The increasing spate of crystal methamphetamine known as mkpuru-mmiri, its consumption, negative effects and as one major cause of engaging in social vices by the youths in Nigeria, particularly in Anambra have called for a greater concern.
Penalties like flogging adopted in some major parts of the eastern Nigeria seem not to be enough to quench the current trend of illicit consumption by the youths. To ensure the end of it, the Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA) Anambra State, Barr. Charles Nworji, in an exclusive interview with our Awka correspondent, Uchenna Ezeadigwe, the community advocator details interesting facts and strategies the agency is currently doing to reduce the illicit drug peddling.
Sir, could you explain to the public, the visions and missions of NOA?
The thrust of the agency is to communicate government policies, activities, among others, to the populace, that does not translate to being the mouth piece of the government. We communicate government policies to the governed and we equally serve as a feed back to the government after letting people know what government wants to do, their activities and policies.
We also inform government how people perceive those policies, accept or reject those programmes, activities and so on.
Secondly, on the attitudinal change of Nigeria we act as investigator to a positive change of attitude by the citizens and we try to do this through organizing seminar, conference and other platforms through which people engage in social and public discourse on how they can mean more to their society. Those are the two prongs we deal with.
In the activities of partnering with other agencies and as well interacting with the local community to convey this information, how can you rate the performance?
I can tell you without being ignorant about it that we have done well, and without going on self appraisal we have done quite well since the inception. There is one thing we must understand, the job of social engineering is not easy because it is not concrete, it is not physical instead they crystallize over time, the effect on the society is what you will now use to appraise the efforts.
Social engineering which is the core work of the NOA consist of the gradual and consistent dealings with the society for a change. And that is what we occupy yourself with and it comes in all forms, health education and so on. When the Covid-19 came, NOA was there and others. NOA is Jack of all trade and master of all.
Recently, there is an increase in the consumption of illicit drugs in Anambra State, what efforts is NOA putting in to ensure that such menace is being curbed?
The issue of substance abuse is general not only in Anambra State but is all over the country, I have reasons, specifics to buttress what I am saying, drug abuse and drug addiction which incidentally translate to violent crime is endemic and is getting worse in Nigeria. Without trying to paint Anambra clean, it is all over the nation.
However, there is a new dimension to it which makes it seem as if the arrival of Crystal Methamphetamine (Mkpurumiri) which I am knowledgeable about through my collaboration with NDLEA, is new in Anambra but in the world scene it is not. It’s an old drug which was used in the second world war. It was used on human beings to propel the activities of the war. Soldiers will fight without any act of feelings. After the war, they tried to get medical use for Meth but the result was not very good as expected.
But the human mind is something that is creative and wild, they felt they could use it in some other forms and that’s why started making use of labs and addictive were added which makes it crystal in blocks with shades of different colours.
I understand from the literature I read about it, that it forecloses appetite and the person can lose control of his or her environment. While not defending Anambra State, the consumption of mkpurumiri within Nigeria is high within other societies beyond the Nigeria society is increasing because it comes in various forms and I understand that it’s very affordable now.
You can reason with me that this is Christmas season, there is going to be high consumption of this drugs (Mkpurumiri) and that was what we thought about having watched the different clips on the social media and having read all the literature on this menace, the National Orientation Agency nationwide not only in Anambra decided to look at this problem not just from the point of drugs abuse, but insecurity and enabler of insecurity.
Consumption of hard drugs is an enabler of insecurity and that is the angle we are seeing it. In Anambra here, we will inform Ndi Anambra to make them understand what we are saying. We want to tackle illicit drug peddling and use to reduce the insecurity in the state.
So, if we come into a community to interact with them they will clearly listen to us and ready examples will abound of what we will be talking to them on, and these things will centre on drugs like, indian hemp and chiefly crystal Meths which we understand are affordable for the youths.
Crystal Methamphetamine (Mkpurumirri) doesn’t have any remarkable smell on the user so you can just know the user but we know that there are physical things you can notice about a user, and these are things we intend to build into these particular campaign for parents to watch their children for the society to watch the members and know when something is going wrong. It is so frightening if you how the users make use of these drugs. Through peer review we have been able to identify some of these things.
Crystal Methamphetamine (Mkpurumirri) is a threat and we must not allow our Nation, State, community to degenerate to that level. We must do something about it and that is why we are organising a campaign for it. Already, we have started with Unubi community in Nnewi South local government area, in collaboration with the town Union development, the leadership of the town graciously asked that we come around and we want to use the opportunity to let other Town Union leaders, the President Generals, Igwes to emulate from them.
How can you quantify the damage done by this crystal meth on our youths today?
The damage is enormous. Today, the use of crystal meth has reduced the traditional Indian hemp we know about to nothing. There are ceremonies you attend you see people peddling hemp. In this campaign, we are not working on mkpurummili only but any illegal drugs that is currently in use in Nigeria.
You mentioned lack of funds as one of the challenges you face in running this affair in Anambra State?
The facilities are never enough, the resources to enable the swift execution and completion of projects are not enough. If we wait till we get all the millions and billions to work, then the harm wound have being done, we must start from somewhere and we call on everyone who is worried by the spate of things in Anambra to come as we are ready to partner and that is why we are also engaging major actors like the NDLEA. We will continue like that until we ensure our aims are achieved. We can’t stamp out drugs abuse completely but we assure of a massive reduction.
Finally, you did talk about rehabilitation as one of the strategies to adopt, is there any where this exists in Anambra state?
Yes, a good number of them exist in Nigeria and here in Anambra including private rehabilitation centres. The Ntansi Obi centre in Enugu Ukwu is a good one. But definitely the NDLEA has its platforms and units for rehabilitation, under this rehabilitation, there are other stages of engaging identified users and addicts.
You don’t just rehabilitate, it’s not a one day thing. Sometimes they check the cognitive abilities of the person, re-engagement and re-absorption into the society. So rehabilitation is a process and the NDLEA knows how to deal with it.