Nonsochukwu Uwa, Owerri
Drug addiction has been identified as one of the major causes of the lingering insecurity and senseless killings in Imo State.
Since the advent of the unknown gunmen in 2020, insecurity has been on the high side in Imo State and indeed, other parts of the South-East.
However, a number of successes have been recorded by security agents in busting the hideouts of the perpetrators where caches of weapons have been recovered.
Large quantities of different hard drugs have equally been recovered from such criminal hideouts.
These narcotics, according to the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Imo State, are not only inimical to health but also have been identified as one of the factors encouraging mostly young men to take to crime.
For NDLEA, the most abused hard drugs in Imo, are Indian hemp, tramadol, and methamphetamine popularly known as Mkpurummiri.
The rising activities of terrorists in the state have become a serious source of worry.
Some of the disturbing statistics from security agencies indicate that terror-related activities have been on the rise across the state of late.
For example, on 28 August 2022, five suspected terrorists were neutralised at Izombe in the Oguta council Area of Imo State.
Police said large quantities of Indian hemp were recovered from their hideouts.
On 29 August 2022, there was an arrest of a notorious kidnapper at Ohuba village in the Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area, and a large quantity of a substance suspected to be Indian hemp was recovered from him, according to Imo Police command, to mention but few.
Statistics from the Imo NDLEA, have it that between June 2021 and June 2022, no fewer than 170 suspects have been arrested in the state over drugs related offenses.
Among the various exhibits seized within the period under review include 0.10513kg of Cocaine; 0.2077kg of Heroin; 3.896kg of Methamphetamine; 3.184kg of Tramadol; and 0.5278kg of Rohypnol; among others.
“Within the period covered, 51 suspects have been convicted while 146 cases were charged to court and the cases are still ongoing. Out of the number of drug suspects arrested, 171 are male while 47 belong to female categories as the case may be,” NDLEA said.
Investigations by Ikengaonline revealed lack of rehabilitation centres to cater for the drug addicts.
“Imo is one of the states in the South-East region that does not have a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts,” a security source confirmed.
NDLEA source added that there is no drug abuse control committee in Imo State.
It was also said that “Imo State does not have a clear anti-drug policy” that would assist in the fight against drug addiction.
This is believed to be one of the factors fuelling insecurity across the state as more youths appear to be getting recruited into the crime industry.
Our investigation further revealed that the state Government was paying little or no attention to address drug addiction in the state.
When Ikengaonline Correspondent visited the office of the Imo NDLEA on a fact-finding mission, he was not allowed to take photos because of security issues.
However, a source from the agency told Ikengaonline that, “Imo NDLEA has a make-shift rehabilitation centre which the government failed to render any assistance to despite the several appeals from the NDLEA.”
Ikengaonline also found out that the case with Imo was different from Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia and Anambra, where the agency has functional rehabilitation centres and not the make-shift called rehabilitation centre in Imo.
However, there are private rehabilitation centres in Imo East senatorial district and Imo West senatorial district.
Reports say up to N1 million is charged per person on admission to the centre, adding that adequate attention is not even given to the inmates.
Also, it was argued that Imo State does not have a clear anti-drug policy that would assist in the fight against drug addicts.
Ikengaonline recalls that worried by the lack of rehabilitation centres in the state, the Imo State House of Assembly, had in November 2021, called on the State Government to establish a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts.
It urged Governor Hope Uzodimma to constitute a committee to collaborate with the NDLEA to fight against drug addicts.
The Assembly had noted that: “Hard drug intake poses severe health and psychological effects to the consumers and constitutes a socio-economic threat to the state. After the consumption, the consumers are negatively propelled to exhibit immoral behaviours and engage in all forms of crimes against the society.”
“The governor should reconstitute a committee that will work in collaboration with Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to fight the menace and establish rehabilitation centres in the state,” the House added.
In June 2022, the State Assistant Commandant Narcotics, NDLEA, Mr Shehu Lamuwa, said: “246 million use drugs worldwide, 14.5 million use drugs in Nigeria, the production of illicit drugs has tripled; … and if NDLEA arrests five trailers of drugs what it means is that 50 of the trucks have passed. So law enforcement agencies have been overwhelmed.
“There is no single rehabilitation centre in Imo State, the only one we have is in Orlu Local Government Area and it is a private establishment. In 48 per cent of schools in Imo State, we have somebody selling drugs at the back of the schools. Imo State is the only state that does not have a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts.”
On how to prevent the problem of drug abuse in Imo State, he advised early prevention.
“There is need to stop early drug use; and don’t take drugs in front of your children. Teach parental/family vigilance and community participation in drug issues and also involve the experts in the prevention and management of drug issues,” he suggested.