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When legislators debate drugs and sex

By News Express on 10/03/2018

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The National Assembly has been busy embarking on high-profile policy interactive sessions in different parts of Nigeria, on the vexed twin societal evils of hard drugs, and trafficking for sexual enslavement. Kano and Benin City have played host to two of such important interfaces. 

These topics of sex and drugs remind me of a track in one popular dance hall song of the mid-80s, which demanded that people should talk about sex. After all, sex and drugs, when combined, is rated above a mere billion dollar business. Sex and illicit drugs are multi-billion dollars industry, collectively. Both of these two thematic areas touch the fundamentals of our social life as a nation, especially because the universal fact that illicit drugs and sex affect the youth population.  Younger persons in Nigeria constitute clearly the majority of the entire population of well over 160 million. By some calculations, demographers and statisticians are known to hold the view that youth constitutes at least 65 per cent of Nigeria’s population.

Another interesting dimension from the sudden spike in high policy meetings by legislators at the national level is the fact the legislators have found themselves completely wedged in by a double-edged sword. They are in-between the river and the deep blue sea. By this I mean to say that the members of the political class are to be blamed for the unprecedented manifestations of these twin evil practices of illicit sex trafficking and drug addiction, by the youth of Nigeria. The legislators also hold the key towards fundamentally providing real time panacea to these vices that threaten the foundations of our nation state.

The politicians, most of whom have been found wanting and are caught looting the resources of their states as governors and cabinet level officials at various levels, have also been accused of being deeply involved in exacerbating and escalating the scale and scope of these vices. Politicians are known to run sex-trafficking rings that ironically are funded from public treasury. Some who hold diplomatic passports and frequently junket globally are known to be involved in part-time human trafficking for cash and sexual gratifications. 

This is because virtually all executive and legislative and even judicial offices maintain juicy units they colloquially call Protocol Department. People with deep discerning minds know that most protocol departments of these officers in top level government offices in Nigeria are deployed to hire and pay for the sexual gratifications of the holders and wielders of political powers. The shocking fact is that even NAPTIP that institutionally drives the fight against human trafficking also maintains an elaborate protocol department. There is no hiding the fact that whenever and wherever public officers go on official duties, locally and internationally, they do always dispatch these state sponsored ‘pimps’, who wear the official toga of protocol departments, to pre-arrange young school girls and boys to sexually entertain these government officials. Pathetically, it is from our collective treasury that these illicit deals are funded. 

This lifestyle is not new, because even Prof Wole Soyinka in the book, We Must Make Haste At Dawn, alluded to the wayward lifestyles of some government officials of the immediate post-independence period, who were on scholarship abroad. I read, even in an old literature, that the First Republic politicians who frequented overseas countries were engaged in wild sex and drugs. However, only a small percentage of the people participated. 

This is one area of assignment that we have particularly recommended to the management of the anti-human trafficking agency, NAPTIP, to develop and evolve ways of checking these evil trends that go on among government officials, including legislators and NAPTIP itself.

Thankfully, the Senate president has taken the gauntlet to face this menace. But he may have overlooked the deep-rooted problems of payment for sex that go on in the official quarters, because it is easier to chase after the ills that others do, but too easy to overlook that which occurs under our roofs and noses.

In terms of drugs, politicians are the worst offenders, because many of them are alleged to be hooked up in that habit; which explains why someone elected as a state governor can dip his filthy hands into the treasury of his state and cart away nearly 90 per cent of the entire financial assets of his state, leaving the rest of the population to perish in hunger and poverty. By the way, drug addiction is a very expensive habit. It is also only a drug addict that can, when elected as state governor fail to pay old pensioners but, instead, continues to launder the resources of his state to God knows where.

The Emir of Kano, Mohammed Sanusi II was right when he recommended to the Independent National Electoral Commission to subject political aspirants to scientific drug test, to ascertain their drug status.

The recent interventions of, especially the Senate in the two areas of illicit drugs and illegal sex is, therefore, the most important of all that they have done since the last three years. But like the Kano monarch stated, these political office-holders should do deep introspection. Let them remove the speck of wood in their eyes so as to see clearly that which is in the eyes of the rest of us the commoners. That notwithstanding, it is important to understand the perspective of the Kano monarch regarding the effects of drug-addiction among members of the political class vis-à-vis the manifestations of tendencies such as looting of public fund and perpetration of other criminality, such as murder of opponents during elections. 

Incidentally, the Emir of Kano made the remark during an interactive session on illicit drugs staged by the Senate of the Federal Republic.

“I am ready to submit myself for drug test. I suggest that ministers, governors and traditional rulers should go for drug test, because when youth understand that they cannot be governors, ministers or senators if they are drug addicts, they will be into their senses.

“The country is facing a great danger because the fight against drug abuse has to be taken seriously, if we are to succeed,” the Emir was reported to have said, according to News Agency of Nigeria.

The monarch may have captured the mood of most thinkers when he looked the senators in the eyes and affirmed categorically: “We are deceiving ourselves if we don’t believe that we are part of the problem.”

This outspoken emir who was once in the corridors of power as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria spoke from the perspective of someone who has seen it all. To reecho his sentiments, it is logical to imagine how on earth a holder of the office of a cabinet level minister in any of the sensitive beats can steal and divert financial resources meant to fix broken infrastructures like roads, which inevitably leads to an unprecedented rate of road accidents which may even claim the life of such a looter. The Igbo have a proverb that one shouldn't kill whom you will shoulder the responsibility of organising the funeral. But contemporary politicians apparently hooked up on drug habits don't care if their entire community is swallowed by flood, because of his action of stealing the ecological fund sent to his office to do the needful. 

Only a politician hooked up on drugs can do that.

Let us look at another example. How can you explain that a public office-holder can dip his hands into public treasury to steal fund meant for the provisions of relief materials that should be distributed to the millions of internally displaced persons? The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is currently embroiled in N19 billion alleged theft of cash meant for victims of disasters. Only a person highly engaged in the criminal habit of drug addiction can do that, because scientifically, drug addiction has a way of twisting the abuser’s mind.

A quick check at some articles written by psychologists and uploaded on the website known as drugabuse.com can authoritatively tell us that once someone in public office is a drug abuse victim, the mental, psychological and emotional state of such a person are comprehensively twisted; therefore, making such a person to lose the proper use of his/her rational faculties, which should have prevented him/her from looting public fund. The researchers stated that addiction is frequently intertwined with other mental health issues, but this relationship doesn’t always have clear directionality. 

For example, people who suffer from moods or anxiety disorders are almost twice as likely to also suffer from a substance use disorder; and people who suffer from substance use disorders are approximately twice as likely to also struggle with a mood or anxiety disorder. The researchers stated that it isn’t clear which issue is causing the other, but the relationship is strong, nonetheless. The researchers further noted that psychological distress associated with substance abuse and drug abuse can range from mild to serious. 

“At any level of severity, this distress can have a profoundly negative impact on the life of an addicted individual. Among the most common long-term mental health issues associated with drug abuse and addiction are: depression, anxiety, paranoia, and mental disorder.”

Let us even ask ourselves: Why, for instance, a serving General in the Nigerian military who is placed in charge of finances for procurement of weapons should engage in the criminality of buying substandard weaponry, which exposes his troops to avoidable risks in the hands of external and internal aggressors?

Again, let us ask ourselves: Why, on earth, will a human being with total faculties  be amassing illicit wealth as to buy up an entire housing estate for himself? In how many beds shall a man sleep and how many of such will accompany such a person to eternity? 

Recently, we were told to our shock and amazement by the United Nations Office on Crimes and Drugs (UNODC) that public officials in Nigeria have in the last 50 years stolen over $400 billion off the revenues that Nigeria made from exportation of crude oil resources. This is why the communities in the crude oil producing states are so criminally neglected that the people are so impoverished. 

Few months back, a global investigative platform issued a report whereby even some of Nigeria’s senators who give talks in some of these seminars and public officials were said to have concealed massive amounts of assets in some tax havens far away from Nigeria. Drug addiction is capable of inducing such satanic sense of hypocrisy. 

However, the focus of the senators in the area of the sophistication of the crime of illicit drugs and trafficking for sex is on the youth. This is understandable. First, in the last few years, the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has consistently issued annual drug abuse reports whereby a chunk of the indicted abusers of drugs are known to be younger persons. There is, however, a new trend whereby some prescriptive drugs (codeine) that are used to cure coughs are now being abused by mostly young girls, especially in Northern Nigeria.

Before touching on the other leg of my discussion which is the menace of human trafficking, it will be good to say that Nigeria must upgrade the fight against drug trafficking beyond the media drama of arrests and confiscation of hard drugs at air ports and border posts. The courts are also very lenient with drug offenders, because the laws are too weak. The state of the government agency battling the scourge of drugs needs to be re-examined. 

Is NDLEA professionally administered? What is their scope of funding and operational independence? What is NDLEA doing in the area of rehabilitation?

How many rehab centers do they have and why are they not being read and seen in the media spreading enlightenment to Nigerians, except occasional release of some poorly circulated reports funded by the United Nations? 

Why does NDLEA need to go cap in hand to the Justice ministry to pick up crumbs as yearly budget?

 What is the status of the drugs confiscated and why are these exhibits not publicly burnt after forensic examination by an independent expert to ascertain if the things been burnt are actually the drugs seized?

To the senators who are now showing outward or media passion to tackle the hydra-headed monster of drug abuse and trafficking, what is in the pipeline to consolidate the legal frameworks to combat these crimes? 

Why have the legislators not made a law to subject all aspirants for public offices to regular drug tests by NDLEA? 

Right now, the hierarchy is made up of persons appointed based on nepotism.

Now on the issue of illicit sex, when will the Senate and House of Representatives clamp down on the so-called protocol offices used for procurement of girls/boys for sex?

While we reflect on all the above posers, it is good that the President of the Senate, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, and other stakeholders, during the Senate Roundtable on Migration and Human Trafficking in Benin City, resolved to take more action to end irregular migration and human trafficking across the country.

The stakeholders include the Minister of Interior, Gen Abduraman Dambazzau (retd), the European Union (EU), United Kingdom, International Organisation on Migration, National Agency for the Prohibition on Trafficking in Persons and civil society organisations.

President of the Senate, in his address, lamented what he called the worrisome dimension the illegal migration and trafficking has assumed, and said that the Senate will collaborate with all relevant stakeholders to tackle the issue.

Saraki said: “Nigeria currently ranks 23 on the Global Slavery Index of 167 countries with the highest number of slaves. Human trafficking is third in the ignoble hierarchy of the commonly occurring crimes in Nigeria, according to UNESCO. We are losing sleep over irregular migration and human trafficking; and we are determined, as representatives of the people, to do something about it.”

He regretted that Nigeria has lost too many young people - who have died in the desert and in the sea - on the unpredictable treks who otherwise would have led productive lives in their home country.

“We have seen the bleak images of coffins of 26 Nigerian girls who were laid to rest in Italy last November. This is what brings us today to ancient Benin. The trafficking of young males has overtaken females in this state for the first time, and now stands at 63 per cent.”

He stated that it is the expectation of the leadership of the Senate that the roundtable would serve as a springboard for efforts to stem the tide of illegal migration and human trafficking.

“Clearly, something is wrong in the way we manage citizens’ security, border security as well as international cooperation and collaboration. This Roundtable is designed to help answer some of the niggling questions; to identify root causes and the various dimensions of the problem, and work out a way forward.”

The EU Ambassador to Nigeria and Deputy High Commissioner of Britain, pledged to support efforts of relevant stakeholders aimed at eradicating the menace.

“It is wonderful to see democracy in action, with this lively discussion here. Many European countries can learn from this”, said Kettil Karisen, the EU Ambassador to Nigeria, during the panel discussion of the subject.

In all of these, the legislators must make good laws and provide oversight so all the laws meant to promote good governance and block leakages through which public fund are stolen must be pursued vigorously. 

If we speak from morning till thy kingdom come, if we don’t implement laws to promote good governance, we are simply beating about the bush. 

Generations unborn will be eternally grateful, if these senators and representatives walk their talks and do much more than they are saying.

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via doziebiko@yahoo.com

Source News Express

Posted 10/03/2018 3:14:12 PM

 

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