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Nigeria records world’s highest cannabis user

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By Usman Oladimeji

NDLEA confirms Nigeria recorded 10.6 million cannabis sativa users in 2019.

At the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS) 40th Annual Olumide Memorial Lecture held in Abuja, The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa (Rtd), stated that the country’s drug use prevalence of 14.4 percent in Nigeria is one of the highest in the world compared to the global average of 5.6 percent. He had earlier disclosed in 2019 that Nigeria records 10.6 million users making the country one of the highest consumers of cannabis in the world.

While emphasizing the figure, Marwa stated that the cannabis user figure recorded is higher than the entire population of Portugal or the United Arab Emirates. Marwa said these figures have a substantial negative impact which, if not addressed, could land a big blow and become an overwhelming albatross capable of undermining significant national development in the coming years. In a developing country like Nigeria, having over 35 million people suffering from drug use disorder, this is alarming.

Activists advocate for cannabis legalization.

Most important is the increasing illusion propagated by some activists and politicians that Nigeria can boost its economic growth by cashing in on the global cannabis market, which is projected to be worth $103.9 billion by 2024. These groups have advocated for the legalization of the cultivation of cannabis sativa in recent years, seeing it as the panacea for Nigeria’s economic growth. Regarding the issue, references have been made to some western countries that have legalized the use of cannabis or cannabis derivatives and other countries that are making economic gains from the cultivation and exportation of cannabis.

Marwa argued that the crux of their argument is narco-dollar revenue for the country, while they often fail to mention the reality of the drug problems the countries mentioned are facing as well as the human and materiality costs of the problems. Meanwhile, the economic cost of drug abuse in 2007 was estimated at $193 billion and lost productivity accounted for $120 billion, while $11 billion was spent on healthcare for drug treatment and drug‐related medical consequences.

Illicit substance prevalence undermined development.

Furtherly, he sighted an instance in 2007 when the economic cost of drug abuse in the United States was estimated at $193 billion. Of this, lost productivity accounted for $120 billion, mainly due to labour participation costs, participation in drug‐ abuse treatment, incarceration, and premature death. On the other hand, $11 billion was spent on healthcare–for drug treatment and medical consequences. Ultimately, $61 billion was spent on criminal justice, primarily for criminal investigation, prosecution and incarceration, and victim costs.

The NDLEA chairman also recalled the episodic outbreak of methamphetamine, popularly known as ‘Mkpuru Mmiri’ across the Southeastern part of Nigeria in the last quarter of 2021 noting that the situation undermined development and caused instability in the country. He stated that this is ample evidence and real-life experience to be aware that the outcome of abuse of illicit substances is instability, and there cannot be significant development where chaos and instability are prevalent.

Government launched a cannabis survey project to curb drug abuse.

On the government’s part to provide a measure, with the joint efforts of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the UNODC Country Office in Nigeria (CONIG), and the UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch, has launched the “Nigeria Cannabis Survey”. A survey which provides a baseline assessment of the extent of cannabis cultivation in Nigeria. This was implemented under the project “Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crime in Nigeria,” funded by the European Union and aims to support Nigeria’s efforts in fighting drug production, trafficking and use and curbing related organized crime.

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