Not many Nigerians are aware that apart from arresting and prosecuting drug offenders, the statutory functions of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) include treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts. All that most people get to hear is the arrest of drug barons and couriers.
What has hitherto remained unknown to most Nigerians is that the NDLEA is faced with the task of rehabilitating young people aged between 14 and 21 who have become hooked on substances including locally processed intoxicants, marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Street Journal has also found out that the abuse of a cough syrup containing codeine is fast catching up with young people in many parts of Nigeria.
The rehabilitation is undertaken by the Treatment and Rehabilitation Unit which is under the Drug Demand Reduction Directorate. The unit was created based on the need to help drug dependent persons overcome their addiction.
One of the centres reserved for the purpose of rehabilitating youths who have become addicted to drugs is located in Gudu area of Abuja.
The centre is located in a quiet environment. Inside the building are some children and wards of rich and affluent Nigerians who are addicted to various forms of hard drugs. While some were taken there by their parents, the NDLEA found it necessary to rehabilitate some of them having arrested them during drug raids carried out by the agency. The modes of dressing will easily give a number of the inmates away as children from wealthy homes. Though the Rehab Centre is quite devoid of the atmosphere of affluence they are used to, the patients cope with the atmosphere. The influential inmates, mostly guys are normally dressed in designer outfits, expensive watches and shoes.
Rooms are shared by four to six inmates.
In line with an international treaty, officials are protective of the inmates and their identities. Interviews, recordings and the use of cameras are strictly forbidden. Street Journal’s checks however revealed that some of the inmates were students in some of the nation’s best universities before they became candidates of the Rehab Centre. The centre also houses drug addicts who are children of political office holders, wealthy businessmen and senior public servants.
Street Journal gathered that the problem of addiction is first dealt with as the inmate first has to be taken off drugs. Since they are within the confines of the Rehab Centre, their demands and cravings for substances are curbed and with time, they will be stable without the drugs. It was also found out that when the inmates have been stabilised, they are made to undergo counselling sessions.
Though the Rehab Centre is apparently short staffed in terms of qualified personnel, especially counsellors, Street Journal gathered that parents of some of the inmates go as far as sourcing for counsellors to hold sessions with their children or wards in order to help recondition their minds and help them stay drug free.
It was also found out that a number of patients have passed through the centre. Those who have graduated are however kept under watch for some time in order to prevent them from relapsing.
The centre is not without challenges however, for instance, inmates at times need to be compelled to adapt. It is not also easy getting some of them to stay off drugs especially at the initial stage of rehabilitation. Some of the inmates also get bored with the regimented life and routine they have to cope with in the centre. Some of them escaped recently, four of them have however been brought back. Street Journal gathered that they escaped through an air conditioner hole and fled to their homes where they were picked up and taken back to the rehabilitation centre.
It was found out that most of the inmates are from school for children of the wealthy and they cut across secondary school and universities.
Street Journal also found out that some parents who cannot cope with their children’s drug using habit have chosen to dump them at the rehab centre at least to keep them away so that they don’t become sources of embarrassment to them in the society.