Nigeria: Engaging Law Makers to consider a Balanced, Evidence and Human Rights Based Drug Control Approach

Photo:UNODC

Uyo, Nigeria, 13 July 2017 - The Right to Health is among one of the Fundamental Human Rights as stated in the  Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 25) and it is also one of the points expressed in the  Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 3.8) focusing on increasing access to essential medicines in line with the United Nations Drug Control Conventions and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Although the Government of Nigeria has put in place measures to tackle the issue of drug demand, drug treatment is concentrated in tertiary hospitals that are located in capital cities and expensive, with few Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) having limited capacity and funding to respond to drug use disorders.

Drug use is often treated as a criminal justice issue, with the users being stigmatized and thereby, lowering the chances of recovery and reintegration into society. The lack of data on drug use in Nigeria poses a problem to lawmakers in setting clear evidence-based policies both in demand and supply reduction.  

These were some of the issues discussed for three days in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, where federal law makers had a heart-to-heart dialogue on a comprehensive and holistic approach to address drug demand and supply education under a human rights based approach, an activity which took place under the auspices of the European Union (EU) funded project 'Response to drugs and related organized crime in Nigeria' being implemented by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Drawn from the Senate and House of Representative Committees on Drugs and Narcotics, four senators and 17 members of the House of Representative were, with the help of international and national drug control experts taken through the whole gamut of United Nations Drug Control Conventions  and ongoing policy dialogue guiding  with a view to generate informed interventions in tandem with local realities and international best practices The interactive and participatory briefing included visual presentations of local practices that are at variance with international best practices. The legislators also visited two drop-in centres in Uyo, which are funded and supported by the EU funded and UNODC implemented project and operated by local CSOs, delivering drug services. 

At the end the legislators agreed that there is an urgent need for a change in the narrative on the drug problem and the response to it through actions encompassing extensive community based sensitization, awareness and education on the harms of drugs; building the capacity of professional staff working on drug treatment and expanding treatment through with a focus on community based treatment, provision of continuity of care, including creating specialized centres for women and internally displaced populations (IDPs). Additionally, they resolved to prioritise the strengthening of the capacity of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in drug supply reduction, including the lifting of the profile of the agency.

They also committed to supporting a shift in paradigm to achieve access, availability and control of narcotics and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes, such as morphine in line with the recently adopted National Drug Control Master Plan.