Nigerian government, European Union and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Tuesday celebrated a decade collaboration to advance drug use prevention and control in Nigeria.
The Government of Nigeria and the European Union, to mark the occasion, organized a side-event during the 65th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to present their collective achievements of ten years of joint work towards improved drug control in Nigeria.
Nigeria and the European Union turned a new leaf in their partnership towards improved drug control in 2012 when they signed a €35 million agreement for the implementation of the project Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crime.
The project, which is being implemented by UNODC, is the largest EU funded initiative of its kind. It aims to support the efforts of the Nigerian Government and its various specialized agencies as well as civil society actors in curbing drug production, trafficking and use, and tackling related organized crime.
Speaking on behalf of the Chairman, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Mr. Shadrach Haruna, the Secretary of the agency, commended EU for providing financial support and UNODC for implementing activities across the full spectrum of drug control, including support for the formulation and implementation of two National Drug Control Master Plans (2015-2020 & 2021-2025), launching of several research studies including the 2018 Drug Use Survey, developing the training curriculum for the NDLEA Academy, delivering training to more than 3000 law enforcement officers, and support for strengthening prosecutorial capacities.
He further highlighted how the measures taken under the joint partnership has helped Nigeria in adopting a balanced approach to drug control with equal emphasis on areas of drug demand reduction, treatment and care.
Representing the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr Clement Boutillier, Head of Democratic Governance and Migration Section, emphasized on the role of narcotic drugs in fueling violence and conflicts and spoiling peace and reiterated EU support in curbing drugs and related organized crime in West Africa.
He revealed that some of the initiatives under the project like UNPLUGGED, a drug prevention programme for school childen, and At-Risk Children programme align with with EU’s priorities of supporting youth and children. Mr. Boutillier encouraged Nigeria to consider hosting the 2023 HONLEA Africa meeting with a view to utilizing this platform to share the policies, tools and good practices developed under the framework of the project with other countries in the region.
Dr. Salaudeen Olawale Jimoh, from the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) highlighted the critical contribution of the project in supporting the development of numerous assessments, guidelines and training materials on drug use counselling and treatment. It helped establishing eleven model treatment centres providing services to drug users across the country and helped sensitizing and training thousands of primary health professionals, law enforcement officers, community leaders and other stakeholders frequently interacting with drug users and their families. Moreover, the project supported the establishment of the Nigerian Epidemiological Network on Drug Use (NENDU) which has considerably augmented national data collection and, thus, the capacity for evidence-based drug policy making.
Dr. Musa Umar, Director, Narcotics and Controlled Substances Directorate, National Agency for Drug and Food Administration and Control (NAFDAC) appreciated project’s technical and advisory support in boosting Nigeria’s capacity in management of controlled medicines and estimation psychotropic substances. In particular, he valued project’s support in the development of a number of policies and guidelines, training FMOH and NAFDAC personnel in appropriate skills, and in conducting two national estimation and quantification survey reports (2017 and 2019).
Dr. Ebiti Nkereuwem William, Coordinator, Community Intervention Network on Drugs (CIND), a network of 178 CSOs, highlighted the project’s contribution in training CSO staff in treatment and counselling, as well as in establishing eight drop-in centres which have provided treatment, counselling and referral services to thousands of drug users. He further informed that some of the professionals trained under the project played a critical role in launching DrugHelpNet, a network of medical specialist who provided much needed access to drug treatment and counselling services during the COVID-19 related restrictions.
Moderating the event, Mr. Oliver Stolpe, the UNODC Representative, stressed the need to sustain and build on the achievements of the project, including by ensuring that the National Drug Control Master Plan will be included into the 2023 national budget.