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Nigerian Families, Schools Target Drugs : Education: The program may entail a military decree compelling financial institutions to expose money launderers.

REUTERS

Nigeria, a major hub in illicit cocaine and heroin trafficking, is targeting families and schools in a drive to curb an alarming rise in drug addiction.

“Unless parents have a positive attitude toward the good upbringing of children, we are in trouble,” said Fulani Kwajafa, acting chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

“Parents and teachers have a lot to contribute. It appears parents have abrogated their responsibilities toward bringing up children,” he said.

The NDLEA plans a nationwide campaign to educate people about the dangers of drugs.

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Kwajafa said the program, expected to be in place next year, might be supported by a military decree compelling local financial institutions to expose drug money launderers.

Figures for drug use and addiction are not freely available but NDLEA sources say up to 20% of people under age 40 in Africa’s most populous country could be involved in some way.

Rampant trafficking via Nigeria of South American cocaine and Southeast Asian heroin to Europe and the United States is seen as the cause of increased addiction in the country.

“Unscrupulous people are selling heroin very cheaply on the streets in an effort to create a major market,” one source said.

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Lagos-based diplomats say increasingly sophisticated Nigerian groups operating worldwide networks have become the biggest heroin traffickers after the Chinese.

“To overcome the problem of drug abuse we must address the social as well as the legal aspects,” said Bisi Odejide, a psychiatrist who heads the NDLEA’s counseling section.

He blamed much of the problem on a search for conspicuous wealth in Nigeria, a legacy of the late 1970s before lower oil prices and corruption sent the economy from boom to near bust.

Apart from tackling parents and giving compulsory school lectures on drug abuse, the NDLEA plans to try to humiliate drug suspects by having them tried in courts near their homes.

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Kwajafa said a recent legal amendment made it possible for Nigerians deported after serving drug-related sentences overseas to be re-arrested at home on exporting charges.

The NDLEA, which has a shortage of cash and equipment, said 107 alleged Nigerian traffickers were arrested in Nigeria in the first nine months of this year, compared to 23 in all of 1990.

Other sources said Nigerians were involved in 384 known incidents of domestic and international trafficking last year.

Some countries have been critical of Nigeria, saying the country paid only lip-service to checking trafficking across its frontiers.

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“Only after they get serious about it, as I believe they may be starting to now, will we begin to put a dent in the drug trafficking business,” a foreign source said.

Kwajafa said Nigeria’s poor international image because of drug trafficking is unwarranted.

Referring to the United States, he said: “If your people don’t consume, we don’t take to your place. If you ask us to bring, then we bring. When we bring, you accept. That is why people are prepared to bring more and more.

“What I have observed in the U.S. is that they are not very interested in public enlightenment, in education. They are very serious about interdiction. But that can never work unless the two go together.”

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