Saturday, May 7, 2016 3:43 pm
By Funsho Balogun
The recent official opening of the new Federal High Court in Birnin-kebbi, kebbi State was generally applauded as a welcome development by the state ‘s judicial community in particular and the Kebbi citizens in general. But the event, marked by fanfare and back slaps also drew attention to the fact that there has been an upsurge in drug related crimes in the state.
While the state governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu was happy that a befitting court facility has finally been put on ground that should enhance faster dispensation of justice on a larger scale, he could not help but choose the same occasion to express deep concerns about the increase in hard drugs related cases which has already translated to too many youths in the state making up the higher percentage of prisoners.
The governor’s fear is that the bangs of the judges gavel in the new facility, would translate to more knocks on the doors of the the state’s already jam-packed prisons, to admit even more youths sentenced for drug offences. “60 percent of those languishing in kebbi prisons are youths under 22 years of age, “ Bagudu disclosed.
It turned out that Governor’s fears were not unfounded. Justice Samuel Amobeda, the resident Judge at the new federal high court, disclosed on Friday that 12 out of the first 20 judgments delivered at the court were for drug related offences, with the offenders bagging different jail terms.
Governor Bagudu had disclosed that as a former Senate committee member on interior matters before he became the state’s number one citizen he had visited the prisons in the state earlier and discovered that they were all brimming with youths barely a few years out of their teens who ordinarily, should have no business being behind bars.
Presently, the Governor is seeking more support from the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency towards checking clandestine dealers and chemists trading in illegal drugs through heightened and sustained enlightenment on the ills of drug abuse.
Yet, the e NDLEA has not been idle in Kebbi State, notwithstanding increased drug related crimes, arresting hundreds of drug peddlers between last year and now, while confiscating thousands of kilograms of illegal drugs. The confiscated drugs include cannabis sativa (Indian Hemp), and psychotropic substances.
NDLEA reports also reveal that the consumption of the medical cough syrup with codeine has increased compared with other drugs abused. Children as young as 11 years of age have been caught indulging in drug abuse, and cannabis plantations dot some villages across the state.
While the state government had earlier secured NDLEA’ s promise to work in tandem with the State Ministry of Health and the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria to curb the huge drug demand, it would not be an easy task. The patent medicine stores serving as conduits for the sale of medicinal drugs being abused by youths across the state are mostly unregistered and located in remote and far flung areas.
In spite of the daunting challenges, the state government is for now still hanging its hopes on even more involvement on the part of the NDLEA, which had earlier pledged to enforce the policies of the task force on counterfeit and fake drugs and to introduce new strategies to prosecute patent stores dispensing medicinal drugs for abuse.