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Amaechi And Leadership Challenges

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The wind of change blowing across Rivers State today is more phenomenal than usual considering the challenges on ground before the inception of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as Governor. The state, before this administration could be referred to as lawless, incapacitated and needing change. Only a few years ago, Rivers State was like a battle ground for criminals with high concentration in the myriad of security challenges being faced in its domiciled region, the Niger Delta; the standard of education was in shambles, schools were dilapidated, health care delivery was way below standard, roads were always being patched rather than properly fixed and bad spots persisted. What was once known and referred to as the Garden city of Nigeria turned out to be entirely different with slums and irregular structures and indiscriminate dumping of refuse defacing the environment.

This, however, has not been the case since Governor Amaechi took the reins of leadership in the state, a governor that has so far proven to be responsible, transparent and accountable to the people even in the face of seeming impossibilities. On assumption of office, Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, addressed the issue of militancy and its culmination into criminality in the state with utmost fervour leading to the significant reduction in criminal activities in the state. With the safety of the people in mind, the complete ban on motorcycle operation in the state was enforced. Governor Amaechi has since put the people first in his administration’s policies and projects, fulfilling his mandate to protect lives and property of the citizenry. His proposed demolition of shanties and slums in Port Harcourt Waterfronts and subsequent redevelopment is a vivid example of the Governor’s zeal to perpetually eliminate crime in the state as well as bring lasting development to it. This has, however, not been an easy task due to objections by some aggrieved parties but Governor Amaechi stands unshakable when it comes to dealing with issues of security and development.

Putting necessary infrastructures and policies in place, the Amaechi-Ied government is gradually turning Rivers State into a safe, clean and green abode for its residents. Health care delivery that had once collapsed has again been transformed to ensure the provision of quality health care services to the people in all areas of the state. With the aim of reducing maternal and infant mortality in Rivers State, particularly as some people live in riverine areas where health care delivery was not easily accessible, Governor Amaechi is building 153 Primary Health Care Centres simultaneously across all 23 local government areas of the state. People are now sure of getting medical care whenever, and as fast as they need it because one of those Model Primary Health Centres is in their neighbourhood. The state-owned Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital has also been given a touch of class through positioning it to be able to handle referral cases from the Primary Health Centres. The government has also completed the building of the state’s Ultra Modern Dental and Maxillofacial Hospital at the Garrison axis of the Port Harcourt-Aba expressway and the 150-bed New Niger Hospital on Emenike Street, Diobu, Port Harcourt. Work has commenced on the 150 million dollar Justice Karibi Whyte Mega Specialist Hospital in Rivers State. The state-of-the-art mega specialist hospital is billed to replace all overseas referral cases and offer quality medical services of world standard to people in Rivers State, Nigeria and other African countries. This would in essence reduce the number of patients referred abroad for treatment, making the way for patients to be flown into the country from other parts of Africa for treatment. The government has already paid $39m out of the proposed $150m for the building of the 1000 bed Mega Hospital. The Mega Hospital project, which was earlier planned to be built on the site of the former Port Harcourt General Hospital is now under construction at a larger site within the New Greater Port Harcourt City which is also under construction. However, the former  General Hospital grounds will not be left undeveloped as the proposed Women and Children Hospital Project is now planned to be situated there.

In Education, there has been an overhaul following the state of emergency declared on the education sector in the state. The Amaechi administration handed over some schools back to the missionary, who originally owned them to facilitate proper administration. The governor’s determination to standardise education in Rivers State also culminated into government’s taking over of Primary Schools funding and payment of teachers from the local government councils. 250 new Model Primary Schools are being built across the state and governor Amaechi has planned to complete 750 such schools before the end of his 4-year tenure. In the same vein, 23 new model secondary schools are being built, one for each of the 23 local government areas of the state. An extra one has been added to make 24 model secondary schools being built by the same government. These schools, both primary and secondary, are to include well equipped libraries and internet facilities while the secondary schools will have boarding facilities of 2 per room and 25 students per classroom in line with United Nations standards. Meanwhile, a lot has been done to bring the state university that is, the Rivers State University of Science and Technology to an acceptable standard. A lot of courses that were not accredited before now have been accredited under the Amaechi administration. Efforts are being made to relocate the institution from its present small, congested location in the heart of Port Harcourt to the new Greater Port Harcourt city. The present location provides little or no room for expansion. But the new one under construction is a 150-hectare ultra-modern campus, has the capacity of accommodating about 60,000 or more students. 32 hostels of 8 floors each is being built to accommodate all students.

Also, a scholarship programme where 300 students are being sponsored to study in the United Kingdom and Canada is also being run by the Rivers State Government. 300 Rivers students are currently studying in overseas under the auspices of this scheme and the government under Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has provided £20,000 for each student per year.

Road construction in Rivers State, particularly Port Harcourt had also posed some serious challenges due to the number of houses that had to be demolished to restore the government’s right of way and enhance the construction, reconstruction and expansion of some roads into dual carriageways. Currently, roads in Port Harcourt are narrow single lanes which make traffic situation sometimes very difficult and which in turn justifies the ongoing construction of dual carriage ways on most major roads in the city. All the roads under construction are being done with large underground drainages which are also very important to residents of the state as the rains usually cause flooding in different areas of the city due to the lack of a proper drainage system. Some of the roads include: the Rumuokwuta/Choba Road, Rumuola Road, First Bank/Rumuobiakani/Old Aba Road, Oginigba Slaughter Road. Another very important road project is the Oil Mill/Eleme Junction Flyover and the AGIP /Rumueme/ Abacha road f1yover. Many other feeder roads have undergone rehabilitation courtesy of the Amaechi . administration.

Another major challenge where the Amaechi administration has proven its prowess and determination is the construction of roads in the coastal parts of the state. Governor Amaechi had since his infrastructural regime declared that no port of the state is more important than another and infrastructural facilities will be distributed evenly amongst communities in the upland areas and those in the coastal areas no matter how difficult the geographical terrain is. The vision of connecting all parts of the state by road has brought about government’s doggedness in the building of bridges and rural roads in almost all communities. An important project in this category is the Ogoni-Andoni­Opobo Unity road project. This project will link communities in Ogoni, Andoni and Opobo local government areas with a total of 10 bridges. The project, when completed will enormously increase the pace of development in those areas and greatly reduce rural-urban migration. Governor Amaechi is spending about N 19 billion on the Unity road project, which is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Other major rural road projects are the Trans­Kalabari Highway and the Okirika ring road being built with three bridges amongst others. Internal roads are also being constructed in virtually all local government areas of the state. In some, there is the land reclamation and shore protection project.

In the Power sector, Governor Amaechi has stated that by December, Port Harcourt will have about 280 mega watts of power. Government has announced plans to change all the small transformers and fix distribution lines to ensure that Rivers State enjoys at least 70 per cent of power to be generated from the 280 mega watts supply. Governor Amaechi’s target is that by 2011, the state should deliver 500 mega watts of power which means Port Harcourt and Rivers State will have uninterrupted power supply by 2011. Plans are also on to award a contract for the building of a new power plant at Afam, 180 mega watts with June/July next year as target date of completion to complement what is already on ground in the state. Added together, it becomes 550 mega watts.

Meanwhile, the state government has begun the process of building 391 power projects which will cover about 350 communities spread across Rivers State with the aim of electrifying rural communities that have not been connected to the national power grid. The 391 power projects will include the installation of high tension, low tension, sub-stations, extensions etc in these communities. Also, the Amaechi administration plans to build a 300 megawatts independent power project (IPP) that would provide power for the new Greater Port Harcourt city.

A lot of other projects by the Amaechi administration are currently ongoing in different sectors of the state, all aimed at giving the people an improved standard of living and taking the state to greater heights. The Greater Port Harcourt City is a huge project embarked upon by the Amaechi administration to expand and develop Port Harcourt into a world class modern city as well as check congestion in the Old Port Harcourt city. Work has already commenced in the first phase of the Greater Port Harcourt City.

The Greater Port Harcourt City covers a number of areas from over 8 Local Government Areas in the state. They includes Port Harcourt, Obio/ Akpor, Oyigbo, Okirika, Ogu Bolo, Ikwerre, Etche and Eleme. The Rivers State Government is committed to funding the project with a budget of not less than N 1 OOb per year while open to Public Private Partnerships.

On waste management, Governor Amaechi has revealed his ongoing construction of three waste management plants. Two of these plants are to manage solid waste while one is to manage scrap or mega waste.

Urban renewal has continued with the beautification of Port Harcourt City. Roads, f1yovers, parks are now being adorned with greenery in line with Governor Amaechi’s policy of returning Port Harcourt back to its garden city status. The same goes for social infrastructure and activities. There are uncountable but remarkable changes going on in Rivers state today because the incumbent state chief executive has chosen to be upright, humane and accountable to the state and its people.

Iyofo is Gov Amaechi’s media aide

 

David Iyofo

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Worsening Food Crisis In Nigeria

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Hunger is widespread and chronic in Nigeria, and its prevalence is one phenomenon that statistics cannot fully capture, not even the Global Hunger Index (GHI), does justice to it. Statistics deals with numbers, but hunger deals with humans. Relying on quantitative data alone to assess the state of hunger in Nigeria is the worst mistake anybody could make. Quantitative data and analysis only show patterns and spread of hunger without delving into the experiences of those affected and its influences on their existence in all ramifications. Therefore, as bad as the statistics are, they are still child’s play compared to the rich information from qualitative data chronicling the dehumanising  experience of many poor and hungry Nigerians. Combining quantitative and qualitative data paints a horrifying picture of Nigeria’s food crisis and hunger. Twenty five (25) million Nigerians was said by UNICEF to be at high risk of food insecurity in 2023, this was a projected increase from the estimated 17 million people who were at risk of food in 2022. Humanitarian organisations fear that more people may be affected.
Hunger is the major problem affecting the Nigerian masses now. According to the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria,  Mr Matthias Schmale, “the food security and nutrition situation across Nigeria is deeply concerning. “Those who visited the Nutrition Stabilisation Centers(NSC) filled with children, said “those Children fight to stay alive”. Children are the most vulnerable to food insecurity. There is a serious risk of mortality among children attributed to acute malnutrition. The number of children suffering from acute malnutrition was estimated to increase from 1.74 million in 2022 and two million in 2023.Worse still, it is estimated that 35 million people are currently critically facing food insecurity. The present predicament of Nigerians never seems to be real until people realized  that a “Congo” of Garri now costs between N1,900 to N2,500 naira, depending on the place you are buying from and the type you have to buy.
There is a systematic downfall in the economy, and those at the receiving end of its manifestation are the masses. Well, some may say that it is too early to judge the government of president Tinubu, but when starvation becomes a point of reference, they might just make an exception for that rule.”A government is a failure if it has not been able to fulfill its primary duties and its published agenda, it  is useless if its people suffer endlessly from starvation. Recently, the video of a man who was caught in agony and lamentation attracted people’s attention. He was in the market to buy a “Congo” of rice but was told that it now costs N3,500.The man started crying, lamenting the harsh condition and confused as to what he and his family would eat. He had just N1,800 with him, and only God knows how much effort he had to put together to get that amount. Some people tried to locate the man to give him some money.
Bodija market in Ibadan, Oyo State, has a reputation for cheap consumable commodities, and the cost of food products there is considered slightly reasonable. However, this reputation is no longer possible as basic commodities now cost even more than they could be imagined. A lady lamented having bought her usual loaf of bread for 500 naira 3 weeks ago, and within that period, it had skyrocketed from N800 to N1, 200 and now at N1, 500 for a loaf that is as light as foam. Beans and other cheap foods that have been saving people experiencing poverty are no longer affordable. The cost of a “congo” of beans has risen to between N2,500 and N3,500 depending on the location and type. It is not only the price of the common foods that has risen, it is the same case for other staple foods. Today, a sachet of water costs around N50, and one barely see a bag of it at anything less than N300. This leaves the people to drink unclean well water or find their drinking water through other sources.
The price increase was expected, but it seems that the progression of price increase  for food items is at a higher rate than the supposed inflation. The economy is imploding and affecting the livelihood of the Nigerian citizens. First, the excessive price of petrol within the range of N700 to N1000 across the nation has an impact on the final prices. In addition, the roads have become outrageously insecure, with different stories of kidnapping, highway attacks, terrorism, and other vices. These have jointly jacked up the calculative cost of production, and the masses are paying heavily for it. The above reasons affect business, and most importantly, the irregular supply of power has become another foundational cause of the hike in prices and yet the government is still threatening to hike electricity tariff. Today, many small and medium-scale businesses do not have access to a stable power supply, and in some cases, the tariffs are  so outrageous to the detriment of the business. They, therefore, resort to generating their power, which causes another extra cost. The result is that the products keep increasing in price as the costs skyrocket.
Another factor is the decline in  the value of naira to dollars. The dollar is the major currency for international trade, and many of the household items in the country are imported. This means that the prices of those commodities in Nigeria are expected to increase the more with the value of dollars, causing difficulties for the citizens. So, when a market woman insults people in the market for negotiating lower prices for her wares, it is not because she is merely disrespectful but because she believes you are ignorant of the costs of putting her products on the market. What would N30,000  minimum wage do in the current economy? There is almost no average-class individual in the country as the condition affects every social stratum. Nigeria produces about 8.4 million tons of local rice, but it is still not sufficient for consumption in the country. During the past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, policies that discouraged the importation of rice and some other products in Nigeria in a bid to encourage local production were made, and that was one of the starting points of suffering and starvation in Nigeria, because the development made the price of local rice increase by 200 percent.
It is worthy of note, that such policies were a product of hypocrisy, foreign rice is not good for the poor Nigerians but foreign medical care is good for the Nigerian political elites. Currently, the prices of local and foreign rice are not too far from each other. This is because the price gap that would have been made necessary has been reduced by other local and internal issues fighting against local productions. It means that the government must make efforts to first increase the productivity of local items as well as ensure that there is an unhindered channel of distribution of the same across the country. Poverty cannot be eradicated without collaborative efforts between the Federal Government and the State Governments. Agricultural schemes and strategies are not the sole work of the Federal Government, as eradication of poverty should be the watchword of every reasonable government.
State-wide agricultural strategies and blueprints that would reduce the propensity of hunger and starvation in each state are important. It is a known fact that the food insecurity in Nigeria can be traceable to the relentless wave of attacks against farmers in Nigeria by armed groups in the last decade which has hindered critical food supplies and has pushed the country deeper into a devastating hunger crisis. Increased attacks against farmers across parts of the country have led to displacement of people, market disruptions and loss of livelihoods. Armed groups killed more than 128 farmers and kidnapped 37 others across Nigeria between January and June 2023 …To be continued.

Inabo Is a regular contributor from Radio Rivers.

 

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 Malaria Burden And Public Health In Nigeria 

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It is worrisome that Nigeria has  the largest  Malaria deaths in the world. According  to the  2022  World.Malaria Report, Nigeria  contributes about  27 percent of  the global burden of Malaria disease, and about 31.3 percent of deaths , the highest in the world.
Malaria accounts for 30 percent of childhood deaths,.60 percent  of outpatient visits to health facilities   across Nigeria.
According  to statistics  reeled out by the Federal Ministry  of Health and Social Welfare,  “Globally,  there are an estimated 249million  malaria cases  and 608,000 malaria deaths among 85 countries.
Such reports leave much to be desired in a nation so blessed  with natural resources and manpower. While Nigeria  is struggling  with Malaria burden, Cape de Verde, today live Malaria-free, according to the
World Health Organization (WHO) certification  and rating.
This declaration by the global health Organisation about Cape Verde  is very cheery and means so much to me considering the economy, size and polity of the country.
Unlike Nigeria with more than 44 mineral resources spread across 500 locations  in the country,  Cape de Verde, has no natural resources. Its developing resources is mostly Service-oriented with growing focus on tourism and foreign investment.
My worry is that even with abounding natural and human resources of unimaginable quantity in Nigeria,  Malaria programmes are either grossly underfunded, misappropriated or   embezzled with impunity.
According  to a Senior Associate  at the John Hopkins Bloomberg  School of Public.Health, Soji  Adeyi, Nigeria  should begin  to increase internal funding.for malaria elimination.
Nigerian citizens still wallow in the orgy of leadership-induced pain, poverty and sorrow more than 63 years after political independence.
Malaria that is alien to the natural resources-barren Cape de Verde is endemic in Nigeria and is one of the leading causes of death of children under the age of six and pregnant women. Malaria is an household name in Nigeria so much so that its drugs and treatment have skyrocketed like a phoenix and outrageously outside the reach of the teeming less privileged citizens of Nigeria. The situation was so alarming that the National Assembly, some time last year urged the Federal Government to declare Malaria an emergency in Nigeria as matter of urgent national interest. Because it is an ailment that only the poor and vulnerable suffer, that motion is treated with levity and perhaps consigned to the trashcan of not-feasible declarations.
Without any iota of doubt, Nigeria has the resources to fight and conquer malaria. If Cape de Verde could, Nigeria can as well if the leadership of the country is committed to do so.
At.an event organised  by.the Federal  Ministry of Health and Social Welfare recently,  themed “Ministerial  Roundtable  Meeting: Rethinking  Malaria Elimination in Nigeria “representatives of national and international  health organisations, analysed the country’s  anti-malaria strategies  over the past years.
Experts recommended new approaches to fighting  the malaria epidemic in Nigeria which seems to have defied continuous attempts to reduce the Malaria burden in Nigeria to zero.
Adeyi of the John Hopkins Bloomberg  School of Public Health advocates increased internal funding.of all Malaria programmes to eliminate Malaria. According  to him,, “Each year reliance on external funding  needs to be reduced. I looked at the summary of  Malaria reports from 2008 till now and what has been common is the complaint about the lack of funding.  If this is a  recurring  problem, what should be done is to  find  a new approach.”
In his view, Abdu Muktar,  National  Coordinator  of the Presidential  Healthcare Initiative,  called for the local production  and manufacturing  of medical supplies as well as reducing Nigeria’s  dependence on drugs imports.
According to him, the local production  of anti-malaria and.related.medication will consider.the peculiarity of the country’s  terrain, population  and burden  and.would improve access to effective  treatment.
For his part, the regional. Director of World Health Organisation  (W.H.O.),  African Region, Matshiddiso  Moretti, advised Nigeria  to accelerate  its efforts to end Malaria  by relying  on  adequate data for the implementation  of health policies.
It has been rightly  said that Nigeria is rich but its people are abjectly poor because of the abysmally poor leadership that has characterised governance in the country since the inception of self-rule.
If the millions of public funds stashed in private and foreign accounts, misappropriated and or embezzled are judiciously used, no doubt, the issues of malaria, unemployment, decaying and dilapidated infrastructure and marginal underdevelopment with the attendant multi-dimensional socio-economic challenges, would have since been addressed.
How will Nigeria ascribe to herself “Giant of Africa” when she has not been able to achieve the healthcare demands and requirements of Nigerians? How can Nigerian leaders audaciously lull its citizens to believe that they are working for the welfare of Nigerians when the seeming little things that matter are not attended to. Even welfare-oriented programmes are being truncated by greed and inordinate desire to amass wealth at the expense of the public.
The  anomaly of diversions, misappropriation, outright embezzlement, and several others are the reasons Nigeria’s present and successive governments could not win the fight against malaria which health and medical practitioners say  poses the greatest threat to life than the dreaded HIV/AIDS. This suggests to me that the mortality rate caused by HIV/AIDS is grossly disproportionate to deaths caused by malaria.
Malaria is commonly believed to be caused by mosquitoes which breed in  dirty environment, especially where there is stagnant water. A lot of communities in Nigeria even the Sandfilled area of Borikiri in Port Harcourt is so mosquito-infested that residents cannot sleep without nets. It is a nightmare to sleep without a net.
The Federal, State, and Local Government should initiate programmes to end malaria scourge in the country. They should intentionally and proactively channel the people’s money to their welfare. Malaria eradication is a public welfare-oriented programme so government at all levels must prosecute it with adequate funding that must be supervised and accounted for, to avoid the unfortunate incidents of the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry and several other Ministries, Departments and Agencies that have used programmes and projects as smokescreen to siphon public funds.
While there should be a dedicated funds to fight malaria and defeat it over  a period of time, environmental sanitation exercises, to clear the drains, gutters and grass should be stepped up. This consciousness should be cultivated and imbibed by all.
The legitimacy of any Government is derived from the people, so Government exists for the people. No amount of money spent on the welfare of the people is too much for them. After all, the people remain the benefactors that those in Government, who in an ideal situation are stewards, are supposed to be accountable to.
The administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should ensure that no stone is left unturned in achieving this lofty and laudable project.

Igbiki Benibo

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Curbing Substance Abuse Among Nigerian Youths

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In September 2023, a 24-year old lady had a birthday party in a South-West state where one of the guests offered to sell sachets of ‘Milo’ for N1,500 each. The guest, a young lady, had mixed marijuana with Milo and put same in Milo sachets, which had been so expertly sealed that no one would have suspected what the content of the sachets was. The guests at the party rushed the ‘Milo sachet’ and went on a binge, drinking and smoking themselves to get ‘high’. After getting high, fight eventually broke out among them and security operatives had to be brought in to maintain the peace. It was at that point that unsuspecting members of the public got to know that the party guests had gone on a marijuana trip. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), substance abuse, or misuse, is the harmful use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. A psychoactive substance is a drug that affects how the brain works and causes changes in mood, awareness, thoughts, feelings, or behaviour. Examples of psychoactive substances include alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, marijuana and some pain relievers. Other substances abused by Nigerian youths include, ice, molly, cannabis, tobacco, cigarettes, cocaine, sedatives, kolanuts, analgesics, glue, heroine, energy drinks, miraa, tramadol, tranquillisers, cough drops,antimalarial and antibiotics.
Substance abuse is detrimental to health and wellbeing of those involved in it. A Nigerian singer, Joshua Iniyezo aka Solidstar, recently disclosed how substance abused nearly ruined him. According to him, he was introduced to a banned substance called Ice in 2021. He said the substance made him see himself as “a king’’ who didn’t have to pay for any item. One day he walked from Awoyaya in Lagos Mainland to the Oriental Hotel a distance of about 32 kilometres.  Another singer, Inetimi Alfred, popularly known as Timaya, said he was introduced to Molly, a synthetic drug with psychedelic effects. The drug initially brought him happiness but eventually led to detrimental effects on his health, including weight loss and financial struggles. His words: “When I took it, I did not understand myself. I was so happy that I dashed all the money in my pocket. So I wanted to just keep feeling like that. That was how I lost a lot of weight. I was not eating, I was just happy. When I said I was taking Molly, I was taking like three pills every day and it felt like medication. I got kicked out of jobs and contracts… people I was doing business with did not want to work with me again.”
So, substance abuse makes the youth to get ‘high’ but it does more than that. It can make them paranoid, it can precipitate heart attack or failure, stroke, seizures, sleep disorders, drowsiness, nausea, respiratory depression, fatigue, disorientation, impairment in memory, learning, concentration, and problem-solving, hallucinations, decline in academic performance, etc.  As seen in the case of Timaya, it can result in job loss and can pose a threat to relationships. There is also the tendency to engage in criminal activities when ‘high’. Substance abuse among Nigerian youth is nearing the status of a pandemic. According to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA’s) statistics, about 40 per cent of Nigerian youths between 18 and 35 years are deeply involved in the abuse of drugs. What does the future hold for the country if 4 out of every 10 young people are engaged in substance abuse?
The media is central to our lives. The media shapes our perception of the world. The media is actually the gateway to the mind. The media accesses the mind through the eyes and the ears. So, media contents are food for the mind. The mind is where decisions are made and where opinions are formed. Since the media has access to the mind, the media subtly controls the mind and plays a major role in the decision-making process. So, when the media projects something as good many people in the society take a cue from the media and believe that it is good. In the same vein, when the media projects an act as evil, the society largely avoids it. The media never leaves anything it comes in contact with the same way; it always affects them one way or the other. The media affects individuals in six various ways.  The media can affect cognition, which is the mental process. By affecting an individual’s cognition, the media affects his perception to the extent that he begins to see a particular phenomenon in a new light. The media also affects beliefs. The Western media has consistently showcased the Western culture as being superior to the African culture and this, to a degree, has been absorbed by some Africans who try all they can to travel abroad for ‘greener pastures’ only to get there and find out that the grass is always greener on the other side.
The media also affects attitude. If a child is exposed to violence, he begins to see violence as an option and will be tempted to try same every now and then. Another media effect is affect. This has to do with feelings, emotions and moods. Seeing a scene on television or reading about an event can affect the mood of an individual throughout the day. Media also has psychological effect on its audience. This means the media can affectthe orientation of people. The media also affects the behaviour of its users. Behaviour is the culmination of all the effects of media exposure that have been listed. By the time cognition, belief and attitude are affected, behaviour will change. Ladies and gentlemen, in light of the above, I will like to submit that advertently or not, the media has been encouraging substance abuse. This is a global phenomenon and not a Nigerian thing. When a television ad presents a successful musician with a bottle of an alcoholic drink at the background, though the focus of the advertiser from all intents and purposes will be to draw the attention of the society to its alcoholic drink, but the loud message is that “To be as successful as the musician in the ad, take alcohol”. Or, “Successful people take this alcohol; don’t you want to be like them?”
When a musical video glamourises boozing and smoking, what is the message to the society? A song like ‘FotiFoyin’ (brush your teeth with alcohol) encourages the youth to consume alcohol, while a musical video like ‘Asake Loaded’ celebrates smoking. The producers of these musical contents are role models in the society. Some of them are even brand ambassadors. If, as we said, the media is the gateway to the mind, what is the message of these media contents to the society?   The media has to be alive to its social responsibility if Nigeria will win the war against substance abuse by the youth.  The social responsibility theory of the media mandates the media to put the societal wellbeing at the centre of its activities.
This theory says that the media has a responsibility to the society and should always work in the interest of the society. While a media outfit may be a business organization that must make returns to its shareholders, the operators of the business must realize that they will only continue in business if the society survives. If the society is destroyed, the business outfits operating in it will also go down. The easiest way to destroy a society is to destroy its youths.
If the media understands this responsibility and upholds it, it will be clear that the future of the youth who are being exposed to substance abuse is of more importance than the immediate pecuniary gain they will make by pushing out deleterious contents that will push the youth into seeking substances that would make them high.
The media is a major factor in the wellbeing of the society because it plays a major role in what is permissible or prohibited. This is done through what it promotes or refrains from promoting.
As part of its social responsibility, the media should embark on sensitisation of the public on the dangers inherent in substance abuse. This should be continuous and sustained as the media’s contribution to the wellbeing of society.
The government is the most important factor in curbing substance abuse because government is a change agent. Whatever the government permits gains prominence and whatever it prohibits is frowned at.
Government can curb substance abuse through orientation and reorientation. By deploying its massive resources, the government can get across to all strata of the society on the ills of substance abuse and why it is pertinent for it to be spurned by the youth. By making use of all channels of communication and all media outlets, the government can drive home the point on why substance abuse should not be embraced by the youth.
Another means the government deploys to curb the spread of substance abuse is regulation. The Federal Government has, over the years, come up with various regulations to reduce substance abuse in the country. These include:
The Indian Hemp Decree No. 19 of 1966.
The Indian Hemp (Amendment) Decree No. 34 of 1979.
The Indian Hemp (Amendment) Decree, and the Special Tribunal (Miscellaneous Offences) Decree No. 20 of 1984.
The Special Tribunal (Miscellaneous Offences) (Amendment) Decree of 1986 and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Decree No. 48 of 1989 (as amended by Decree No.33 of 1990, Decree No 15 of 1992 and Decree No. 62 of 1999). These laws were harmonized as an Act of the parliament, CAP N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004. This Act established the NDLEA.
The government also fights substance abuse through Enforcement.
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is the agency of government primarily saddled with the enforcement of substance abuse laws. The agency, which is under the Federal Ministry of Justice, is charged with eliminating the growing, processing, manufacturing, selling, exporting, and trafficking of hard drugs. The agency was established by Decree Number 48 of 1989. (1) The NDLEA is present in international airports, seaports, and border crossings.
The last leg is prosecution.
Section 11 (a) of NDLEA Act makes it an offence for a person, who having no lawful authority to do so, to engage in the importation, production, manufacturing, processing, growing and planting of cocaine, heroin, LSD or any other drugs of similar nature. The offence is punishable on conviction with life imprisonment. Section 11(b) and (c) also spell out punishments for those who contravene NDLEA laws. The import is that NDLEA is the primary agency with prosecutorial powers on substance abuse. The Nigeria Police Force can also prosecute.
Of the four legs to combating substance abuse, it is only orientation and reorientation that involve the three tiers of government. The remaining three, regulation, enforcement and prosecution are within the ambits of the federal government. How can NDLEA be on top of the situation of those smoking igbo at Igbo Ora or those sniffing Kushy at Kishi?
The point here is that substance abuse among Nigerian youths is on the rise because the strategy is wrong. Every criminality is local. Therefore, criminality is best fought or combated at the local level. Nigeria cannot successfully overcome the challenge of substance abuse among the youth unless the states and local government authorities are fully involved in it. That brings us again to the issue of the elephant in the room: restructuring.
We need to restructure the policing system as well as the substance abuse regulation and enforcement systems to defeat substance abuse among the nation’s youth.
The media and the government have critical roles to play in reducing substance abuse among the youth. The media needs to take its social responsibilities seriously and ensures that it projects values that would make the society better and stronger.
The government needs to take its sensitization and orientation responsibilities very seriously. Then, the system of government that makes the fight against substance abuse more of a matter of the federal government needs to be tinkered with so that all tiers of government can own the battle and deliver our youths from the jaws of substance.
Olanrewaju is Special Adviser (Media)/Chief Press Secretary to Oyo State Governor.

By: Sulaimon Olanrewaju

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