In Nigeria today, the connection between drug and crime cannot be underestimated, going by the rate at which drugs are recovered from suspected criminals across the country.
In fact, many curious observers have rightly concluded that the audacity with which most dangerous crimes are being committed nowadays cannot be divorced from the unrestricted access to and use of hard drugs and other psychotropic substances by the perpetrators. This is moreso a truism as security agents continues to make hauls of hard drugs at virtually every crime scene.
And closely linked to this growing twins menace is their third leg of the troika – cultism – now prevalent in many neighbourhoods in the country.
In 2017, over 600 suspects were arrested by the police for various drug-induced crimes ranging from armed robbery, kidnap and cultism in Lagos State alone. Similarly, Lagos State Commandant of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Sule Aliyu, said the agency recovers over 10 tons of drugs and prosecute more than 300 suspects in the state annually.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Edgal Imohimi, on October 17, 2017 destroyed N50 million worth of drugs recovered during raids on hoodlums’ hideouts across the state.
Imohimi had said at the various town hall meetings he held on assumption of office in Lagos last year that community leaders kept complaining about the twins’ menace of drug abuse and cultism in virtually all the neighbourhoods in the state.
His words: “When people have access to drugs, it emboldens them to get involved in crimes. Cultism is also a problem where teenagers are involved in cult-related violence and narcotic substances are recovered from them which is enough to draw the attention of the police.
“Children now take cough syrups to get high. What are we doing as parents and guardians. We should surprise our children once in a while and search their rooms to know if they are doing drugs.”
Available police statistics show that 98 per cent of 200 suspected cultists arrested in Lagos State last year were youths between the age of 17 and 35 years. This goes to show that cultism has gone beyond campuses of tertiary institutions to junior schools and even neighbourhoods, as teenage school children and artisans in communities are initiated into various secret cult groups.
National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), Gani Adams, said it was unfortunate that cultists have shifted their base from the universities to neighbourhoods as artisans, such as vulcanisers, mechanics and others are now members of dreaded secret cults.
According to Adams, young boys in their teens are being initiated into cults, which is a very dangerous signal and threat to the security of life and property.
“All these cultists are being recruited by prominent people in the society, especially politicians and leaders, who use them to perpetrate evil in the society.
“In this vein, we must do something to stop this trend, because it is going out of proportion. The public transporters, including their unions and associations, have to be checkmated,” the OPC leader had said when he met Imohimi over the ugly trend.
In a bid to check drug abuse on campus, it will recalls that the University of Lagos had provided a drug test kit in its medical centre to examine students suspected to be on hard drugs.
Former UNILAG Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Rahaman Bello, said in a forum in Lagos last November that the initiative was necessary because drug abuse was on the increase in the nation’s tertiary institutions.
Bello said about 100 students of the university tested positive to the use of hard drugs in 2016.
“One hundred out of over 50,000 students may seem insignificant, but to us, one person on drug is a problem to the university community,” the former vice chancellor had said.
A security expert, Mrs Tanwa Ashiru, CEO, says it is important to change society’s approach to fighting drug abuse and trafficking at community level before changing the narrative.
Ashiru, Chief Executive of Bulwark Intelligence, said Nigerians often celebrate bad things, stressing that there is need to engage with communities in fighting illegal use of drugs in the society.
“We need to focus on changing the way communities view and respond to the troika of drug abuse, cultism and crime and government must lead the campaign by walking the talk as our little efforts can at least put Nigerians in the right frame of mind,” she said.
It is, therefore, imperative for all to engage the country’s youths, representing over 50 percent and the most active part of the Nigeria’s over 180 million population on the dangers of drugs, cultism and crimes to themselves and the society at large.