BY Innocent Orok
It is no longer news that illegal possession of hard and nauseating drugs are now sold and consumed by mostly youths below twenty years in Nigeria. In recent times the menace has reach a geometrically height that the vast majority of Nigerian youths are addicted to it, despite the various security agencies efforts to tackle them.
Hard drugs like Tramadol, Codeine, marijuana popularly known as India Hemp or Igbo are now concocted into varies liquid drinks like palm wine, Coca cola, malt , local gin ( Ogogoro, Kai kai) to either give the consumer the needed satisfaction or intoxicate to give the taker the required energy to commit various crimes.
The irony of this drugs phenomenon is that while the lives of the takers are being destroyed, the paddlers and importers of these substance are smiling to the banks to collect their millions.
Market survey shows that a carton of 220- 225mg of tramadol is sold for between N5-N6million.
In 2018 alone , the Nigeria Customs Service has intercepted over 80x40ft containers of tramadol estimated to cost over N20billion. In a swoop the Customs at Apapa port complex intercepted 41x 40 ft containers of illicit tramadol drugs ranging from 200- 250mg tablets of different manufacturers mostly coming from India.
In the same period, the Tin can Island port also in Lagos seized another 11×40 containers of same substance. While the Eastern port of Onne in Rivers state also intercepted over 20x 40 containers.
In 2019, the importation of the drugs seems to have reduced, but sadly it is being imported and cleared from the ports with fake or concealed names to avoid detection by the Customs and other security agencies.
A peculiar case happened in May this year at the APMT terminal at the Apapa port complex where an ambulance was used to pilfer cartons of tramadol drugs from an unexamined container at the terminal.
It was reported that over 100 cartons of the drugs had already been exited out from the container before it was discovered by the Customs.
In August this year. the Customs Strike Force also discovered a warehouse along Oshodi -Apapa expressway where a huge cartons of the drugs are being stored for onward distribution to all parts of the country.
Worried by the menace of the illicit drugs consumption by Nigeria youths, the Federal government has set up a Committee to investigate the course and how to address this dangerous trend.
The committee has so far submitted its report to the Federal government and now a Committee headed by a retired DIG of Police is working in collaboration with other agencies to track down those behind the drugs imports to Nigeria.
According to a BBC investigation in April 2018 showed the extent of tramadol and codeine addiction in Nigeria, the production of codeine-based cough syrup was banned in Nigeria after the BBC exposed the illicit drugs production plant in Nigeria.
The report also said that codeine is not the only opioid scourge spreading across West Africa. Another painkiller, Tramadol, is fuelling widespread addiction – and as the BBC’s Stephanie Hegarty found out, it may even be fuelling insurgency in the North-East.
When Mustafa Kolo, 23, takes the bright red pills he feels like he can push a tree. It’s like his body isn’t his. They obliterate the negative thoughts.
“When I take it, I forget everything,” he says.
“Mr Kolo and his friend Modu Mohammed are with their boss, the commander of a vigilante unit set up to protect the city of Maiduguri from Boko Haram.The young recruits are clearly uncomfortable. People have lost everything’ How many did you take today?” I asked them.”Today? None,” came the reply.
Mr Kolo’s eyes are dark and bloody red, he slurs slightly as he talks. Mr Mohammed is listless and distracted. His head is hanging between his bony shoulders. It’s obvious they’re lying. The commander steps in and urges them to tell the truth.”I used to take three to four when I first began taking it. But now I have reduced it to one or half,” Mr Kolo says, unwilling to go further.”
The BBC investigation reveals that
In this troubled town, thousands of people are addicted to Tramadol – the vigilante fighters, those displaced by the war and even the militants themselves.
The cheap opioid painkiller is meant to be used to treat moderate to acute pain. But, like most opioids, it is addictive – although just how addictive is a matter for debate.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says Tramadol is generally thought to have a “low potential for dependence relative to morphine”.
But, the epidemic of addiction erupting across West Africa could yet disprove that.
“The problem is really huge,” says Marcus Ayuba, head of a unit run by Nigeria’s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) that deals with drug dependency, bowing his head sadly.
“It’s really huge.”
Mr Ayuba runs an NDLEA drug treatment centre in Maiduguri, the state capital where, by his own estimate, one in three young people are addicted to the drug – an epidemic which, he believes, can be traced back to a decade of war.
“People have lost everything,” he says. “They are young people who were basically farmers, they’ve lost their farms, their homes.”
“Parents have seen children killed in their presence,” he adds.
Mr Ayuba says during counselling, people have told him, “What else can we do? We just want to get out of the world.”
But the North East crisis didn’t bring Tramadol to Nigeria. Mr Kolo started taking Tramadol in 2007, two years before the insurgency began.
At first, he says he took it to help him to work. It dulled the pain of physical labour while helping to keep him awake.
But now because of his addiction, he can’t get work. Instead he volunteers with the civilian vigilante force.
The tramadol effect spreads like a wild fire tormenting Nigerian youths like an epidemic of massive destruction.
A 21 years old Isa Mohammed is got in the web of the war in the region the region spanning over four years, he lived in a forest camp where there wasn’t enough food or water – but there was Tramadol.
“When you are going for a military operation you will be given it to take, otherwise if you take it you will be killed,” he says.
“They told us when you take it you will be less afraid – you will be strong and courageous.”
The drug was once plentiful, but in the past few months, as the Nigerian army closed in on their camps, supplies became scarce.” Isa confesses.
WHAT IS TRAMADOL?
A prescription drug ,primarily a painkiller.
Can treat mild depression or premature ejaculation .Tramadol is only legally available on prescription in Nigeria but in practice it’s sold freely in pharmacies and at market stalls and in streets and bus stops across Nigeria.
Much of the Tramadol coming into Nigeria is made in India. Tramadol was reserved only for leaders and those going into battle. The former fighter believes they were all addicted.
In Nigeria today, tramadol and other intoxicated drugs are common place and are sold everywhere including the rural areas unhindered.
Tramadol today has become the commonest of all drugs to be seen and consumed on a daily basis like common pain relievers.
To nib in the mud, this dangerous trend, all Nigerians must work together to redeemed the trend, less Nigeria be rated among drugs addicted countries of the world. The time is now.