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The Amazing Life Of Sani Sisters

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Abuja-based Hajia Ameena Hassana Sani and Hajia Hadiza Hussaina are identical twin sisters with a difference.
They look so remarkably alike that telling them apart has been one big task for everyone who comes across, including their parents, since they were born more than 50 years ago.
According to experts, identical twins represent a real torture test for biometrics. This holds true in the lives of the two sisters whose fingerprints have also confused data capture machines over the years.
As if that is not enough, they exhibit certain physiological and personality traits that sometimes make them seem like two computer monitors connected to one central processing unit.
For instance, one would start a sentence and the other would finish it, or both would start the same sentence at the same time with the same choice of words and all the mannerisms and gestures that follow.
“This thing is in the psyche,’’ Ameena said, “even we can’t explain it. I may be thinking of asking her a question regarding what I am thinking, and she will just give me the answer before I let it out.
“And I would yell stop entering my brain, you know, stop reading my mind. These are the things that happen to us,’’ she said. “It is telepathic!’’ Hadiza added. Sharing their amazing story, the Sani twins recalled how, on a particular day, they confounded their foster mother when they inadvertently dressed exactly the same way at different locations. Hadiza narrated: “There was this time I was here in Abuja and my sister was in Lagos. We were to go to Kaduna. “So, that Friday morning I left Abuja, and arrived in Kaduna by road, while my sister boarded her flight from Lagos. I met Mama in her living room and after the usual greetings; she said she needed to make salad, but that she forgot to buy a certain vegetable. “I said no problem, I would go, and then I left. About 30 minutes later, my sister arrived home from the airport and met mama in the living room. “The old woman started ranting,what is wrong with you?! It is almost time to serve the salad, and you have not gone to buy the vegetable. What are you waiting for?’
“My sister said, hellooo, excuse me mama, what vegetables?’ The woman looked at her with surprise and said,are you going senile at your early age? You and I just finished talking about buying vegetable for salad. What are you waiting for? Go and buy it!
“She said, mama, I am just coming in from the airport’. The old woman exclaimed,La illah, illah lah!’
“Mama stepped back, and looking more closely she said, What! Do you know your sister is dressed exactly the same way, up to earrings?! It was amazing.’’Both mom and daughter burst out laughing. Till date, the twins cannot explain why they both have crooked baby fingers pointing in the same direction, or why they unconsciously interlock their fingers while walking. Another surprise: they share and swap illnesses. While Ameena is prone to stomach upsets, her twin sister is often down with backaches. “At some point, we interchange the ailments. And my sister would saygive me back my backache and take your stomach upset’.
“We started wondering why. Up till now, we don’t know why,’’ Ameena said.
During the interview for this article, the writer observed that Hadiza, the younger twin by minutes, is taller than her sister.
When this was pointed out to them, Ameena said anatomical variation is something they also constantly swap between them. It is either one gets taller today and shorter tomorrow or they level up.
Perhaps, the weirdest thing about the Sani twins is their fingerprints, which seem to be identical as well.
Indications to this effect emerged during their biometric capturing for voter registration in 2011, the National Identity Number (NIN) and the Bank Verification Number (BVN). On each occasion, Ameena’s registration failed, while her sister’s sailed through.
Hadiza said: “The first time we were captured was in 2011 during voter registration. Since we were both in Kaduna, we decided to register there. We went for capturing and when the list came out, my name was there in our ward, but hers was missing.
“We made enquiries and eventually got someone to inform Attahiru Jega (then Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission) that there seemed to be a problem with the capturing of twins, particularly identical twins. I think they didn’t take us seriously. We thought the belief then in INEC was that no two persons could have similar fingerprints.
“Then we both came to Abuja to capture for the National Identity Number. We both did it at Radio House; I sat in front of one system, she sat in front of another. We were captured and given our slips. The list came out, but only mine was there.’’
Ameena added: “I think it was due to the alphabets. Her name starts with H, mine A. So, the first alphabet that comes in gets knocked off. We then started making enquiries and making a case not just in voter registration but also in National ID.
“Then we also experienced a similar problem with BVN. We operate in the same bank, but different accounts. It was a tug of war. Each time we went to the bank they would say problem with our BVN.
“So, finally we said we wanted to speak to the person in charge at CBN. We had to explain to the lady that we were two persons, not one. Eventually, our bank had to make a case to CBN that we were a peculiar set of twins. That eventually got that sorted. These are some of the strange things we experience.’’
Born in Sokoto to a Hausa-Fulani father and a Yoruba mother, Ameena and Hadiza who have been inseparable since birth, attended the same primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.
It was difficult for their parents to separate them due to a combination of the fear of losing them and the traditional superstitions about twins.
They were born on 1 September 1965, into a family with a history of non-survival of twins. Considering their traditional backgrounds, their parents and relatives believed there were some rituals that had to be done to make them survive.
“ And then they noticed something: if one ran temperature, say around noon on a day, by evening the other will also run temperature.
“That strengthened their belief that twins had some spiritual powers, and those things guided the way they treated us, and the decision to keep us together,’’ Hadiza explained.
With keeping them together came the big challenge of identifying them. Even their parents couldn’t tell them apart. As a way out, they had to be tagged with wrist bands in different colours (blue for Ameena and red for Hadiza).
Hadiza recalled some instances where she took advantage of the confusion to escape punishment for offences committed both at home and in secondary school where they were initially placed in the same class.
“While in secondary school (FGC Sokoto), I used to be like a tomboy, very brazen, I didn’t have a lot of fears. I got into a lot of fights with boys. I fought a boy, the teacher came and broke it up, but the boy decided to report to the principal, who sent for me.
“I went and narrated my version. He warned me against fighting next time. I left thinking up how to get back at the guy for reporting me. So, I put some dead insects in his plate, including one that was not quite dead, because he had phobia for insects.
“The boy knew it was me, so he came and attacked me. I fought him, fell him to the ground and he went to report me again. From that point on I had made up my mind that the principal and I would not see again.
“The principal kept asking for me and finally he went to Ameena and threatened to punish her. But my sister started crying, insisting she didn’t know what the man was talking about. The teacher intervened and said it was possible because we were identical twins, and that it could be that my twin was responsible.
The similarity also reflects in their career choice, which has led them both to the media world. While Ameena currently heads the multi-media unit of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Hadiza is with the Voice of Nigeria (VON), both parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
It all started at Model Primary School, Sokoto, where they were both in the debate club. Endowed with tellingly sharp tongues and quick minds, the girls were always found arguing about issues and driving home their points.
Their late uncle, who was then working at a television station, decided it was time to take it to the next level. The station had just started a children’s debate on television.
“ We went for the first session and the production was wow’’, Hadiza said. “A lot of people started asking for more. At the end of the day it became a routine thing.
“As we grew older, it stuck. Our father wanted us to study what was termed more serious arts like Law, Political Science, Public Administration, but we insisted we wanted to study performing arts, and got our way.’’
That dream took them to the University of Ilorin where they secured admission to study performing arts. Also faced with the challenge of telling them apart, the department later placed them in different units: Ameena in Music and Hadiza in Drama, the twins recalled.
But before then, they had got married after secondary school, with kids: Ameena has three, while Hadiza is blessed with two.
For the Sani twins, breaking up to get married to different men was like taking fish out of water. The bond between them was obviously much stronger than that of marriage.
So, when Ameena’s husband came for her hand in marriage, expectedly Hadiza did not like either the man or the idea of her sister leaving her.
“But I had decided I was OK with him”, the older twin said. “Initially, my sister was like, ‘ it’s ok, take her away. You want to go with him? Ok, fine leave me and go with him’.
“As soon as she also got married, it kind of doused that a bit. But new things came up. We discovered we preferred each other’s company to other persons’.
“My husband found it odd that I wanted to spend more time with my sister. It goes beyond what we could explain.”
Hadiza was also more drawn to her twin sister. Thus it was not difficult for them to divorce their husbands just to be together.
Divorce also provided the needed space for them to return to school. Ameena said, “In our society then, when you finished secondary school that was the highest level of education that was expected of women.
“Although, there were exceptions, about married women who had first degrees and even above at that time too, they were very few and far between.
“But gradually the society embraced girlchild education to whatever level. Some of us had to fight the battle too.
“We decided that since the kids were already there and growing, we needed to further our education. We took that decision and went.”
Interestingly, the Sani twins quarrel a lot, yet they refuse to be separated. They said the quarrels were usually over mundane and petty things as siblings would naturally do, but theirs were even more petty.
Arubu writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

Harrison Arubu

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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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