Home NEWS Sustaining A Drug Free Society Is Our Goal In Onitsha – Enwezor

Sustaining A Drug Free Society Is Our Goal In Onitsha – Enwezor

by InlandTown
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The Obi-of-Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe (middle) flanked by    Mr Victor Enwezor (right) and Pastor Chudy Maduegbuna (left).

Sustaining a drug free society is our goal – Enwezor

Victor Enwezor is the national co-ordinator of Come Alive Initiative, a not for profit and non-governmental organization that takes a proactive step in campaigning against drug abuse, drug peddling and drug trafficking. In this interview with OKEY OBIOZO, he reveals what the organization is set to achieve.

Inlandtown: What informed the initiative?

V.E: The initiative is spurred from what I have discovered in the course of my many travels around the world as a tourism practitioner by profession. I discovered that a lot of young people in their primes from our place who are supposed to constitute the human resources are in jail, others’ lives have been battered to the extent they don’t have any other means or thought of coming back. While living abroad their parents have the presumption that they are doing something reasonable but unfortunately they are not.

There is a huge loss of human resource because of the age category that is involved. These are people who would have been good lawyers, engineers and would have contributed meaningfully to the society but because of ignorance and the quest for money at all cost, they got involved in drugs and they can’t come back from where they are.

When I considered the whole episode, I came back and decided to do something. After much observation, I found out that there are still young people who are also indulging in the consumption of Indian hemp and other hard substances.

Also, I discovered that many of the users cannot help themselves, some have lost their lives while others a languishing in jails at home and abroad, that informed my fight and campaign.

Looking back, if the victims did not get involved with drugs in the first place, they would have been

but because of ignorance and the quest for money at all cost, they got involved in drugs and they can’t come back from where they are.

When I considered the whole episode, I came back and decided to do something. After much observation, I found out that there are still young people who are also indulging in the consumption of Indian hemp and other hard substances.

Also, I discovered that many of the users cannot help themselves, some have lost their lives while others a languishing in jails at home and abroad, that informed my fight and campaign.

Looking back, if the victims did not get involved with drugs in the first place, they would have been productive citizens and many of them would not have died.

In dealing with the crisis, we considered how it starts and discovered that it is from drug abuse that it grows into peddling and then move to being a courier.

So we felt that the best management is to start with the issue of drug abuse and work on how to get rid of it from our society.  The objective is making our society free of drugs, starting from getting people informed.

They need to know the dangers especially the younger people. It is cheaper to send information rather than rehabilitating a drug addict.

Enwezor and his team addressing youths

Inlandtown: When did it start?

V.E: It has been on for the past three years but we concluded and perfected all the registration process few months ago.

Inlandtown: What have you been doing in the last three years?

V.E: First, we started by studying the scenario.  Invested in research, it was during the process that we discovered that we have a huge problem at hand. We started looking for where the users get the substance. Who are involved and where are the things happening? We took Onitsha and Lagos, our base as a case study.

We also looked into what people are doing about drugs and that is why we took proactive steps instead of reactive steps. The government for instance has been taking reactive step towards drugs in the sense that they wait until it has blown out of hand before acting. They wait till peddlers would have inculcated a lot of people into addiction

How do addicts raise money? By selling their belongings to maintain the bad habit, afterwards they need to extort or steal from innocent people. They hove around looking for whose phone to snatch, sell it at cheap rate and rush back to a drug peddler to fix themselves some pinches. It is when it gets out of hands that the government swings into action. That is reactive approach.

Being proactive is when you stop the peddler from selling drugs ab initio, sensitise the public about not using drugs and the dangers inherent in using it at tender age.

The Obi-of-Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe (right) speaking on    the issue of drug abuse in youths while flanked by two of his cabinet    chiefs.

Inlandtown: What are your proactive strategies?

V.E: Currently, we are in partnership with Anambra State government so that we can talk to the teachers. The school teachers need to be educated about the early signs of drug consumption or indulgence. Many of them don’t know. They need to know the signs shown when a young child starts experimenting with drugs and what should be done.

For example, earlier in the days when a student is caught smoking Cigarette, he is expelled from school, but when you do that you have not stopped him from being the friends of those who are students. He still mingles with them. Leaving him in that condition, few years later he upgrades into consuming Indian hemp and introduce those students who are his friends into smoking Indian hemp. That approach is being reactive.

The best treatment is to call the boy and talk to him about why he doesn’t need to use drugs. Again that is why we need to start talking to schools, churches and the students. This is what motivated our current partnership with National Association of Onitsha-Ado Students (NAOAS). It is an umbrella body of Onitsha-Ado students scattered all over the world. They meet every long vacation to run a programme. We partnered with them in their last programme.

We are also partnering with Onitsha-Ado Youth Council (OYC), the body that manage youths affair. In our relationship with them in just four months, we have been able to get two persons sent to our partners in Lagos for rehabilitation.

Incidentally, the rehabilitation is free except transportation to Lagos which the candidate has to take care of. Reason is for them and their families to show some commitment to the process so that it will be effective. Apart from that, every other requirement from the day they move into the camp is taken care of. It involves six months of free rehabilitation and six months of skills acquisition.

Victor Enwezor,  National Co-ordinator of  Come Alive    Initiative  addressing youths on drug abuse(1)

Inlandtown: Why Onitsha in particular?

V.E: Come Alive Initiative however is an organization that will work globally but I’m working on the philosophy of think globally and act locally. It is easy for me to go to any joint where Indian hemp is sold

in Onitsha without being harassed because that is a terrain I know very well. It is also easy for me to move around without being molested.

In Lagos however, I will need the backings of police to move around which has cost attachment but in Onitsha it cost me nothing to be able to use it to experiment on how to put up a bigger picture. Not minding, I am also from Onitsha and I see it as a problem in my community. We are only starting here; it does not mean we will not move to other places.

We are also in collaboration with the Obi in council. We had several meetings with the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe on the matter and he has thrown his weight behind the initiative. He has made a lot of promises when we shared our opinion and ideas on how the campaign can be done. If the campaign continues and sellers don’t get people to buy, it means they won’t sell again, but if there are buyers, even when Police arrest the sellers, when they come out they will continue selling and buyers will be buying. What we need to do is to educate the buyers to stop buying. It is a herculean task but it is achievable.

Inlandtown: How achievable?

V.E: It is possible if you consider that averagely every young man between the age of 10 and 15 has tasted cigarette or Indian hem. You won’t believe it but more than 60 per cent have been introduced to it. They

might not have tasted it but they know about it because a lot of their friends are taking it. If you say it is 80 per cent out of a particular generation you may not be wrong.

Let’s say 1000 people are admitted into Junior Secondary School one and because of the campaign we started when they were in primary five, informing them of the dangers and how it can destroy them, by the time they reach the age of experimenting there are chances that 80 per cent of them will not use it because they are already informed and they can make informed decision.

It is easier to get people in that direction rather than rehabilitating those who are users already. That is why we are trying to work more with young people, though we will still work with everybody. So parents, students and adults have roles to play but who do we really want to talk to, it is the young children and we are talking to government to provide that platform.

Inlandtown: Any particular age target?

V.E: Everybody who is in school now is our target. We are talking to users and prospective users. We are talking to all of them but we are going to expend our energies on people who have not tried it but will soon get to that age. We want to use the next two years to talk to them so that they don’t get involved.

It is discovered that some of the people who use it or indulge mostly die, while some of them turn to arm robbery and go to jail, so the number keeps dwindling. Those who have already started will in time run

out of money to continue, some will die carelessly, others will end up in jail while many will turn to mentally deranged on the street and therefore will not be good customers again. When all these indices occur a seller loses customers.

But if we look at the backend and target the young boys that will be introduced to it later, if we cut off the population by 50 per cent or more, I will assure you that in the next five years when the peddler discovers the reduction in patronage, and the running battles involved also, he will stop. But as long as we don’t stop people who will join, the business continues. But particularly, if we reduce the supply of the number of people who will indulge the business dies naturally.

Project Adviser, Pastor Chuddy Maduegbuna addressing    youths

Inlandtown: What is your capacity in getting these approaches carried out?

V.E: Currently we have drug free clubs and we are also setting up volunteer groups. We are getting involved with media partnerships and associating with schools so that students will come for internship with us. Running an organization like this without volunteers will mean heavy expenditure on salaries. Therefore we depend on people volunteering to assist us like NAOAS is doing.

We had over 10,000 fliers being shared around by the student body. We couldn’t have had enough to pay for it to be done but the students and OYC did it. That is the type of collaboration that we are looking for.

Inlandtown: How do you get funding?

V.E:  For now it is personal funding and from close friends who understand and see what we are trying to do. Apart from logistic and technical supports in getting jobs done there has not been any other form of funding.

Inlandtown: Any prospects?

V.E: Yes we know that there are prospects, we expect people to visit our website and see what we are doing and support us. We are also looking forward to corporate sponsorship. As Nigeria is generating a lot of traffickers we need embassies that are also facing the problems to come and join us. We want to collaborate with them in this campaign through supporting us with the provision of platforms where we will come and disseminate this information.

Inlandtown: Accountability has been the major challenge of non-governmental organizations all over the world. How do you intend to tackle this problem?

V.E: I have already appointed an accountant that volunteered to assist us in our day-to-day accounting. We intend to make our account public by publishing whatever we spend on projects.

First we are trying to account for money that we have not even received but nobody is asking of where we get money to carry on.

On the other hand, on my honour, we will publish our account and as soon as our website is ready everything that has to do with our accounting and how we get funding will be there.

Inlandtown: How does government view your activities?

V.E: The pain is that it is beginning to affect human resources. We don’t have skilled artisans anymore because many of the people who ought to work are also indulging, so to service their consumption, they end up riding Okada or Keke so they can get quick money to continue with their lifestyle.

Presently, we are beginning to relate with Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) who are always supportive of courses like these. We are also talking to United Nation Development Programme (UNDP).

Onitsha-North and Onitsha-South Local Government Area are the only two governmental bodies that we are relating with. We are also with Anambra State Universal Basic Education Board (ASUBEB), we had discussion and agreed to organize workshop in Onitsha- North and South Local Government Areas.

We told them to provide us with venues and the teachers so we can inform them. This they have agreed to do.

Inlandtown: How do you intend to carry this message to other places beyond Onitsha?

V.E: The Obi of Onitsha has promised to introduce us to all monarchs in Anambra State so that we can take this message to their domain. But here funding is the challenge. I will carry on to where I have the capacity and where I can affect for now due to funds.

I rely on working with the support available from the members of trustee for now in terms of funds, ideas and technical supports. By the time we begin to get reasonable partners we will extend it. I have the zeal to take this message to all the parts of the country. This is not to say that we are not mindful of the fact that the use of drugs is getting to an alarming rate.

Although the high prevalence is in the north, Nigeria is transiting from a transit nation to a user nation and it is worrisome.

Inlandtown: Any intention to extend your campaign up north?

V.E: One of the members of our trustee is from Kaduna State. After hearing of the initiative, he agreed to make arrangements for us to go and talk to the people of his community. What we are doing transcends ethnic divide.

Inlandtown: What should we expect from the organization in the next five years?

V.E: We hope to have gotten more people rehabilitated through our relationship with Christ against Drug Abuse Ministry. They gave us a window of rehabilitation for victims. That is why we are intensifying our campaign so that more people will be rehabilitated. We don’t just want to take anybody; we want to ensure that you are ready to go the whole length.

Inlandtown: After rehabilitation what next?

V.E: We reintegrate them into the society because we know that there is a way the society views somebody who had been a drug addict. The society is not very receptive of them. Therefore in our campaign, we try to let people understand that victims are human beings.

In life people can make mistakes, wrong choices and uninformed decisions but as soon as they are informed they begin to amend their ways and contribute to the development of the society.

END

InlandTown! 2016.

 

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