, just  people that I
used drugs with. This time I had good  friends that I had something in
common with.
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MAP posted-by: Derek