Former President Olusegun Obasanjo Addresses Biennial international Conference on Drugs, Alcohol and Society in Africa

LAGOS, NIGERIA, 22 AUGUST 2014 - Experts, practitioners, civil society organisations, researchers from various countries in Africa and other parts of the world met in Lagos for the 11th Biennial International Conference on Drugs, Alcohol and Society in Africa organized by the African Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse (CRISA). The conference was held with the support of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) under the European Union funded project to support Nigeria's response to drug trafficking and illicit drug production.

General Olusegun Obasanjo (retired), former President of Nigeria and Chair of the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) addressed participants at the conference. The former President described activities of the WACD and highlighted the importance of a new approach to drug control globally. He said there was a need to adopt a health and human rights based approach to drug demand reduction and drug law enforcement.

Dr. Igor Koutsenok, Chief, Prevention Treatment and Rehabilitation Section at UNODC Vienna, was the keynote speaker at the conference. In his address, he dispelled some common myths on drug dependence and drug treatment using evidence and data from various studies.

Other notable speakers at the opening session included Ms. Mariam Sissoko, UNODC Nigeria Country Representative; Dr. Rahman Lawal, Chief Medical Director, Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos Nigeria; Dr. Isidore Obot, Director, CRISA.

The UNODC Representative congratulated the Government of Nigeria and Nigeria's drug control agency, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), for their efforts in developing the new National Drug Control Master Plan (2015-19). She commended the balanced approach being adopted to tackle the issue of drug demand reduction and drug law enforcement, which she said was a key guiding principle of the new NDCMP.

The conference had 134 participants from over eight countries. Presentations at the conference focused on a variety of issues, which included key populations and drug use in Nigeria; prevention, treatment and rehabilitation; the psychological, social and cultural aspects of drug use; and drug use in prisons and among the youth. Special panel discussions were held on the report of the West Africa Commission on Drugs titled "Not Just in Transit: Drugs, the State and Society in West Africa" and the European Union's role as a partner in drug policy and crime control through the multi-regional cocaine route programming.

The outcomes of discussions at the conference will be published in the African Journal on Drugs and Alcohol Studies, with support from the EU funded "Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crime in Nigeria."