President Muhammadu Buhari has called for greater support from traditional rulers in Nigeria in the fight against drug abuse and insecurity.
The Nigerian leader was speaking on Wednesday at the 11th General Assembly of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria, NCTRN, in Abuja.
President Buhari, who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said that traditional rulers were “strong and potent arbiters of accepted morality and social behavior,” whose intervention is critical “in combating any social problem carries a unique effectiveness and potency.”
The conference, which had in attendance traditional rulers from all over Nigeria, focused on the role of traditional rulers in combating the menace of drug abuse and in community policing.
According to President Buhari, both issues were critical in Nigeria at present, requiring the crucial roles on the country’s monarchs as moral authorities.
“It is this moral authority that we respectfully urge your royal majesties to exercise against drug abuse in your domains.
“It is the combined effect of the corrective and coercive powers of state agencies & actors, and the moral authority of the throne that we believe can deal a death blow to this terrible scourge that today destroys the lives of thousands of our young persons.”
Speaking further on the menace of drug abuse, President Buhari said Nigeria was faced with a major drug abuse and addiction problem.
Making reference to the 2018 National Drug Use Survey, President Buhari pointed out that there were 14.3 million drug users between the ages of 15 and 64 in Nigeria.
He said drug use was most common among those between ages of 25 and 29 years, which are the years of peak productivity in anyone’s lifespan.
“In effect, young Nigerians that should be in the prime of their lives are being ravaged by the plague of substance addiction.
“In addition, Nigeria’s drug use prevalence rate is almost three times above the global prevalence rate.”
He pointed out that these figures have far-reaching implications for the country and have complex correlation to crime rate.
“The diversion of opioid-based medications like tramadol and cough syrups containing codeine from their prescribed medical use to the illicit market, has spawned an epidemic of substance abuse with a corresponding rise in related mental and neurological ailments.
“High risk behaviour such as the use of unsterilized needles for injections could now lead to an increase in the incidence of HIV, Hepatitis B & C, and other blood borne diseases. We are now at the onset of a public health emergency.
“Consequently, drug abuse is as much an illness as it is a crime, and we must address it accordingly by combining best practices in public health management with common sense criminal justice approaches that emphasize the re-formation of young offenders.”
President Buhari said that the collaboration of government and traditional rulers was most imperative in community policing to check insecurity in Nigeria.
He said this was necessary for surveillance and intelligence; monitoring and maintenance of the community policing structures; and for the moderation of all actors in the strategy.
“As community leaders, you are much more familiar with your immediate environment than any state law enforcement agent or agencies can aspire to be from our remote perch.
“As such, the vast network of confidence open to traditional institutions is uniquely-positioned to provide government with valuable intelligence that can help detect criminal activity early and prevent or stop such before it escalates.
“By virtue of your positions, your majesties will be able to see what works and what does not, and ultimately, because you are largely immune from the upheaval of each four-year political term, traditional fathers can ensure that these structures of community policing are maintained and improved beyond the terms of the elected national and state leaderships.”
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, and former Military Administrator of Lagos State, who delivered a keynote address at the event, said the Nigerian government has planned community policing as a strategy to tackle insecurity in Nigeria.
He said traditional rulers would drive the implementation of the community policing strategy in their domains.
Presenting the second keynote address at the conference, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse, Gen. Buba Marwa (Rtd) called for the declaration of emergency on drug abuse in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Ooni of Ife, His Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, reminded the traditional rulers of their key role in the unity of Nigeria, urging them to ensure that their subjects respect the country’s diversity.
Oba Ogunwusi, who is also the Co-Chair of the NCTRN, said politicians should desist from interfering in traditional institutions.
Also speaking, Co-Chair of the NCTRN, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, called on the executive and the legislature to protect the traditional institution from undue interference.
He said the structure of the traditional institutions in Nigeria has existed for centuries and must be respected.
The 2020 Calendar of the NCTRN was unveiled at the event.