By Sola Ogundipe

The West Africa Commission on Drugs, WACD, has urged the Nigerian government to rethink its drug policy in the interest of Nigerians and the entire West African zone. The call was made as key findings of the Commission’s report titled “Not Just in Transit: Drugs, the State and Society in West Africa” are to be shared with the Minister of Health, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Drugs Control, and Civil Society groups.

SYMPOSIUM:  From left: Member, Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Dr Olalekan Aregbesola, Chairperson, Network of People  Living with HIV/AIDS, Lagos, Mrs. Aminat Agboola-Alli, Former Director General, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, NIMR,Prof Oni Idigwe,  Director, Lagos State AIDS Control Agency, LASACA, Dr. Oladipo Fisher,Consultant Haematologist , Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Prof. Sulaimon Akanmu, during a scientific symposium to mark this year’s World AIDS Day organised by NIMR in collaboration with NMA, Lagos branch.
SYMPOSIUM: From left: Member, Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Dr Olalekan Aregbesola, Chairperson, Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, Lagos, Mrs. Aminat Agboola-Alli, Former Director General, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, NIMR,Prof Oni Idigwe, Director, Lagos State AIDS Control Agency, LASACA, Dr. Oladipo Fisher,Consultant Haematologist , Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Prof. Sulaimon Akanmu, during a scientific symposium to mark this year’s World AIDS Day organised by NIMR in collaboration with NMA, Lagos branch.

A member of the Commission, Adeolu Ogunrombi, said in line with the findings of the report, Nigeria and the other West African governments should  reform drug laws and policies and decriminalise low-level and non-violent drug offences.

Chairman of the Commission, former President Olusegun Obasanjo,  cautioned against the militarisation of drug policy in Nigeria and West Africa, and observed that the war on drugs has not succeeded, and should not be replicated in Africa.

“Today, the small fry is caught while the big fish swim free. The glaring absence of treatment facilities for drug users fuels the spread of disease and exposes an entire generation, users and non-users alike, to growing public health risks. The current approaches have not delivered solutions and Nigeria too needs to rethink its drug policies, Obasanjo noted.

Earlier, President Muhammadu Buhari had remarked that Nigeria aims to become a more forceful and constructive player on global issues, such as countering the global drugs problem. Deeply concerned by the growing threats of drug trafficking and consumption in West Africa, Kofi Annan, Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and former Secretary-General of the United Nations, convened the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) in January 2013.

The Commission’s objectives are to mobilise public awareness and political commitment around the challenges posed by drug trafficking; develop evidence based policy recommendations; and promote regional and local capacity and ownership to manage these challenges. The Commission is an independent body comprising a diverse group of West Africans from the worlds of politics, civil society, health, security and the judiciary.

Its report is the culmination of one and a half years of engagement by the Commission with national, regional and international parties including the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It is informed by a series of background papers, drafted by leading experts from Africa and beyond.

 

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