- Drug addiction no death sentence – Reps Speaker
President Bola Tinubu on Monday warned against the social and structural stigmatization of drug use victims, which he said prevents them from accessing needed care and support.
This is as the Chairman of the MTN Foundation, Julius Adelusi- Adeluyi, has advised that the issue of drug abuse must be tackled as a situation of national emergency.
Speaking on the occasion of the celebration of the United Nations International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Tinubu expressed his endorsement of the theme of the celebration which is “People First: Stop Stigma and Discrimination, Strengthen Prevention.”
He said the theme stresses the imperative to prioritize the well-being and dignity of individuals affected by drug abuse, recognizing their inherent worth and the importance of providing them with effective prevention and treatment interventions.
According to him, Tinubu, “We could not agree less with the importance of this theme now that the most vulnerable population, especially women, young people, people living in marginalized environments, high-risk drug users, people displaced by armed conflicts or natural disasters and people in rural settings, are exposed to stigma, discrimination and exclusion from mainstream opportunities.
“These groups often face barriers in accessing the healthcare and social services within the society in addressing their drug use problems. Therefore, interventions to address drug use and its associated consequences need to be mindful of the fundamental rights of every individual.
“Stigma both social and structural, which continues to affect people who use drugs and implicated as one of the most common barriers to access support and services must be removed.”
The president noted that educating the citizenry on the dangers of drug abuse and the need to stop stigma and discrimination is crucial, calling for support for those affected.
He added: “We must empower our youth with the knowledge and skills they need to make informed decisions about their lives, and provide victims to drug abuse with the resources they need to avoid falling victims of drug abuse.
“We must also support those who are struggling with drug addiction, and
provide them with treatment and necessary support they need to
overcome their addiction.
“In the face of these challenges, it is imperative that we adopt a people-centered approach that focuses on prevention and treatment as key pillars of our response.”
Tinubu reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to combating drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking, assuring: “We will tackle the drug menace and its associated consequences in all forms.”
He urged governments, international organizations, and civil stakeholders to take urgent actions to protect society, and all people by tackling the problem of illicit supply and abuse of drugs, to help raise consciousness of the threats that it poses to the society.
Also, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, stressed the need for empathy for drug use victims, saying that addiction is not a death sentence.
The Speaker, who was represented by his deputy, Benjamin Kalu, expressed the readiness of the National Assembly to support all Federal Government’s policies that engender gainful engagements of Nigerians, especially the youths who are prone to drug abuse.
He advised that the treatment of drug abusers and their families with empathy, respect and dignity should be ingrained in the strategic approach to the ongoing fight.
“Drug addiction on its own is not a death sentence. Therefore, members of the society who are battling drug addiction deserve our support and encouragements to enable them to overcome the addiction,” the Speaker sated.
Chairman of MTN Foundation, Julius Adelusi- Adeluyi, described the scourge of substance abuse as “ a clear and present danger, more so as the statistics indicate that a staggering number of people are caught in its snare”, in his speech.
The MTN foundation Chairman, who was represented by a Director in the firm, Dennis Okoro, said “we must tackle this as a situation of national emergency; deploying the use of policy and partnerships as a strategy to contain this scourge.
“Distinguished guests, as a matter of urgency, we must scale up this fight against illicit drug use so we can, in the shortest possible time, have a nation free from drug abuse. The event ends today, but the conversation must continue.”
Mr. Okoro further said, “And moreover, why we brought some of these organizations in is to reduce the stigmatization of youths caught with drugs. We should stop making them criminals ab initio. And for me, they are not.
“When you get them and then treat them like the youths and send them to a correctional centre or prison, they feel further rejected and then anybody within that environment can corrupt them the more, they become never cured.
“So the message is that these are youths, they are children. Treat them like your own children. Give them a human face. See them as children who have had tension and emotional disturbance from bad homes or neglect and rehabilitate them with love.”