From Paul Osuyi, Asaba

The federal government on Tuesday in Asaba, Delta State, restated its determination to win the war against drug and substance abuse in the country.

Minister of Information, Culture and Orientation, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stated this, reiterated that the war against abuse of drugs and substances must be won in order to save the nation from dire consequences.

He spoke during the opening of a two-day Annual Roundtable on Cultural Orientation (ARTCO), with the theme, “Culture, Drug Abuse and the Future of the Nigerian Youth”, which is being organised by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO).

Available statistics showed that drug abuse by Nigerians is three times higher than the global average.

According to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), 29.4 million Nigerians abuse drugs, with 40 per cent of the youth population deeply enforced in drug abuse.

Represented by the Director of International Cultural Relations at the Ministry, Memunat Idu-Lah, the Minister frowned at the breakdown of cultural values and the high level of drug and substance abuse.

Mohammed stated that the federal government was “fully aware of the high prevalence of drug abuse, especially among Nigerian youths.”

He said the drug war is more dangerous than the war against insurgency and banditry because of the dire consequences.

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“Apart from a significant number of people suffering from drug use disorders, the increased rate of insecurity and crime is traceable to drug prevalence among youths.

“It is gratifying to state here that the measures taken by the administration are yielding the desired results,” he said, even as he commended the NDLEA and UNODC for their efforts in the war against drug abuse.

He appealed to the relevant stakeholders including parents, religious bodies, civil society organisations, and the media, among others, to play critical roles in educating “our youths about the consequences of drug abuse.”

Executive Secretary of NICO Ado Mohammed Yahuza explained that the roundtable was s a core programme of the institute designed to bring together various interest groups, researchers, relevant stakeholders and scholars to deliberate and exchange views on critical and topical issues from the cultural perspective.

Yahuza said separate reports by UNODC and NDLEA point out the implication of the drug prevalence in Nigeria.

“While the NDLEA warned that there is a linkage between hard drugs and insecurity in Nigeria, UNODC avers that drug crime is a threat to development and security,” he said.

In his remark, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who was represented by the state Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Lawrence Ejiofor, called for concerted efforts to urgently address the menace of drug abuse which he insisted, has assumed epidemic proportion.

He traced the root cause of the nation’s socio-political and economic predicament to the erosion of cultural values.

The governor stressed the need to mould the youths to become responsible future leaders by helping them to be grounded in culture.

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Source: news