How drug threatens Northern Nigerian women (2)
According to the 2015 annual report of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, the north-west topped the table of arrests for drug related offences for that year, with a total of 2,205 persons, beating the south-west which recorded 1,785 arrests. The north-central followed with 1,605 while the south-south, south-east and north-east recorded 1,380, 979 and 824 respectively.
But out of a total of 2,205 people arrested on drug charges in the north-west, only 38 were females - the least, compared to other zones, especially southsouth which led with a total of 269 females.
This could be because the arrests were made largely for trafficking and use of narcotics such as cocaine, heroin and cannabis, which constituted over 90 per cent of drug seizure for the year and previous years.
The NDLEA, established by Decree 48 of 1989 (now CAP N30 LFN 2004) is the government agency charged with eradicating illicit traffic and use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
However, the agency faces an uphill task in dealing with the problem of drug abuse by women in the north because, its mandate does not cover cough syrup, the most commonly used substance by the women.
The NDLEA borrows from World Health Organisation, WHO, which has placed under international control about 118 narcotic substances, while that of psychotropic substances is about 111.
But the list does not include cough syrups and the tablets that Northern women now use to get high. Although codeine is in the list of narcotics, when it is used in cough mixtures, it is regarded as medicine and is perfectly legitimate. So, the ladies settle for cough mixtures that contain codeine.
Tablets such as rophynol, tramadol, diazepam and lexotan, which are abused by Northern women, are controlled drugs that are sold only after a doctor’s prescription.
It was gathered that the tablets are usually prescribed for extreme pain such as that experienced by people suffering from the sickle cell disease and neurological disorders. But those intent on getting them for a moment of high easily and readily purchase the drugs.
According to a pharmacist, KemiOlatundun, controlled drugs “affect the mood and could make the user a danger to herself/ himself and to the society.”
She said codeine cough syrup is also classified among control drugs because of the codeine contents, and they are to be sold only at a doctor’s prescription.
The abuse of codeine syrup and these tablets now constitute the greatest challenge faced by drug officers operating in Northern Nigeria. Since the law does not forbid the drugs from being sold or consumed, it is difficult for law enforcement agencies to tackle the menace.
Hamza Umar, state commander of the NDLEA in Kano, told the icirnigeria.org that the state was witnessing the involvement of more women in drugs, basically cough syrup and off -the-counter drugs like rohypnol, tramadol and others.
Mr. Umar disclosed that he had 19 females in detention and that all were arrested in one day for drug abuse. One is a 200-level university student.
“I will not deceive the public. It is indeed increasing. We are seeing more women now getting involved in drugs. I just sent our operatives into town and within one hour they rounded up over 100 girls involved in drugs. And they found these girls in just two places inside Sabongari, and they cut across all ages,” he revealed in a chat.
His counterparts in Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna and Katsina have made similar revelations. The NDLEA Commander in Sokoto said the involvement of women in drugs is now a serious problem not just in the state, but in the whole of the North. He told our reporter in an interview that while men abuse cannabis, the women now abuse cough syrup with codeine content.
“To tell you the truth, I think the issue of cough syrup came around 2005, that’s when we begin to see a proliferation of cough syrup. I started this job in the ‘90s and we never saw anything like this. It has become an epidemic. I had worked in Lagos and Ondo and I have never arrested anybody over cough syrup or heard any case of abuse of cough syrup,” he lamented.
Since cough mixture is not regarded as narcotic, it is not captured in the statistics of the NDLEA. But Mr. Idris gave an indication of how serious the problem is.
“A former Commander of the NDLEA in Kano said about three million bottles of codeine cough syrup are being consumed daily in Kano state alone,” he stated.
It is common to see young girls in social spots at night openly take cough syrup in many cities across the north, but especially in Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Katsina, Gusau, Gombe, Maiduguri and Yola.
In Kano where retailers of codeine are largely based in Sabongari, you find single and married women in the streets of Odutola, SanyaOlu and Abedi at night, from 9.00 p.m. till early hours of the morning, frolicking with bottles of soft drinks mixed with bottles of codeine.
Married women who live in conservative parts of the city send children or friends to buy the drugs for them.
Umar Dambo, a medicine store owner in Gusau, told icirnigeria.org that married women in the city send their children to buy the syrup.
“Usually they start buying from 6.00 p.m. until about 9.00 or 10.00 p.m. when most shops would close.
Users of codeine syrup have different reasons for taking it. According to JummaiSalau, who lives in SabonGari Kano, codeine improves her sexual prowess.
She told the reporter that most of her friends who use codeine do so for the same reason.
“Even married women use it to satisfy their husbands,” she revealed, but stressed that there were those who use it to “cool tension.”
Officials of NDLEA also corroborated Jumai’s confession.
“Some of the married women confessed to us that they take it to improve their libido so that their husbands would not look for other women. Some say they have marital problems, and some say it just makes them forget their worries,” said the Kano NDLEA commander.
In Borno, especially Maiduguri, codeine addiction among girls and women has become an epidemic. A member of the state Civilian JTF told this website that girls and women of