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Anambra: Battle with emerging group of junkies

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), over the years have been battling the challenge of drug and other illicit substance use and distribution among a vast number of people across all age brackets, but prevalent among the youth population. OKEY MADUFORO takes a look at the battle with emerging variety of drugs in Anambra State and how security agencies are struggling to tame its use among the youths.

Vigilance Group resist youth’s involvement

At Adazi Nnukwu in Anaocha Local Government Area, two young men were held by members of a vigilance group and were beaten for undue indulgence in a certain drug substance known as Mkpurumiri. Also in Agulu in the same Anaocha Local Government Area, a young girl ran into a moving vehicle, but was lucky to have survived the accident, no thanks to the latest chemical drug substance known as Mkpurumiri which has sentenced a lot of youths and teenagers in Anambra State to perpetual mental slavery.

In the last six months, the drug has taken over the position of Arizona brand of narcotics which is a combination of cannabis and some chemicals that has a higher effect that Indian hemp. It used to be another drug substance called Laud which causes memory loss and an advance form of dementia, but today it is Mkpurumiri, fabricated in Nigeria and exported to South Africa and Europe. But due to the recent effect of COVID-19 pandemic and the consequential lockdown, a quantum of the product could not be exported out of the country and that has been bad business for the dealers and in order to break even they had to engage some peddlers who now sell to street urchins, miscreants and outlaws who are oblivious of the dangers that lock in the dark.

Increasing death

By the last count, a total of 25 persons have died of drug related cases which is even a conservative figure as it was gathered that the number is well over 70. Menthaphetamine or crystal merth is another sensation and latest dangerous substance ravaging and killing youths especially in the Southeast region of Nigeria by installment. Crystal merth is currently causing an atmosphere of insecurity at Enugwu-Agidi community in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State where the hard substance has done more harm to youths in the area. At a press conference in Awka where the executives of Enugwu-Agidi Town Union told the sad story of the painful demise of a young lad who was mobbed to death by some Enugwu- Agidi youths because they saw him with Mkpulummili, the executives said the ill-fated lad lost his life because youths took laws into their hands and meted out jungle justice on him, adding that his killers were currently on the run.

Opposition from town union

The ETU National Public Relations Officer, Hon. Dumebi Onubuiyi, told journalists that the town union had embarked on peace missions across the community since it came into office few weeks ago, until the ugly incident of the death of a youth occurred in the community last week. Onubuiyi, who addressed the media briefing, said when the current caretaker committee came into power they held an elaborate meeting where they communicated to the entire community that henceforth embargo has been placed on the use of hard drugs in Enugwu-Agidi and its environs.

He said the town union implored youths and any other individual taking hard drugs in the area to desist forthwith from such act because the town union has involved the appropriate authorities to have the menace under absolute control. Onubuiyi said, “We heard of the sad event that took place of one Anayo Nwafor that was apprehended with illicit drug material; the one that they call Mkpulummili. The youths instead of consulting us, manhandled him and he eventually gave up the ghost.

“The boys that are involved are youths of the community. We are trying to lay our hands on them to hear from them. But since this sad event happened, they have not been seen anywhere. We have involved the police, the DSS and other security agencies in the matter.” Speaking to journalists from Canada, the President- general of ETU said: “This is a very serious situation we have gotten into. Right now am in Canada and discussed with my son who moved in here from South Africa two years ago. “He was shocked when I showed him the videos trending on mkpurunmiri in Nigeria and I thought I could share his perspective with the platform. He confirmed how this drug often called ecstasy, and used for treatment of ADH destroyed black communities in SA. How parents and youths would approach him for prescription and how they could become desperate. “He said he used to tell them that in Nigeria and Enugu campus where he trained he never saw a single addict of this methamphetamine drug. He insists that it’s not in the character of Igbos to go for such drugs commonly used by lazy unemployed youths to get high. “That is why he was very upset when I showed him the videos being shared here. He subscribed to Dada’s view that this thing was introduced into Igbo land to destroy our civilisation as we know

it right now.

“He is saying that the addiction is more serious than cocaine and that the way to go must be very aggressive and that we must push back on it spread. Otherwise five years or less from now there will be no Igbo land as we know it. He subscribes to getting PSN, that is, pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria working in tandem with NAFDAC to mop up these drugs from shelf’s and move them out of public domain and back to DDS stores like pethidine, gomorphine and co. “That sanction should be carried out on retail outlets that sell these drugs to unauthorised persons. That rehab centers funded by churches, voluntary agencies, individuals, government etc. be set up to deal with identified addicts. In all, he tells me that in SA this is what they have done. For a proud race, a royal priesthood, a holy people, a people set apart like the Igbos. I can only tear up to say’ our enemies have got us at last’. God, why?”

Police intensify campaign

The Police Campaign Against Cultism and Other Vices (POCACOV), a police advocacy group, has also raised alarm over the growing usage of new high intoxicating substances among youths in South-East locally called “Mkpurumiri”. The National Coordinator of POCACOV, CSP Ebere Amaraizu, told NAN in Enugu that the dreaded substance was already destroying the future and destinies of young minds within the zone. Amaraizu said there was a need for strong stakeholders and agencies partnership towards resolving the issue of substance and drug abuse especially the dreaded Mkpurumiri substance pervading the entire zone. According to him, young minds’ involvement in substance and drug abuse is a dangerous trend capable of spelling doom for the future of society.

He said: “The substance known as Mkpurumiri is known to be dangerous and has caused negative health and psychological challenges to some teeming youths that would have contributed their quota to the development of the society. “There is no reason to justify substance and drug abuse and that of Mkpurumiri among our young minds in the country, especially in the South-East. “There is a need for strong stakeholders and multi-agency approach and support to discourage the dreaded and hydra-headed monster before the future of youths who are leaders of tomorrow are devastated and ruined.”

The national coordinator said that the growing trend was unacceptable, adding that the Nigeria Police through the instrumentality of POCACOV is involved in the ongoing community- to-community sensitisation against drug and substance abuse. Amaraizu said that POCACOV was using various platforms and community relations tools to sensitise, re-orient and mentor youths on the negative consequences of substance and drug abuse and its influence in hindering one’s dream. “We are calling on community-based groups such as traditional rulers, town union presidents, youth-based groups, faith-based organisations, the media to join in raising the awareness to discourage those in the production of this noxious substance – Mkpurumiri and others.

“We advocate for relevant legislation to give effect to the process that will help to stop the negative growing trend,” he said Similarly, the police in Anambra State have embarked on campaign against illicit drug consumption to rid communities of delinquents and deviant behaviours resulting from indulgence in such anti-social tendencies. The state Commissioner of Police, CP Echeng Echeng said the campaign became necessary to dissuade youths in rural communities from the possession and intake of dangerous substances detrimental to them, especially with the recent crave for consumption of menthaphetamine otherwise referred to as Mkpulummili in local parlance, by youngsters.

Echeng who spoke with our correspondent on Friday through the Police Public Relations Officer of the command DSP Ikenga Tochukwu, explained that drugs are the oxygen that drive most crimes and bad behaviors exhibited by individuals. The CP said it is an unfortunate situation that youths engage in drug taking to serve whatever purpose or satisfaction. According to him, the Anambra State Police Command frowns at the ugly development and has equally led a deliberate programme by the police high command called Police Campaign Against Cultism and Other Vices; a programme targeted to sensitise youths in Anambra State of dangers of drugs and others vices. Echeng also disclosed that the police is planning a town hall meeting in different communities and among other strategies to deal with the situation.

He said: “Basically we are engaging in sensitisation programmes to let them know the dangers of drug abuse and that drug is the oxygen or propeller of major crimes and bad behaviors in the communities. “Among other strategies, we have carried out intensive raids in some mentioned spots and places and some of the substances recovered are exposed to our forensic lab for identification and we are also engaging the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).” The Police Commissioner therefore stated that although it is an unfortunate development that drug abuse seemed to escalate in recent times, he called on parents and guardians to watch over their children and wards as a veritable measure to curtailing the increase in abuse of dangerous substances.

Call on traditional rulers, religious leaders to join campaign

He also urged traditional rulers, religious leaders as well as other relevant stakeholders for a continuous advocacy against substance abuse and other negative vices among youths. However research has commenced at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka with the view to understanding the drug in question and finding out the antidote to the effect of the deadly substance.

A Neuro Scientist in the Department of Psychology, Rev Fr (Dr) Cyracus Ajegbu who spoke to this reporter explained that it has become instructive that the institution goes into this process to not only save the patient but also the society. According to him, the drug is lethal and meaning that it can kill when consumed in large quantity lamenting that the level it has gotten to is as a result of the fact that Nigeria as a country is a drug route to other countries.

He confirmed that Nigeria has a large storage of the drug and from this circumstance the drug is circulated to other countries in the world. “That is why the Neuro Scientists which is my area have embarked on this research and we want to know exactly the level of addiction that can push someone to become addicted and for us to be able to find the diagnosis and after that go into prevention and other things.

“A lot of studies are going on in the University with an animal called Westar Rat. The choice of the Westar Rat is because generally in the world it has a general disposition with humans. They have almost the same behavioral trend with humans in terms of cognitive abilities though humans have higher cognitive reactions than the Westar Rats. “This has to do with the way the brain works when it comes to emotions and our drive, our quest, the hunger and the taste and also the addictiveness are superlatively related to this animal. “Not only that, they are engineered to be mild in handling, compared with the local rats, that you cannot handle easily.

As you can see, I can touch them and manipulate them, use them the way I want during the research and this is contrary to our local rats which we cannot use for our research.” Ajegbu further explained that, “we are going to inject the drug on them and when the time comes in the process of manipulating them we keep them here and observe them. “After two or three months we are going to subject them to a lot of tests for LD fifty which means fifty percent and above of mortality, meaning the quantity of the drug that can lead them to mortality. “We are also going to see the level that they can take it to survive and how it can be regulated to ignore the quantity that can lead to all these problems related to the drug. “Other areas include that we are going to harvest their kidney, their liver and examine them to some kind of neuropsychological test using the instrument called stimulus test by putting a shock on them and plug it there for them to react to the shock for a long time and after that we remove them and find out whether they can start consuming this substance as to check the theory that it is because of the hardship in the country that led to the younger generation to indulge in the drug. “What that means is that that shock represents the circumstances that led to the use of the drug as a form of escapism, what ultimately led to the over consumption of the drugs because it represents trauma, stress and everything for long.” Continuing he explained that the Ray’s would be removed and examined whether they are going to use the drugs and other things that led to that. “Those that consume the drugs have problems of anxiety, while some people feel that the drug causes anxiety and that is the essence of the experiment with the rats. “All these tests would be carried out in the laboratory and whatever results that come out would help us know more about the effect of the drug and find out an antidote to it for the consumers.” He, however lamented that Nigeria is a country that care less about the access to verifiable information and the country have not taken time to investigate on the information and work on it as it belongs to the realm of assumption without any imperical proof. The research indeed has attracted the admiration of members of the public as according to Mr Oliver Nweke the Coordinator, Campaign Against Drug Abuse; “The research by the Department of Psychology is one that needs to be encouraged and we urge the state and Federal Government to expedite action in providing funds for the research. “Most countries of the world depend more on academic institutions and from there you find a solution to this social malady like Mkpurumiri and the faith based organisations like the churches should also come into the picture at this point. “For us in our organisation, we have taken time to counsel our children against the kind of company they keep and the type of society that they should belong to at all times. “Already we have a total of six persons so far, but you see the problem we have here is that people are now attaching stigma to the matter and even people who have different psychological problems are now being regarded as addicts of the drug and those involved are seen as not man or woman enough to be associated with.” However, sociological survey has shown that most addicts are coming from the background of poverty occasioned by unemployment and shattered dreams.

Ex-Addict Narrates Experience

Chukwuma Ngonadi who was once an addict of the drug told this reporter that he took to Indian Hemp as a means of escapism having tried for years to secure a paying job. “You don’t seem to understand what it is like to be jobless and your parents are looking up to you for assistance and you cannot do anything about it. “Every little thing you do they refer you to your mates who are doing well and supporting their parents and you lose your self-esteem and even the drive to look for work. “So, from Indian Hemp to the one they call Arizona and the more the frustration grows the more urge to get higher and at some point Indian Hemp and Arizona could not solve the problem so my friend Anayo introduced me to Mkpurumiri and at the first time it was good, but at some point it became the only drug that can keep me out of so much thinking at night and if I don’t take it I cannot sleep at night. “But it has a side effect which is you do not have appetite for food, but I thank God that I was able to come out of it.” He recalled how a friend of his took him out of town and he had no access to the drug and he only depended on Indian Hemp which according to him was less problematic. “When I could not get the drug, I gradually forgot about it and at some point I could not get Indian Hemp and I was left with cigarette and today I don’t smoke anything and again I am occupied with so much work to do,” he said

Cleric counsels on managing addicts

Highlighting the narrative of Ngonadi, Rev Fr Ajegbu noted that the addicts should be pampered and not stigmatised just like when HIV and AIDS came into the picture. “At a time like this we do not have a full proof drug to take care of this, but just tranquilizer which reduces the addiction and we still don’t have it at the moment.

“What is working now is what we call behavioral therapy which is a process whereby the individual is made to understand the implications of what he is taking which is a kind of counseling. “It has to be in a certain environment devoid of access to the drug and this would be carried out by a trained person in that field who knows when to administer what and when to come in at every point.

“It is a kind is rehabilitation and the rehabilitation center specified what they call detoxification process and that is the most important thing and that is giving them room and keeping them away from the public and access to the drugs. “There are lots of medical and psychological processes that those in the rehabilitation center go through to help the patient recover.

This is because the person that is addicted is not himself and it is not a question of talking to the person. The problem is a thing of the mind and it takes a lot of processes to return them to normalcy “The patient would in the process of taking care of him or her resist it, because his body is not used to what it is without the drug and that is what we call the withdrawal syndrome and that is why he cannot be exposed to the outside world. “The poor body will always react violently to the treatment and the patient takes the drug to solve a problem and at some point it becomes worse than the effect of the drug itself.”

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