December 29, 2020

Reps mull imprisonment for farmers, sellers, smokers of Indian Hemp in Nigeria


*Stiffer punishments underway-Doguwa, sponsor

*Bill to be debated for second reading in January 2021

By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja

Soon, the prisons will be a home for cultivators, sellers and smokers of cannabis otherwise called Indian Hemp in Nigeria should a new bill currently before the House of Representatives eventually become a law.

Essentially, the bill is seeking to amend the contemporary Indian Hemp Act to provide for stiffer punitive measures against promoters of the substance.

It is titled “Indian Hemp Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020 (HB. 1081) sponsored by the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Alhassan Ado Dogowa.

Called different names such as marijuana, weed, skunk or Igbo, cannabis is an Asian plant (Cannabis sativa) of the family Cannabaceae, widely cultivated for its fibre and for its yield of intoxicating drugs.

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Reports of its abuse by especially the youth population are ubiquitous.

It will be recalled that a 2018 report by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) ranked Nigeria the world’s highest consumers of cannabis, revealing Marijuana to be the most consumed “drug” in Nigeria, being consumed by an estimated 10.8% of the population.

This roughly translates to 10.6 million Nigerians who in one way or another indulged in the use of cannabis.

Also, Wikipedia reports that cannabis in Nigeria is illegal, yet the country is a major source of West African-grown cannabis.

It is widely grown across the States of the federation, including Ondo State, Edo State, Delta State, Osun State, Oyo State and Ogun State.

Legislative history

Prior to now, the use of cannabis in Nigeria was limited by a series of statutes, including the 1935 Dangerous Drugs Act when Nigeria was still under British rule.

Following the independence in 1960, the country promulgated an Indian Hemp Decree of 1966 which was amended in 1975 and 1984 respectively.

While the 1966 decree recommended the death penalty for hemp cultivation, that of 1975 decree removed the threat of capital punishment, and in its 1984 amendment increased penalties and jail terms.

Similarly, in early 2019, the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, proposed legalization of cannabis growing in the state for medical use.

He repeated the call in early 2020.

Doguwa’s amendment bill

Read for the first time on October 20, 2020, at the plenary of the House, Doguwa’s amendment bill to the existing Act is, however, prescribing harsher punishments which included imprisonment for the farmers, sellers and smokers of Indian Hemp.

Speaking exclusively to Vanguard on the proposed piece of legislation in Abuja on Sunday, Doguwa who represents Tudun-Wada/Doguwa federal constituency of Kano State said the bill would curb the abuse of Indian Hemp in the country.

The lawmaker also hoped that the bill would read for the second time in January 2021 when the House resumes plenary.

“The bill is still awaiting 2nd reading. It’s intended to curb the menace and social vices borne by sellers and users of Indian Hemp amongst our vulnerable youths in the society.

“Stiffer punishments would be provided. In some cases, imprisonment without an option to be able to eradicate it all in the country.

“Apart from the moral and social vices, the health implication is yet another serious problem that we must agree to fight.

“It will be read the 2nd time as we resume next month Insha Allah. It was delayed because of so many executive Bills on my table that I needed to clear including the Money bill”, he said.

Vanguard News Nigeria