Building a Multi-sectoral, Multi-stakeholder Approach to Curtailing Substance Abuse by Nonny Ugboma

Building a Multi-sectoral, Multi-stakeholder Approach to Curtailing Substance Abuse by Nonny Ugboma

Introduction
The MTN Foundation held a round table on its Anti Substance Abuse Programme on Thursday, January 27, 2019 at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos. The theme of the conference was “Building a Multi-sectoral, Multi-stakeholder Approach to Curtailing Substance Abuse.” The programme is aimed at creating awareness amongst youths, parents and guardians on the trap that is substance abuse, and possible steps to be in the clear.

 

Participants at the conference included the Chairman, MTN Foundation, Commissioner for Health, and Commissioner for Youth and Social Development, Lagos State. Other participants included delegates from the Ministries for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation; Information; Transportation; Local Government and Community Affairs.

 

Presentations and Discussions:

Senior Manager, Abasi-Ekong Udobang, gave the welcome address where he thanked various stakeholders involved in the ASAP initiative.

On her part, the Executive Secretary of the MTN Foundation, Nonny Ugboma, gave a presentation that highlighted the following:

  • What the Anti Substance Abuse Programme (ASAP) is
  • Strategic plans adopted by ASAP to achieve the aim of creating awareness that would steer potential first-time users away from abusing substance whilst guiding those who have abused drugs to stop
  • The role of the media in advocacy

 

In the course of the event, participants noted the following challenges faced in the fight for a drug free Lagos:

  • The mega city status of Lagos poses a challenge in the effective dissemination of information to empower youths within the ages of 10 – 25, who apparently have easy access to these drugs in an open market where prescription is not needed to dispense drugs to them. However, they noted a decrease in cases of substance abuse from 2018.
  • Vulnerability of young people that is often associated with age, biology, social life and the use of technologically driven platforms like social media where they are easily exposed to drugs.
  • All drugs are easily sourced in Lagos. With the most popular form of purchase being online conduits where they easily order, pay, and get these drugs delivered at their doorsteps in concealed packaging.
  • Ease of trafficking banned drug item into the country under poor regulatory practices.
  • Greedy drug marketers who go out of their way to ensure that such drugs infiltrate the borders of the country; and are subsequently sold at a higher price to maximize pecuniary gains.
  • A multi-sectoral problem that supersedes the current carrying capacities of ministries and regulatory/enforcement agencies.
  • It was also noted that the ban of drug items doesn’t solve the problem of substance abuse, instead it creates a market for it.
  • Predisposing factors as poor parenting, poor psychological evaluation of first-time users and poor policy reforms play a major role in substance abuse.

In light of the observations made by participants to curb the rampant substance abuse amongst youths, the roundtable proffered the following steps in reducing cases of substance abuse in Lagos:

  • Agencies should holistically identify what youths are doing in their social circle, and trends they adopt.
  • Panelists also voiced support for various ministries tasked with the role of emancipating youths from substance abuse, stating that this move is important to help realize set goals of redeeming youths from the scourge that comes with substance abuse.
  • Collaborating with faith based organisations to help restore self-esteem and equip youths with the life skills essential to building a better life after retracing their steps to sobriety.
  • Understanding the parameters to calling one an addict (understanding the dynamics).
  • Establishing pointers for differentiating first-time users from addicts, and avoid mixing them up in facilities.
  • Harnessing various platforms as toll free lines, websites, ringtones and television commercials to drive the message of substance abuse to the teeming youth population.
  • Actively reaching out to youths through campaigns.
  • Need for collaboration between agencies to amplify the effect or output of sensitization campaigns.
  • Increased capacity building for relevant agencies in the fight against substance abuse and a reorganization of such agencies to match contemporary social standards adopted by youths.

Nonny Ugboma,

Executive Secretary,

MTN Foundation.