Nigeria’s growing drug problems

February 5, 2019 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

GNG photo



Prince Charles Dickson



Why don’t breweries use drunkards for their commercials? – (musings)



His name was Philemon, I called him Phily-Phily, he would smile, and I would add Phily D Nigger and more smiles would follow and often than not he would respond “Oga”…when broke he would go, “oga nothing dey or oga make I wash your car, or you go clean your office”.


None of us knew his surname, so we did not know his middle name.


I recall the first time I met him, it was a Sunday, fair and tall, a little lanky and lively. I had come to the office for the Sunday still and get ready for Monday. On that first day, after we spoke, I promised to get him a few shirts, and I did the following day. We became friends, somehow strangely he became like a son.


Philemon has started doing cheap brewed alcohol, the type you could get a bucket for 200 naira. It progressively got worse; we all spoke to him, counseled him, advised and scolded him. The brew would eventually slow him down ridiculously, for a dude who was a little over 25 (we didn’t know his real age), the brew had done enormous almost irreparable damage.


I was the first to complain that Philemon would not wash your car but simply romance it, but no one ever complained about of theft or any misdemeanour. He drank, he got drunk, he talked trash but that was it. Philemon would never lie, he never stole, not even the loose change that one would leave in the car. Philemon was honest. If only our politicians were like Philemon who would complain, I mean drink, romance us but don’t steal our collective wealth.


Every time I looked at Philemon, he was the tragedy of Nigeria, so much hope, yet little in delivery. I would tell colleagues of the popular #7 Suzi Garden Office Complex that imagine he was born and there was a dedication and prayers were made. There was expectations and all ended where it did; as expected just expectations. He reminds me so of Nigeria and how we have failed to redeem on the expectations of this great elephant.


I gathered Philemon’s father a cop also was guilty of the bottle and I know what you are thinking. A year ago he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and after we intervened he would be given drugs but the dude wouldn’t still take them. We had to pin him down.


Philemon in one year lost three jobs because of the abuse of the calabash, in Uncle Chris’ words, ”if only he took better brewed beer”, but sadly no, he was victim of the poison that has taken hold of the Nigerian youth.


From cannabis to tramadol, burukutu, ogogoro or Akpatashe, or codein we are losing ‘Philemons’ at every corner.


As Philemon’s drink problem worsened, we tried to make sure that he had less access to cash but it was a difficult call. We would pay for his food; all he needed to do was go pick it up. If he came to the house on Sunday to do chores for me, we fed him, fed him, and bid him farewell with a cooler of food but no money cause he simply need as little as 100 naira to misbehave.


Elections are a just day away, politicking is on the high, Nigeria is busy playing politics with Lagos-Ibadan, Abuja- Lokoja, Port Harcourt -Aba Enugu roads for over 30 years or so. And no one cares but sadly not one candidate is taking about our drug problems especially as it tortured our young people.


Over the past year alone, nearly 15% of the adult population in Nigeria (around 14.3 million people) reported a “considerable level” of use of psychoactive drug substances—it’s a rate much higher than the 2016 global average of 5.6% among adults.


The survey was led by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Center for Research and Information on Substance Abuse with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and funding from the European Union.


If the above is not scary, then listen to Dr Aliyu Abubakar of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Zaria, who in a paper he entitled: “Drug Abuse in Nigeria: Causes, Effects and Solutions”, said: “According to a recent study, 85 per cent of mad people in Nigeria are youths within the age bracket of 18-38 years.


“The major cause of mental challenge in Nigeria has gone beyond drug-abuse as the youths now inhale lizard faeces, putting their noses into pit toilets, smoking matches, smoking dried horse faeces and mixing lizard faeces with dye powder.


He recalled that in Nigeria, it was recently reported that about three million bottles of cough syrup containing codeine is consumed daily in Kano State and about six million bottles consumed in the Northwest.


Abubakar added that in 2016, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency reported that about 40 per cent of Nigerian youths engaged in drug-abuse.


The medical doctor stressed that the consequences of drug-abuse include mental disorder, liver cirrhosis, lethargy and cardiovascular disorder among others. Abubakar added those abusing drugs; mostly drop out of school, engage in cultism, violence, arm-robbery, thuggery, rape, lawlessness, and murders and are culturally disorientated.


Philemon was a good lad, a nice dude, but we came to the office, and he was reportedly bleeding, rushed to the hospital and referred to the University Teaching hospital and in a one day period and by the following day Philemon had passed on.


Philemon died, he was buried the next day…it was while making arrangements for him to be buried it occurred to us all, no one had a picture of Philemon so he didn’t get the customary obituary poster. Philemon died, in fact it hit me hard but what could I have done, did I do enough? We are celebrating several containers of Codein and Tramadol seizes by the Nigerian customs but do we know how many millions come in through various other means.


Maybe we should or I should have bundled him to a rehab. What if he was my son? I loved Philemon but not sure I did enough. So Buhari, Atiku and others may love Nigeria but do they have enough of that love to really tackle the issues. The drug, and alcohol abuse cuts across class, and statutes, we are sitting on the proverbial keg of gun powder, Philemon is gone, sleep well but how many would go—Only time will tell.






Prince Charles Dickson

Currently Prince Charles, is based out of Jos, Plateau State, and conducts field research and investigations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria with an extensive reach out to the entire North and other parts. Prince Charles worked on projects for UN Women, Search for Common Ground, and International Crisis Group, among others. He is an alumnus of the University of Jos and the prestigious Humanitarian Academy at Harvard and Knight Center For Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. A doctoral candidate of Georgetown University

Born in Lagos State (South West Nigeria), Prince Charles is proud of his Nigerian roots. He is a Henry Luce Fellow, Ford Foundation grantee and is proficient in English, French, Yoruba Ibo and Hausa. Married with two boys, and a few dogs and birds.

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