The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has called on government at all levels to partner the agency in evolving ways of eradicating cannabis cultivation in Nigeria.
Chairman of the agency, Col. Muhammad Abdallah, (retd), made the call at a sensitisation programme organised for farmers, hunters and herdsmen, on Tuesday in Abaji, Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the campaign was ahead of 2019 International Day against Drug Abuse and Drug Trafficking slated for June 26.
Abdallah, who was represented by Director, Assets and Financial Investigation, Mrs Victoria Egbase, said that implication of the “unfortunate’’ involvement of farmers, hunters and herders in drug abuse was enormous.
He said that there was need to replicate best practices in Nigeria for curbing cannabis cultivation by building alternative income in fruits farming and crafts, adding that such scheme had drastically reduced opium production in Thailand.
Abdallah said that some researchers had attributed the persistent clash between farmers and herders to drug abuse.
“For instance, under the influence of drugs, herders lose control of their stock which often invade farms and destroy crops.
“The resultant effect is the bloody feud between the parties. Cattle equally become very aggressive when given certain drugs to make them strong to cover distances and in the process they invade farms.
“Study has revealed that ignorance of the grim implications of drug abuse has led farmers and hunters into believing that drugs can energise them to withstand the stress of their work whereas reverse is the case.
“Research has also shown that farmers have abandoned the farming of legitimate crops in preference for cultivation of cannabis because of the huge financial gains.
“We cannot afford to be indifferent to the problem on our hands because the issue of drugs is between life and death,” he said.
Abdallah noted that the agency had used the annual anti-drug awareness day to highlight the dangers of drug use and illegal drug trade.
He added that agency had provided educational material to stakeholders all over Nigeria to help amplify the message about extreme cultural and economic harm the trade in drugs was doing across the globe.
“We in drug control are concerned about the high rate of drug abuse among farmers, hunters and herdsmen, a development that has often diminished their productivity and has negatively affected their health and life span.
“Our decision to embrace you as a target group is for the simple fact that you constitute a larger percentage of the population, coupled with the fact that the food security of the nation rests squarely on the shoulder of farmers.
“We need to create a critical mass from the farmers and hunters by increasing their stake in the drug-free Nigeria Project.
“It is in furtherance of the agency’s all-inclusive and shared responsibility approach to curbing the drug menace.
“There is also the need to educate farmers and hunters on the legal consequences of any likely involvement in drug cultivation.
“This program is therefore intended to bring hunters and farmers to speed on the catastrophic consequences of drugs in the language they can understand,” he said.
Abdallah said that farmers, hunters and herders were not often in the front burner of public policy planning and implementation until recently when President Muhammadu Buhari decided to promote agriculture as a thematic agenda of government.
He said that focusing on the target group was, therefore, consistent with the government policy on agricultural revolution.
In his remark, Abaji Area Council Chairman, Mr Kamal-Ahamas Suleiman, lauded NDLEA for the opportunity given to farmers, hunters and herdsmen in the area.
Suleiman said that the agency had never compromised standard since inception, adding that this had helped the agency in eradicating drug abuse across the country.
He noted that drug “kills a society and affect the health of those involved’’, adding that the sensitisation was the beginning of “Next level”.
The chairman urges farmers, hunters and herdsmen to embrace the opportunity that had been brought to the town, saying that this would help them to know the adverse effect of cultivating cannabis and abusing drugs.
“Ignorance is never an excuse. Always know that cultivating cannabis will bring more money but again, it will bring more trouble,” he said.
Edited by Edwin Nwachukwu and Olisa Ifeajika