NDLEA raises alarm as drug abuse among women surges

THE National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has expressed concern as drug abuse among women continues to surge.

According to the Agency, latest records on drug use show that one in four drug abusers in the country is a woman.

The Ogun State Commander of the NDLEA, Ibiba Odili, stated this during the Launch of the War Against Drug Abuse in collaboration with Lions Club International, in Abeokuta.

The NDLEA official revealed that 14.3 million Nigerian drug abusers are within the age range of 15 and 64 years, adding that more women are now involved.

She said, “2018 survey tells us that the most common drug abused in Nigeria is cannabis, which regrettably is cultivated mostly in the South-West region of Nigeria.

“One out of every four drug users is a woman. In 2018 data shows that more women are going into drug use. And if more women are going into drug use, it is a source of worry for us, because, it means that the traditional role of women in families and communities as caregivers, role models, and life moulders will be threatened, because what quality of children are these women going to raise?”

Odili further disclosed that Nigeria transformed from a mere transit country for drug trafficking to a major consumer and even producer of illicit substances.

“We started by being a transit country, consuming maybe cannabis, alcohol, and all of that, then, we graduated to heroin, cocaine, but today, regrettably, Nigeria is not just transit, we are huge consumers, and we are not just cultivator of cannabis, we are now producing drugs, such as methamphetamine, which is highly addictive, very potent.”

The Governor of Lions Clubs International, District 404 B3, Olayiwola Fadairo said the Club has the mandate to cleanse the society of drugs.

“We want to partner with NDLEA anywhere and anyhow that we can help. If we cannot eradicate it, we can reduce it,” he concluded.

The ICIR had earlier reported that 891 women were arrested for drug trafficking and related offences in 2022. The number, although negligible when compared to the 11,710 males arrested within the same period, raised some concerns.

In an earlier conversation with The ICIR, Fatai Adeshina Badru, a senior lecturer in the Social Work department at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), highlighted the impact of the general urge to survive on women’s engagement in drug trafficking. He explained that while everyone desires success, the means chosen to achieve it can vary, with some resorting to crime.

Badru pointed out that women, like men, aspire to attain positions of power, live luxuriously, and enjoy material comforts, which could trigger the temptation to enter illegal activities. Additionally, peer influence and social media play a role in shaping these decisions.

He also emphasised the influence of low minimum wage rates, attributing the high rate of women involved in drug trafficking to economic hardships and limited opportunities.

Aisha Bubah, the Lead Psychologist at The Sunshine Series, joined the conversation and stated that Nigeria’s numerous challenges contribute to the increasing number of women in drug trafficking.

According to her, the insecurity and conflicts in the North-East and other parts of the country have led to a significant number of internally displaced women, making them the primary breadwinners in their families and pushing them towards illegal activities to survive.

Bubah further highlighted the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls in Nigerian communities, leading to stigma and discrimination. These adversities can drive women towards drug trafficking as a means of coping with their social and economic disadvantages.

She warned that such involvement can perpetuate gender biases and stereotypes, hindering progress in achieving gender equality and equal access to opportunities for women.

According to her, the increasing trend of women’s involvement in drug trafficking in Nigeria poses serious challenges for society, warranting urgent attention and comprehensive solutions to address the underlying issues.

Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes courageous in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice, accountability and good governance in the society. You can shoot him a scoop via nyahaya@icirnigeria.org and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.

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