•Compromise by Police frustrating war against hard drugs— Abia monarch
•Lack of focus, proper training reason youths resort to drugs— Rev Emeaba
•Govt should tackle unemployment — NMA
By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Dennis Agbo & Steve Oko
It is often said that speed kills and that is the truth of life. Mkpuru mmiri falls under the drugs called Speed which is a street name for various stimulant drugs that teens, young adults and others use to feel more alert and focused, and in some cases, to feel high. It is also called Methamphetamine or Crystal Meth, a highly addictive stimulant drug, similar to cocaine which is now on high abuse by Nigerian youths. The abuse is seen in all parts of Nigeria.
However, in Igbo communities, it has assumed a notorious dimension and is fast destroying the youths. This destructive substance has infact become popular among Igbo youths that it is now nick-named Mkpuru mmiri, literally translated as blocked water or ice block. It’s negative effect is such that after its consumption, they engage in criminal and immoral acts detrimental to the society at large. The notoriety of the abuse of Mkpuru mmiri is such that it has attracted the attention of the members of Imo State House of Assembly who discussed it on the floor of the House and suggested that the State Ministry of Health runs a vigorous media campaign against its intake.
Mkpuru mmiri is also taken recreationally, often mixed with other drugs. Despite the sought-after, short-term effects of some forms of speed, all forms of speed are dangerous and addictive.
Noting the increasing damage the drug is causing the youths, the Imo House of Assembly also called on Governor Hope Uzodimma to constitute a state committee that will work with NDLEA to tackle the dangerous dimension it has already assumed in many Igbo communities. Imo House of Assembly further suggested that the Ministry of Health be mandated to educate the youths on the use of the illicit drug. Also, Enugu students have commenced a campaign against Mkpuru mmiri.
It is a common sight to see addicts on the streets of South-East communities, some of them incoherently walking the streets naked or half naked. You see them, mainly young men in their twenties, murmur to themselves while walking on the streets. Looking haggard and unkempt, they are victims of mkpuru mmiri. They entirely operate on a different level from normal human beings.
Viral videos are circulated on daily basis from various communities in the South-East, of victims of Mkpuru mmiri, with their attendant abnormal behaviours. Some of them were reported to have killed their parents, siblings or burnt their houses under the influence of the drug.
Under the influence of drug, they respect nobody, they look down on whoever they come across. Nobody is anything to them.
Origin of Mkpuru mmiri
Though its origin is traced to Japan in as far back as 1919, it was reportedly grossly abused during World War II when it was issued to pilots on a suicidal mission called Kamikaze. But after World War II, it was said to have been briefly used as a medication for depression and for controlling obesity. It was however, quickly abandoned and banned thereafter, especially from the 1970s. But it is now produced locally. It was reported that since the 1990s, the production of crystal meth has been hijacked by Mexican drug cartels and they came into Nigeria to set up laboratories in 2016. It is a very addictive stimulant that renders the user hyperactive and prone to destructive tendencies which may include suicide or homicide at the slightest provocation and without a feeling of remorse.
In March 2019, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, discovered a residential building that turned into a drug factory at No 1 Zion Avenue, Phase 6, Trans-Ekulu, Enugu, where Methamphetamine (Mkpuru mmiri) was being produced in commercial quantities for export to overseas, particularly to South Africa. Three factory workers were arrested, but the main drug baron, whose name was given as Christian Chibuzor, was not arrested since he had fled the country.
Earlier than the Trans-Ekulu discovery, a similar factory was discovered in Ozalla, Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State.
The NDLEA, however, refers to the factories as laboratories where it arrested three persons working there. The agency said their arrests were based on credible intelligence which led to initial arrest of the first two suspects with 100 kilograms of Ephedrine used as one of the raw materials in the production of Methamphetamine, otherwise known as mkpuru mmiri.
NDLEA said that due to the hazardous nature of the chemicals involved, the agency dismantled the clandestine laboratory, while the precursor chemicals and paraphernalia and other equipment for production, were seized by the agency.
The Enugu State Public Relations Officer of NDLEA, Mrs. Mmeka Calista, however, said that the fleeing Christian Chibuzor was later arrested in South Africa and prosecuted together with his clandestine group members.
The agency said there was urgent need to decontaminate the neighbourhood in the drug production areas as waste products of the illicit substance in the course of production, seeped into water sources of neighbouring compounds, thus poisoning their source of water supply.
Even though both the Ozawa and Trans-Ekulu factories have remained sealed since 2019, the NDLEA lamented that till date, the Enugu State Government has refused to decontaminate the areas despite NDLEA’s several attempts to make them do so, hence the health implication for the general public remains.
“This is a very serious implication because time will come when the effects of these chemicals will result to deadly health challenges such as cancer, birth deformity, kidney problems, etc. We have called on government to come to the rescue of residents within the neighbourhood and to also appeal to the general public to come up with useful information whenever they notice or perceive strange activities or unusual smells within their environment,” NDLEA said.
Narrating his experience, a neighbour that shares fence with the Trans-Ekulu factory, Mazi Ogunedo Emeruole said: “We started noticing changes in our well (a source of water) for over three weeks but before then, we used to perceive strong smell from our neighbour here. So we were thinking that when the old tenant moved away and the new tenant came, he was trying to fumigate the compound. It got to a point we were worried that every night, we perceived strong smells and it wasn’t abating.
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“It got to a point that when we go to fetch water, we would notice the water has oil and very strong smell coming out of it. So I called these Mallams that used to excavate wells. The first person we called could not dig more than two feet; he came out almost lifeless, so to speak, because we had to pour water to resuscitate him. We asked him to come back but he said he was not going to come, that maybe the plumber poured in chemical and we never called any plumber here since 2008.
“Another set came later and the guy dug one foot and said he could not continue because the smell of the chemical was powerful. We now observed that the surrounding of the well had turned black and anytime we fetch water, we discovered powerful smell; we sneeze when we fetch water from the well, so I gave instruction to my family not to use the water again except to flush toilets.
“So we were surprised when the officials of NDLEA came around to inform us that our neighbour here is producing a very dangerous chemical and when they mentioned the name, Meth, I knew I had read about it in social media, a very powerful hard drug. We were all shocked; we never knew that a neighbour that just moved in three months back is producing such thing within our environment.”
Emeruole said the suspected drug dealer was not the owner of the property but rented it and was not known by neighbours. “We didn’t know him, the only thing is that we used to see a powerful Range Rover sport that parks outside; you know when a neighbour is coming in, we said we have a very rich neighbour within our vicinity. For the two times I saw him park at the gate, he never came out of the vehicle, the engine will be running and he will be inside the vehicle, he never came out. We were told he lives abroad.”
The NDLEA said their arrests were based on credible intelligence which led to initial arrest of the first two suspects with 100 kilograms of Ephedrine.
SEV noticed that the waste from the laboratory was already having corrosive effect on the environment. Flowers and grasses along the waste disposal track had completely dried up, while mango and breadfruit trees there were also shrinking. Some of the trees in the compound had already died while others had withered.
As at 2019, the drug was said to be more costly than cocaine and that its Africa production was rated highly in the international drug market. Little did anyone know that the drug was also consumed in Nigeria which would later become the destroyer of youths of the South-East.
Many Igbo communities are currently facing the dangerous effects of mkpuru mmiri and youths are into it, and incidentally, they have become a burden to their families and communities as some of them are reported to have killed or maimed members of their family because the drug is said to affect the brain adversely.
Aside from being unable to sleep and violent, users exhibit anti-social behaviours arising from paranoia and hallucination. The drug takes a toll on the physical look of its users. It typically makes them look older and their faces prone to acne. Sometimes, excessive use leads to damaged gum and teeth, commonly called Meth mouth.
What is most frightening is that meth addiction is one of the most difficult to treat, because no drug can cure it, except by behavioural therapy, which at the moment, is not readily available in the country.
Since the launch of the Offensive Action campaign early this year, NDLEA has recorded significant seizures of kilograms of the drug. Likewise, the Agency has located and destroyed not less than 18 meth- producing laboratories in the country in the past few years.
The Agency has been monitoring the trend in Meth production, abuse and trafficking. And because of the rampant abuse and production of the drug, especially in the Southeast, the Chairman/CEO recently gave specific instructions to relevant directorates of the Agency on how the agency should respond to the development.
Questions are still being asked how Mkpurumiri became popular in the South East zone. The rate at which it has spread across most towns and even remote villages is unbelievable. It was even suspected that the hard drug contributed in no small measure to the problem of the unknown gunmen in parts of the South East in recent time, particularly in Anambra State before the recent governorship election in the state.
Some people actually believe that only people who take such drugs could be killing people and destroying property without any provocation and without showing remorse.
In Anambra State, for instance, the drug has become a house hold name in such communities like Obosi, Enugwu Ukwu, Agukwu, Agulu, Okija, Uli, Awka, Nteje, Awkuzu, Umueri, Umudioka and many more. In the
communities where Nkpuru Mmiri has become common, rape has also become rampant as it is believed that the drug increases the libido of the affected youths. Another surprising thing is that some women also
indulge in it and, in their case, the result is usually madness.
Communities wage aggressive war against mpkurumiri
Currently, some communities have started identifying those who peddle the drug in their areas and are banishing them, while their youths who were known to be taking it are publicly punished by flogging them in
village squares. For instance, the Umudioka Improvement Union in Dunukofia local Government area of Anambra State has proscribed the sale and consumption of all illicit drugs and substances in the community and warned those still undertaking such business to desist forthwith as they stood the risk of being arrested and prosecuted with the support of the relevant security agencies.
In Okija, Ihiala local government area, youths of the community early this week marched through the major roads to drive home their full commitment towards eradicating the menace of cultism which is linked to drug abuse, particularly Mkpûrû mmiri in the town.
Some stakeholders from the town joined in the campaign during which they warned that anyone found guilty would be seriously dealt with. Several communities have also taken similar measures, but it is left to be seen how effective the measures would be in the coming weeks.
The traditional ruler of Oriendu Autonomous Community, Umuahia North Local Government Area, Abia State, Eze Philip Ajomiwe, has decried the devastating effects of mkpurumiri and other hard drugs among the youths.
Ajomiwe, former Chairman, Council of Traditional Rulers said that the vigilante groups in Ohuhu land had been placed on red alert over mkpurumiri which is a new but worrisome development.
The monarch said he would convene a palace meeting to sensitize his cabinet members on the dangers of mkpurumiri so that a united action could be taken to curb the menace. He however, accused the police of
frustrating the war against hard drug consumption in rural communities.
According to him, compromise by police when information on the hideouts of drug peddlers is volunteered to them sabotages communal efforts on the drug war. This, he said has made his Community to settle for plan B in dealing with hard drug menace.
“When we alert the police about these bad boys that take hard drugs in the communities the police don’t help matters. They compromise. But we have decided on another plan to achieve results”, he said.
The monarch advocated adequate Government funding to traditional rulers to enable them effectively combat crime in their domains.
“Even when you invite the police, you need to fuel their vehicle. That is why Government should adequately fund traditional rulers to enable them fight crime effectively. You can’t properly combat crime with empty hands. The state should also mount vigorous campaign against this menace which is a new development so that our youths will not ruin their future with mkpurumiri.
In his contribution, a renowned Aba-based cleric and former District Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, Aba North District, the Rev. P. K Emeaba, blamed addiction to hard drugs on lack of focus and proper mentorship of the youths.
He noted that if the proper orientation and objectives of life were inculcated in the youths at the right time they would not have room for distractions by hard drugs and other harmful lifestyles.
The cleric challenged parents and religious leaders to lay the right foundation and feed the youths with the right messages that would help place them on the right track for a focused life.
He insisted that a youth who is loaded with the pure, unadulterated word of God and the right orientation on his mission on earth would not have any space left for mkpurumiri.
“Anyone who lacks proper upbringing and guidance will miss direction in life”, he said, adding “my members can’t go for anyhow job because of what I have taught them”.
Also, contributing, the Chairman, Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, Abia State chapter, Dr. Chimezie Okwuonu, stressed the need for community surveillance and enforcement, saying that the consumption of
mkpurumiri happens more in rural communities than urban areas.
“We need to identify their hideouts in the rural areas including school buildings and uncompleted structures; then devise strategy to ensure the perpetrators are arrested and punished”.
The NMA chairman, who blamed the menace on the increasing rate of youth unemployment, challenged Government to genuinely address the challenge of unemployment.
Arguing that when youths are meaningfully engaged, they would not have time for deviant lifestyles, Dr. Okwuonu said Government and the political elites should meaningfully empowerment youths and stop
giving out stipends in the name of youth empowerment.
“Vocational is important. What our politicians do in the name of empowerment is mockery. They do that for media hype but what the youths need is real empowerment that will meaningfully engage them.
“If they are assisted to acquire the right vocation and established they won’t have time for hard drugs.
“Youths go into hard drugs as a result of depression due to economic hardship. I have a lot of applications on my table, graduates but there is no job anywhere. I think that if these youths are encouraged to acquire vocations and assisted to establish they can stand on their own and also help engage others.
“If you visit car wash spots, you will marvel at all sorts of things that our youths consume. It is not just mkpurumiri, there are other substances they mix and consume which do a lot of damages to their organs.
“They feel those things they sip give them energy but it is gradually eating them up. That is why youths develop kidney stones, heart diseases, and even strokes”, he explained.
Dr. Okwuonu advocated aggressive campaign and sensitization against the harmful effects of methamphetamine and other harmful drugs to save the future of our youths. He also urged State Houses of Assembly to legislative against the harmful drug so that the distributors and consumers could be published as deterrent to others.