By Dele Anofi, Abuja
Nigeria tops use of illicit drugs in Africa, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Report 2011 has said. The UN body said information on drug use in Africa is extremely limited, given the lack of scientific survey in the region. Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Ahmadu Giade said Nigerians should not panic over the report as the nation is heavily populated compared with other African countries. Speaking during the presentation of the report in Abuja at the weekend, UNODC Country Representative Dr. Oliver Stolpe, however, commended Nigeria’s efforts at curbing the trend of illicit drug use and trafficking. He said the removal of the country from the United States government’s list of major drug trafficking countries was recognition of the country’s determination to sanitise its environment of illicit drug use and trafficking. According to the report, the annual prevalence rate in Africa for cannabis use fluctuates roughly between four per cent and 14 per cent, and is the highest in the world. It said: “Nigeria has the highest prevalence of cannabis abuse in the region, with an estimate of more than 14 per cent.
“Annual prevalence of cocaine use in Africa in 2009 ranged between 0.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent, Nigeria, with a prevalence rate of 0.7 per cent, again is among the top consumers within the region. “Annual prevalence for opiate use in Africa is estimated between 0.2 and 0.6 per cent. In Nigeria the opiate prevalence rate was estimated to have increased from approximately 0.6 to 0.7 per cent in 2009. This means that Nigeria would host roughly 500,000 heroin users”. The prevalence rate for amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) in Africa was put at between 0.2 and 1.4 per cent. The prevalence rate in Nigeria is estimated at 1.4 per cent, also the highest in Africa. But the report also noted that trafficking in illicit drugs might be on the decline in Nigeria. Stople warned that against complacency to achieve the desired result of curbing the illicit trade that poses the danger of turning the country to a notorious transit country. “In 2009, 104 kg of heroin were seized in Nigeria, although this represents a sharp increase from the 2008 level of 12 kg, seizure were already high in 2007 (121kg).
“Reports suggest that Nigeria may serve as a transit point for limited quantities of heroin destined for consumer markets in other countries,” Stolpe noted.Besides, it was also reported that decline in the seizure of cannabis in Africa was partly due to a significant drop in Nigeria. “In 2007 and 2008, the largest annual seizures of cannabis herb in Africa were reported in Nigeria. However, in 2009 seizures in this country fell by almost two third. “Nigeria also reported notable increase in the farm-gate price of cannabis. Both the decline in seizures and the increase in price were attributed to the destruction of cannabis farms by law enforcement in Nigeria,” the report stated. The NDLEA boss who spoke with The Nation after the presentation said Nigerians should not panic noting that population of Nigeria was responsible for topping most of indices. “Though we are high on the table in Africa but when you look at the population we are equally higher, so if you look at the population and the percentage it is not something alarming that we should be bothered about. “Moreover, when it was confirmed that the sources of gathering information on this report as it relate to Africa and Nigeria were not through scientist survey, then we should not be overly alarmed. This is not to say we have to relent our efforts at bring down the menace in our society. “As you know, even the US government recognized our efforts at cleaning our environment of drug abuse and trafficking, we are set to do more” Gyade added.