By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
The Federal Government through the Ministry of Health has launched a National Drug Control Master Plan in Abuja.
The policy document on narcotic drugs is coming on the heels of rampant drug abuse, especially amongst youths in the country.
At the public of the policy document in Abuja on Monday, the Country Representative, United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime in Nigeria, Mrs. Elizabeth Bayer, advocated that drug use should not be criminalised, rather it should be seen as a “health challenge where drug use disorders are treated, as it is the case with any other medical conditions.
“There is also the need for a revision of the legal framework in regards to the control of drugs to ensure it is aligned with the UN Drug Conventions and provides enforcement agencies with the necessary powers to suppress drug trafficking and production in Nigeria,” she said.
In her goodwill message, the UNODC boss in the country lauded the Federal Government for being the first country on the African continent to roll-out a National Policy for Controlled Medicines.
She explained further that the initiative was developed as part of the European Union funded and UNODC implemented project, ‘Response to Drugs and Related Organised Crime in Nigeria.’
“The National Policy for Controlled Medicines and its implementation strategies elaborates practical approaches to ensure availability of and accessibility to controlled medicines and articulates a comprehensive policy framework that clearly describes the supply chain with quality assurance mechanisms.
“This development is keeping hope alive for patients with terminal cancer, those suffering from injuries caused by accident and violence, chronic illnesses and those recovering from surgery who undergo untold suffering due to lack of opiod analgesics which can easily control pain,” Bayer said.
She called for a regional approach to tackling drug trafficking, arguing that it is a trans-national phenomenon, that no one country alone can combat effectively.
In a goodwill message, the Director-General of the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, expressed concerns over the abuse of narcotic drugs by youths in the country, urging parents and guardians to control the use of drugs among the their wards.
The NAFDAC boss called for a stiffer punishment for drug-peddlers, calling for the message to be taken to churches and mosques as well as other public places so as to curb drug-abuse.
On his part, Deputy Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Health Institutions, Mr. Mohammed Usman, indicted the National Assembly’s support to the development of a qualitative healthcare system.
“The support of the National Assembly to the healthcare system will continue. We have taken health as a major item on our priority list, and that is why over 1000 motions and bills have been passed into law in the current National Assembly with a view to promoting the sector,” Usman noted.
While unveiling the 71-page policy document, which covers 2015 to 2019, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, averred that controlled medicines had remained largely unavailable and inaccessible for medical use in the country, adding that the gap necessitated the provision of these “life-saving medications for Nigerians,” with the collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Health and the UNODC to develop the National Policy for Controlled Medicines and its Implementation Strategies.”
Adewole represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Clement Uwaifor, assured that in line with the spirit of 3 the International Drug Control Conventions, the policy would not be put on the shelve to gather dust.
“These policies and guidelines are not just documents that have been developed and launched today (Monday) and then will gather dust. Federal Ministry of Health and NAFDAC have already collaborated and carried out the first scientific estimate of narcotic medicines, psychotropic substances and precursors required in Nigeria,” he said.