How drug threat­ens North­ern Nige­rian women (2)

Many girls in this town are drug ad­dicts. For­get how beau­ti­ful or well-dressed a lady is or even how ex­pen­sive you think she looks. Some of them just need codeine and once a man can buy them codeine, you can have them

Weekly Trust - - News - Drug Abuse and Mammy Mar­kets How to fight drug ad­dic­tion icirnige­

all classes take codeine.

“Many girls in this town are drug ad­dicts. For­get how beau­ti­ful or well-dressed a lady is or even how ex­pen­sive you think she looks. Some of them just need codeine and once a man can buy them codeine, you can have them. The worse is that even mar­ried women are not left out,” he said.

A young girl, who spoke to our re­porter in Maiduguri on con­di­tion of anonymity, con­fessed that she be­longed to a group of girls hooked on codeine. Al­though she knew abus­ing the drug was not good for her health, she has not been able to stop it.

“I know codeine is not good but I want to leave it grad­u­ally, not at once. I tried it in the past and it af­fected me. I could not eat or sleep and I was al­ways an­gry.”

But she said she is try­ing to re­duce her codeine con­sump­tion to a bot­tle or two per day, in the hope that “one day I will stop.”

Since the drug law does not cover cough syrup, NDLEA has been ham­strung in fight­ing codeine abuse among women in the North. The NDLEA in Sokoto once ar­rested a woman in whose house op­er­a­tives found many car­tons of codeine cough syrup even when she did own a chemist. But her hus­band went to court and the court ruled that the woman be re­leased and the seized items re­turned to her.

Due to the le­gal la­cuna that makes it im­pos­si­ble to pros­e­cute women abus­ing cough syrup, the NDLEA in the north, es­pe­cially the north-west, is work­ing in con­cert with state His­bah com­mis­sions and vig­i­lante groups.

Since Sharia law for­bids Mus­lim women from freely so­cial­is­ing with men or mar­ried women go­ing out alone at night with­out com­pany of their hus­bands or male rel­a­tives, it is eas­ier for the His­bah com­mis­sion to deal with the prob­lem of codeine abuse than the NDLEA.

The His­bah com­mis­sions have been pro­vided pa­trol ve­hi­cles, which drive of­fi­cials around ma­jor spots in the state cap­i­tals. Women and girls are ar­rested for in­de­cent dress­ing, wan­der­ing or when seen in com­pany of men who are not their hus­bands. They are taken to Sharia courts for im­me­di­ate pros­e­cu­tion, and sanc­tions range from strokes of cane to jail terms.

In Gusau, Atiku Balarabe, chair­man, state His­bah Com­mis­sion, said some of the women have been com­mit­ted to prison for two or three months on such of­fences.

In Kano, apart from us­ing the His­bah and vig­i­lante groups, cul­prits are also ex­posed through the me­dia. Re­cently the Vig­i­lante Group of Nige­ria, Kano Branch, ar­rested a fe­male codeine dealer and user while on an af­ter­noon pa­trol.

Ac­cord­ing to Awalu Yusuf, Com­man­der of the Giguyun branch, Kano, she was found dur­ing a stop and search. She was a pas­sen­ger in­side a tri­cy­cle dressed in Mus­lim hi­jab. She was taken to the Kano State ra­dio where she gave her name as Umme Ado, a grad­u­ate of Kano Univer­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy. She had con­cealed bot­tles of codeine un­der her hi­jab, items she said were meant for de­liv­ery to some mar­ried women in­side the city.

The ag­gres­sive oper­a­tions of the His­bah and the vig­i­lante groups have also forced codeine women to be smarter. Many of them re­sorted to buy­ing the drugs and tak­ing them at home. Those who still pre­fer so­cial­is­ing with friends re­sort to rent­ing rooms in guests houses dur­ing the day and night so they can buy and drink codeine and other drugs they need.

But many have also found safe havens in­side Mammy mar­kets in some mil­i­tary bar­racks where there seems to be con­nivance be­tween au­thor­i­ties at the Nige­rian Army bar­racks who own the mar­kets and drug deal­ers, es­pe­cially in Zam­fara and Sokoto. Codeine and other drug users use Mammy mar­kets in th­ese states as ren­dezvous.

In­side the Mammy Mar­ket in Sokoto, Aba Street is a bustling drug mar­ket at night and users walk freely with codeine bot­tles. The ma­jor drug deal­ers have shops in the mar­ket. There are more than a dozen pa­tent medicine shops on Aba Street, but what they sell mostly are codeine syrup and va­ri­eties of tablets used by drug ad­dicts. Cus­tomers also walk into some of the shops to buy cannabis and smoke in cor­ners of the mar­ket. Girls as young as 15 can be seen drink­ing codeine and smok­ing cig­a­rettes.

Some beer par­lours in the mar­ket also have stocks of codeine syrup for fe­male cus­tomers. The syrup is not dis­played on shelves, but served on re­quest. Hal­ima Katd­aba, one of the codeine women who come to the mar­ket daily, ex­plained that those who buy codeine more from the mar­ket are mar­ried women. They come from in­side the city to buy and take home. “Some of them make friends with us so that we can help them buy and de­liver to their homes with­out any­body sus­pect­ing,” she stated.

NDLEA of­fi­cials in Sokoto dis­closed that the mammy mar­ket re­mains a chal­lenge for them as they can­not enter the bar­racks with­out the ap­proval of the army au­thor­i­ties. A se­nior of­fi­cial said last year the State Se­cu­rity Ser­vice, SSS, gave the agency a list of sus­pected drug deal­ers op­er­at­ing in the mammy mar­ket and the list was passed to the Army au­thor­i­ties, but noth­ing was done.

Re­act­ing to a ques­tion on the mammy mar­ket, the NDLEA state com­man­der said: “The is­sue of Mammy mar­ket is giv­ing us se­ri­ous headache. Those in­volved in the drug business have found a safe haven in the mar­ket be­cause ideally we can­not go there and make ar­rest with­out the prior knowl­edge of the au­thor­ity there. So we made ef­fort some months back but the strat­egy had to be re­viewed. But we’re still in con­tact with the mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties so that we can put heads to­gether to bring the is­sue of drugs in Mammy mar­ket to an end.”

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cers in Kano, in­clud­ing po­lice of­fi­cers are a com­mon sight in the drug havens of Sabon­gari. They visit known drug deal­ers and re­tail­ers for ‘set­tle­ment.’ Some of them are also drug ad­dicts, and sup­ply drugs to users. In Kaduna, Has­san told this web­site that she had tele­phone num­bers of po­lice of­fi­cers she could call when­ever in need of drugs, and they would de­liver.

The Kano NDLEA Com­man­der told icirnige­ria. org that he dis­missed an of­fi­cer, Mur­ta­laUs­man, who was found to be in­volved with drug deal­ers in Sabon­gari. Another of­fi­cer was de­moted.

But the army au­thor­i­ties in Yobe, Taraba and Gombe have been able to stop drug ped­dlers and users from us­ing their mammy mar­kets by con­trol­ling en­try and search­ing the mar­kets for drug users or sell­ers.

Many are of the opinion that ig­no­rance is a ma­jor fac­tor for the rise is cases of drug abuse not just among women but even among males in the north. While ed­u­cated men and women have been in­volved in drug abuse across the states, NDLEA of­fi­cials and the po­lice say ma­jor­ity of drug ad­dicts in the zone are not col­lege ed­u­cated and could be eas­ily lured into drugs.

Sta­tis­tics have also con­firmed that the north-west and the north-east are the most ed­u­ca­tion­ally dis­ad­van­taged states in the coun­try, in­di­cat­ing that ig­no­rance may truly be a ma­jor fac­tor.

A Nige­rian De­mo­graphic and Health Sur­vey con­ducted in 2008 showed that states in the north-west, ex­cept Kaduna have the most ed­u­ca­tion­ally dis­ad­van­taged women in the coun­try.

Women in th­ese states have be­tween 0-20 per cent lit­er­acy, lower than states in the north­east with be­tween 21-60 per cent lit­er­acy lev­els.

This is why the NDLEA has em­barked on pub­lic en­light­en­ment of the cit­i­zenry across north-eastern states on the dan­gers of drug abuse. There are jin­gles run­ning on state ra­dio and tele­vi­sion sta­tions on the dan­gers of abus­ing drugs.

Some com­mu­nity lead­ers in­ter­viewed also ex­pressed this view but added that fam­i­lies should teach their chil­dren morals from early age to counter peer group in­flu­ence.

The NDLEA has also tried to fight codeine ad­dic­tion by cut­ting off sup­plies into states in the north. NDLEA of­fi­cials are a com­mon fea­ture on ma­jor high­ways into the north, do­ing stop-and-search of ve­hi­cles and pas­sen­ger lug­gage.

Ac­cord­ing to Kibo, the strat­egy is to cut off drug sup­plies to deal­ers and users-a mea­sure e said was yield­ing pos­i­tive re­sults.

But the Sokoto State Com­man­der of the NDLEA gave a more prag­matic so­lu­tion. He called on the Na­tional Assem­bly to ur­gently en­act leg­is­la­tions that will limit the pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion of codeine syrup in the coun­try.

“What we are now ask­ing is that the Na­tional Assem­bly should look into the is­sue of cough syrup so that it can be in­cluded among drugs that are con­trolled. We know the com­pa­nies pro­duc­ing th­ese drugs and they are do­ing it in large quan­ti­ties. So it is very easy to solve the prob­lem from the source. If you al­low com­pa­nies man­u­fac­tur­ing to keep pro­duc­ing them, they have to look for buy­ers. If there is no law that stops them from dis­tribut­ing it, then it will in­crease,” Mr. Idris told icirnige­

There are in­di­ca­tions that the codeine prob­lem in the north has also caught the at­ten­tion of the Na­tional Assem­bly, which is now work­ing to have new leg­is­la­tions to stem the malaise.

The chair­man of the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Drugs and Nar­cotics, Joshua Li­dani, told this web­site penul­ti­mate week­end that codeine ad­dic­tion among women in the north has be­come a prob­lem re­quir­ing ur­gent at­ten­tion in or­der to save the cur­rent and fu­ture gen­er­a­tion of women in the re­gion.

Mr. Li­dani dis­closed that his com­mit­tee had met with NDLEA of­fi­cials over the is­sues and both re­solved to have a re­view of the drug law in the coun­try.

Due to the le­gal la­cuna that makes it im­pos­si­ble to pros­e­cute women abus­ing cough syrup, the NDLEA in the north, es­pe­cially the north-west, is work­ing in con­cert with state His­bah com­mis­sions and vig­i­lante groups

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