The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, or World Drug Day (WDD) was marked penultimate Monday to strengthen action and cooperation in achieving a world free of drug abuse.
No doubt, on several occasions, the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, has urged the Nigerian Government to jettison traditional orientation and “archaic” sentiment that state that cannabis is a ‘devil’s plant’.
The governor’s advocated that the Federal Government should give legal backing to cannabis to enable its use in Nigeria, saying “cannabis is a multi-billion naira industry that can help diversify the Nigerian Economy if judiciously utilised”.
This call to question, the the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency’s (NDLEA) arrest of over 17,647 offenders, conviction and jailing 2,369 between January 2021 and May 2022.
The Chairman, NDLEA retired Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa gave the figure during a press briefing in commemoration of the World Drug Day on Monday 20 June 2022, in Abuja.
He said: “In 2021, about 8,000 drug users were counselled and rehabilitated, in most cases through brief interventions. We continued the effort in the first five months of 2022, whereby an additional 3,523 were also counselled and treated in NDLEA facilities.
“Simultaneously, we have continued to shut the tap of illicit flow of drugs with the arrest of over 17,647 offenders including 10 drug barons between January 2021 and May 2022.
“More than 2,369 were convicted and jailed within the same period while 154,667.339kg of drugs were seized in the first five months of this year alone,” Marwa said.
The Arrest of Wanted Drug Lord in Ondo
The statistics comes a month after a wanted drug kingpin suspected to be behind the 2000.6kg of Cannabis Sativa seized in a concrete mixer truck in Adamawa State on 2nd December 2021, Henry Chukwuneku Okamaru was arrested in Ondo State after a five-month manhunt by operatives NDLEA.
The agency also arrested a 36-year-old Nigerian based in Italy, Nwakanma Michael Uche, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) Abuja for ingesting 95 pellets of heroin.
It’s spokesman, Femi Babafemi, in a statement said they had confessed that the concrete mixer truck with Lagos registration number SMK 890 XB was loaded with the illicit drug in Ogbese, Ondo State while they travelled for two months on the road before arriving Adamawa where they were eventually arrested by NDLEA operatives.
He said: “The drug lord has also been identified as a member of an international drug trafficking ring, while he shuttles between Nigeria and South Africa where he settles his family. He has a strong control and stake in cannabis cultivation in Ondo, Edo, Ekiti, Osun and Oyo states with large storage facilities in Lagos and Abbi in Delta State from where his consignments are distributed year round.
“Across five states of Edo, Kaduna, Kogi, Akwa Ibom and Oyo, NDLEA operatives intensified their offensive action against drug cartels. In Edo, a pharmacy along Sapele Road, Benin, was raided on Friday 27th May following intelligence and prolonged surveillance. The owner of the store, Thaddeus Uliagbafusi, 58, was arrested while a total of 130,670 tablets of different controlled drugs, 1,396 ampoules of pentazocine injection and 743 bottles of codeine were recovered from a secret location where the drugs are repackaged. This followed a similar raid of a drug joint operated by Mrs. Christianah Gabriel, 53, at Uromi, Esan North East LGA, Edo State, who was arrested with 25kg cannabis.
“While 15,000 ampoules of pentazocine injection were seized by operatives in Kaduna along Abuja-Kaduna express road, 12,500 tablets of Diazepam were intercepted along Okene-Abuja highway on Thursday 26th May. The drug exhibits were found inside a truck conveying motor spare parts from Onitsha, Anambra to Kaduna.
“In Akwa Ibom, a female drug dealer, Irene Emmanuel Bassey was arrested on Saturday 28th May, during a search of her house at Ikpa town, Esit Eket LGA where 30.5kg cannabis was recovered, while one Muideen Rasaki was nabbed with 90.8kg cannabis at Elere, Boluwaji area of Ibadan South-East LGA”, he stressed.
Ondo Drug Statistics in the Last One Year
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Ondo Command last Monday, said it had seized about 30kgs of drugs from June 2021 to date.
The state Commander of NDLEA, Kayode Raji, stated this in Akure the state capital during a sensitization and road walk organised to commemorate the United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drugs Trafficking.
Raji identified that marijuana, puff Shisha, alcoholic drinks and other deadly mixtures, such as “scoochies or skushis” top the list of the most consumed substances among the youths in the state.
He noted that other deadly drugs and substances the teenagers also abuse are Rohypnol, “Ref” as they call it, “gegemu”, Arizona and Loud, believed to be enhanced Marijuana that produce stronger effect than the regular one.
He said: “We have made over 30 kgs of various hard drugs. We have arrested 294 suspects and out of these, about 65 have been sentenced to various jail terms.
“We have arrested some people who felt hitherto, they were untouchable and we are still doing more. As a matter of fact, it is gratifying to say that our greatest achievement are the people we’ve taken off drugs.
Ondo State: Hot Bed of Cannabis Cultivation in Nigeria
It would be recalled that Governor Akeredolu had on Monday 13th May 2019 tweeted that with an estimated value of $145 billion in 2025, the state would be shortchanging itself if it ignores the marijuana business pointing out that it’s an undeniable fact that Ondo State is the hot bed of cannabis cultivation in Nigeria with an in-depth idea on it’s cultivation and harvesting.
Looking Beyond the Menace of Marijuana
Following the call by Akeredolu for the legalization of Marijuana for business purposes as well as to diversify Nigeria’s economy by tapping into the Indian-hemp market, some citizens of Ondo State and Nigeria at large went gaga, furry and infuriated taking to social media, describing the move as barbarical, diabolical, satanic and an obvious projection of the insensitivity and the tyrannic disposition of Governor Akeredolu.
Adewale Atewogbade said too much stigma has been attached to cannabis even though there are so many parts to it beyond getting high on it noting that it’s awesome to know that Nigeria government is now considering medical usage. But, some Nigerians said what Akeredolu is running is no longer government of the people by the people and for the people, but a government of MOU and marijuana for the “Jahrastafaras”.
Then, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in a Press statement signed by it’s President, Comrade Danielson Bamidele Akpan, and made available to Journalists posited that “how can we explain a supposed progressive government who arbitrarily increased the fees of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko from 33,000 to 150,000; Rufus Giwa fees increased from 63,000 to 108,000 while those in Ondo State University of Science and Technology to 200,000 from 70,000, again think of legalization of marijuana”.
According to them, Governor Akeredolu is globally junketing with tax payers money in order to create awareness for legalisation of hard drugs and narcotic use describing him as a confused chief executive.
NANS maintained that it takes someone who purchases, uses and is addicted to hard drugs to know it’s economic prospects without caring about lives and its negative impact on the society.
“Let it be known that NANS is relentless in her pursuit of total reversal of all fees increased by the cannabis indulging governor of Ondo State. We refuse to buy into this life threatening advocacy of addiction and retardation through promotion of hard drugs. We demand that Governor Akeredolu subject himself to a clinical drug test to determine his mental state”.
However, some believed that the reasons behind the the criticism of Governor Akeredolu’s action is due to fear that it might lead to insecurity, anxiety, our religious nature, level of exposure, cultural believe and educational level.
It is pertinent to state unequivocally that the advantages of legalization of marijuana in Ondo State will definitely outwit it’s implications. How do I mean? The allocation of Ondo State monthly is between N3.5billion and N4billion because Ondo State is the 6th highest collector or beneficiary of Federal Allocation in Nigeria courtesy of the fact that it’s one of the Niger Delta states producing oil.
Ondo State has Cocoa, crude oil, palm oil, rubber among others but the fact remains that its IGR has not been able to satisfy its wants. The IGR of Lagos State is higher than that of South Africa and other six African countries, this is because it’s government didn’t fail to tap into it’s available potentials and I think it will be beneficial if Ondo State learn from Lagos State.
Despite the criminalization of Marijuana in Nigeria, the fact still remains that people are still using it, smoking it. Go to Iro Street, Odopetu, Isolo and other Marijuana selling jurisdiction in Akure and see the way Cannabis Sativa is being sold and smoke publicly. Go to Eyin-Ogbe and Uso in Owo Local Government; go to Ogbese in Akure South Local Government and see the way Marijuana is being cooked with beans. Try and visit Ifon, Oke-Luse in Ose Local government and see how Cannabis is being used for Monkey tail. It shows therefore that the Law hasn’t stop the cultivation and consumption.
Funny enough, when you look at the statistics of states abusing drugs in Nigeria, Ondo is not the highest consumer of Marijuana, rather Kano, Kaduna among other Northern states are the highest consumers.
Some also believe that we are truly shortchanging ourselves if we fail to tap into the Legal Marijuana Market since the governor has said his focus will be on Medical Marijuana cultivation in controlled plantations under the full supervision of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
Apart from the argument for the legalization of cannabis for medical and business purposes, if we consider the high rate of employment in Nigeria, legalizing Marijuana will provide job opportunities for many Nigerian youths.
Barrister Arijeniwa Adedoyin Alexander who is also an indigne of Ondo opines that a visionary government doesn’t necessarily needs to take creation of employment as its priority but create an enabling environment that will enable people to explore their God given potentials thereby creating wealth leading to the development and growth of the state or country.
According to him, the Law doesn’t entirely and totally short change Marijuana. What the law is against is the usage and the usage goes beyond merely smoking. He said some countries are experiencing security challenges than Nigeria and they didn’t fail to tap into the business of Marijuana.
Recall that during his 2019 presidential campaign, presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) and Founder of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, had said Nigeria will contribute to the GDP through export of marijuana if he gets elected as president of the country, noting that other countries are making billions from the plant while Nigeria is lagging behind.
Barrister Kayode Ajulo PhD, in his article titled ”The Legalization of Marijuana in Nigeria: A Legal Opinion” stressed the need to legalize the use of Marijuana in Nigeria. His opinion considers the mischief behind the laws proscribing the production, possession, sale and use of Marijuana and thereafter considers the benefits of legalizing Marijuana in Nigeria.
According to Barrister Kayode Ajulo, there are several laws in Nigeria which prohibit cultivating, possessing and using Marijuana which includes Section 11 of the NDLEA Act which provides that any person who, without lawful authority- (a) imports, manufactures, produces, processes, plants or grows the drugs popularly known as cocaine, LSD, heroine or any other similar drugs shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to be sentenced to imprisonment for life; or (b) exports, transports or otherwise traffics in the drugs popularly known as cocaine, LSD, heroine or any other similar drugs shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to be sentenced to imprisonment for life; (c) sells, buys, exposes or offers for sale or otherwise deals in or with the drugs popularly known as cocaine, LSD, heroine or any other similar drugs shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to be sentenced to imprisonment for life; or (d) knowingly possesses or uses the drugs popularly known as cocaine, LSD, heroine or any other similar drugs by smoking, inhaling or injecting the said drugs shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not less than fifteen years but not exceeding 25 years”.
Ajulo recommended that Nigeria government should adopt a strategy, of decriminalizing marijuana usage as a way of combating it either by reducing the penalties for possession of small quantities of cannabis, so that it is punished by confiscation or a fine rather than by imprisonment.
Be as it may, it’s high time the FG to take this seriously as it is a thriving industry that will create 1000’s of Jobs for our youth & spur Economic growth and development.
Uruguay was the first country to legalise cultivation, trade and usage of marijuana in December 2013, Nigeria will ultimately diversify it’s economy if it copies Uruguay by legalizing Marijuana.
In 2018, Thailand’s military government unanimously approved medical marijuana use, which would make it the first country to legalize cannabis use in any form in Southeast Asia, it will be a brilliant idea if Nigeria government can tap this opportunity as well.
Since marijuana can be grown in all parts of the country, according to the NDLEA, Nigeria government must take into cognisance the recommendation of Barrister Ajulo which states that the National Assembly should be lobbied to amend the provisions of the NDLEA Act and other relevant laws in order to make room for the legal production, manufacturing, sale and use of Marijuana in Nigeria which in turn boast the economy of the Nation as a whole.
Nigeria government can make a lot of money by legalizing marijuana, treating it like cigarettes and getting taxes off it and building roads and taking care of people that need to be taken care off.
Finally, Nigerians need to be educated on the benefits surrounding the legalization of marijuana and it’s economic impact in order to bring about growth and development in Ondo State and Nigeria as a whole.