President Tinubu Calls for End to Stigmatization of Drug Use Victims, Emphasizes Importance of Prevention
President Bola Tinubu has urged the Nigerian society to refrain from social and structural stigmatization of drug use victims, as it hinders their access to necessary care and support. His remarks were made during the annual celebration of the United Nations International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking at the State House in Abuja. The President, represented by Senator George Akume, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), endorsed the theme of the event, “People First: Stop Stigma and Discrimination, Strengthen Prevention.”
Highlighting the significance of the theme, President Tinubu emphasized the need to prioritize the well-being and dignity of individuals affected by drug abuse, recognizing their inherent worth and the importance of providing them with effective prevention and treatment interventions. He emphasized that vulnerable populations, particularly women, young people, those living in marginalized environments, high-risk drug users, people displaced by armed conflicts or natural disasters, and individuals in rural settings, often face stigma, discrimination, and exclusion from mainstream opportunities.
The President stressed the importance of removing both social and structural stigma, which act as common barriers to accessing support and services for people who use drugs. He called for increased education on the dangers of drug abuse and the cessation of stigma and discrimination, while also urging support for those affected. President Tinubu emphasized the need to empower youth with knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about their lives and to provide resources for victims of drug abuse to avoid becoming entrapped in addiction. He highlighted the importance of providing treatment and support to those struggling with drug addiction.
In addressing the challenges posed by drug abuse, President Tinubu called for a people-centered approach, with prevention and treatment as key pillars of the response. He reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to combating drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking in all forms. The President called on governments, international organizations, and civil stakeholders to take urgent actions to protect society and individuals by tackling the problem of illicit drug supply and abuse, raising awareness about the threats it poses to society.
Hon Tajudeen Abbas, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, echoed the need for empathy toward drug use victims, emphasizing that addiction is not a death sentence. Representing the Speaker, Hon Benjamin Kalu, the House Deputy Speaker, expressed the National Assembly’s readiness to support federal government policies that promote gainful engagements for Nigerians, especially vulnerable youth prone to drug abuse. He called for the strategic approach to the ongoing fight against drug abuse to include treating drug abusers and their families with empathy, respect, and dignity.
The MTN Foundation, a partner with the NDLEA, also stressed the importance of combating drug abuse, describing it as “everyone’s fight.” The Chairman, Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, emphasized the need to intensify efforts to eradicate this menace from society, considering the alarming number of people affected. He called for a combination of policy and partnerships as a strategy to address this national emergency.
Brigadier-General Buba Marwa (rtd), the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), highlighted the agency’s reliance on the collaboration of all stakeholders to win the war against illicit drugs. He emphasized the importance of providing sympathy and support to individuals struggling with drug addiction, rather than stigmatizing them. General Marwa called for an environment where individuals feel safe, respected, and encouraged to seek help and access necessary treatments and interventions. He stressed the need to raise awareness, educate communities, and promote acceptance to challenge harmful stereotypes and foster a society that supports individuals on their path to recovery.
The celebration concluded with a call for ongoing efforts in the fight against drug abuse. The event served as a platform to emphasize the need for collective action and sustained dialogue on this pressing issue.
Participants at the event acknowledged that addressing drug abuse requires a comprehensive and multifaceted approach that combines prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and social support. They recognized the importance of raising public awareness about the dangers of drug abuse and promoting a culture of empathy and understanding towards individuals affected by addiction.
As the event came to a close, stakeholders reiterated their commitment to tackling drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking. They emphasized the need for continued collaboration between the government, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector to effectively combat this menace. It was agreed upon that efforts should focus on reducing the supply of illicit drugs, increasing access to prevention and treatment services, and providing support for individuals on their path to recovery.
The event may have concluded, but the conversation and action against drug abuse are far from over. Stakeholders emphasized the importance of ongoing engagement and cooperation to create a drug-free society. They called for sustained efforts in implementing policies, strengthening partnerships, and fostering a supportive environment that enables individuals affected by drug abuse to seek help without fear of stigmatization or discrimination.
With the endorsement of President Bola Tinubu and the collective commitment of various stakeholders, Nigeria is poised to make significant progress in combating drug abuse and creating a society that prioritizes the well-being and dignity of its citizens. The fight against drug abuse continues, and the nation stands united in its determination to overcome this challenge for the betterment of all.
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