Bus-stop and motor parks are supposed to be places where commercial vehicles stop to either disembark or load passengers. Several of them abound in Port Harcourt. But rather than being used for their designated purposes, these bus-tops and motor parks have gradually been turned into havens for hard drug smokers and peddlers. The common one according to source close to the motor parks is marijuana popularly referred to as “Indian hemp” and sometimes other harder drugs are traded investigations by The Tide reveal that those involved in the illicit trade are touts and supposed members of some transport unions.
Hard drug consumption and trafficking are a common sight at busy bus-stops and parks like Lagos Bus-stop, Miles One and Three bus-stops are well as Abali and Mile Three motor parks. Under the Fly-over at Isaac Boro park is also a notable centre of hard drug consumption and trafficking. They equally operate at small parks and bus-stops scattered in the metropolis.
While the peddlers are somehow distract at the centres, the smokers seem not to give a damn as their openly consume drugs in the full glare of the public. In fact, as people approach some of these bus-stops for parks, for instance, the Boro park area or mile three, particularly at night, the first odour that assaults the nostrils of passers is believed to be that of Indian hemp. The touts that operate at these public places take these drugs as second aliment as they smoke with glee. The smokers and peddlers usually converge at decrepit structures and perpetrate their past time.
A trader at Lagos Bus-stop, who simply gave her name as Mary, told The Tide that “there are conspicuous Indian hemp joints all over Port Harcourt. These joints do not only exist at bus-stops or motor parks, but also at backyards. For example, hoodlums usually smoke at our backyards. For example, hoodlums usually smoke at our backyard almost every night. Sometimes they fight and break bottles. When they are arrested, they regain their freedom soon after and return to the place”.
Similarly, Mr Eugene Okoro another passenger at Mile Three motor park, attributed the reckless smoking by youths in public places to the decadent level of the society as well as idleness. According to him, youths indulge in consuming hard drugs to seek relevance. “Most of the youths who deal in these drugs are dropouts who seek relevance. The proliferation of cult groups and activities has further provided a fertile ground for them to operate”, said Okoro.
Several bus-stops have been turned into joints for indulging in the smoking of hard drugs. Some of these miscreants who smoke their lives away behave him such an embarrassing manner that can scare any decent person walking by those places or doing business around there. They don’t seem to fear anyone and give no hoot about any thing as occasionally they hold wraps of the substance in one hand while at the same time harassing and victimizing drivers and law-abiding citizens to extort money from them. In a way, selling and smoking hard drugs appear to have become a culture at bus-stops and motor parks in Port Harcourt and the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, seems to be looking the other way.
Unfortunately, most of the youths who indulge in this acts are supposed to be students preparing themselves for future leadership positions in the country. Their delinquent conduct, however, at times raises more questions than answers regarding the implications of this trend especially given the fact of increased violence and militancy in the Niger Delta region.
Mrs. Owanaba Jack race, an educationist and proprietress of a private school in Port Harcourt thanks that the government’s seeming indifference to the negative activities of youths in the state has grave security implications. “Our youths are wasting away. You can see that most of the crimes committed in the state by the youths are drug-induced. And so if drug peddling is checked, it will help curb drug-related crimes in the state,” she said.
Many people believe that it is the influence of hard drugs that has made some youths and touts at parks and bus-stops to be constantly rude and violent. And so under the influence of drugs some of these youths and touts could commit more criminal acts such as robbery or assassination without qualm. The way some of the touts conduct themselves truly shows that they can rob anyone.
Some stakeholders in the transport sector have however, frowned at the act. An official of the Road Transport Workers Association at Lagos Bus-stop and condemned the phenomenon and said it caused image problem for the transport sector. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity canvassed for orientation to stop the trend and bring about good public perception of the sector. When asked The Tide what his association was doing to curb the menace in the transport sector, he said “we are doing our best to identify those touts that are involved in the act. But I am not aware of any member of my association that traffics in illicit drugs. We have always emphasized this in our meetings. It is not likely that anyone would be involved in it”.
The issue of trafficking and consumption of hard drugs particularly among youths in the state has been a perennial problem. It has only assumed a dangerous dimension now. During the military era, perpetrators of the act were promised tough time to inspire avoidance. Monitoring committees were set up to go round motor parks to fish out culprits. That practice is now moribund.
Some residents of Port Harcourt think that the government is not doing enough to stem the trend. According to some of them, government ought to show acts which demonstrate that they frown at any behaviour at all time that runs contrary to decency and offends social norms. This by extension includes not condemning the act of smoking or selling hard drugs at motor parks or public places.
While the state government thinks of what to do about the situation, the question is what will be the penalty for offenders? Under which law will they be tried?