Drug and substance abuse in Nigeria

Not so long ago a Nigerian student studying in Malaysia was sentenced to death for drug trafficking. Lots of people blamed the guy for wanting to get rich quick and the case was left for the family to deal with. Nigerians at home actually don’t have much confidence in their government to protect them at home let alone when you got in trouble outside of the borders.

This incidence reminded me of a book I read a few years back written by a British author –  Sandra Gregory titled “Forget you had a Daughter.” The book detailed how Sandra got caught for drug trafficking in Thailand, subsequently given life sentence for the offence while the guy she allegedly helped was set free. What really got me interested was her reports of Nigerians she met while in Thai in prison. There was a particular name that stuck in my mind for a long time, it was a Yoruba name, something like Ronke, who was serving time in Thai prison for similar offence as Sandra’s and had little or no chance of ever seeing the lights of the day. Nigeria has enough of trouble at home so the more that get thrown in foreign prisons the better for the government as less people to worry about.

Sandra was lucky, she was eventually transferred to the UK prison to finish her sentence and was later given a royal pardon by the King of Thailand, this was due to her parents’ persistent campaign on her behalf and British government intervention. She afterwards went to study at Oxford University and did really well turning her life around in positive ways, now giving lectures and sharing her life experiences with school children.

In Nigeria we tend to shy away from dealing with some issues head-on. Issues such as drug abuse is one that got overlooked, parents for some reasons assumed that by going to religious gatherings, their young adults children would not know about hard *drugs. How wrong are they?

About a decade ago, I lost a relative to drug overdose. Wale was a very outgoing guy, he was one of those people who knew exactly what they wanted in life and went for it. He had primary school education, and his confidence and courage compensated for all that he lacked in formal education. By the time he was 18years old, he had graduated from bricklaying apprenticeship and knew the job well. At 20, went to Lagos to get more job experience and eventually settled there and started a family at 22. He was a delight to be around, always smiling and had lots of positive energies to fill a room. Whenever he came home for Christmas, he would tell us all about the wonders of Lagos – the planes flying in the sky and all, most of the stories were a bit stretched but I enjoyed them all anyways.

I haven’t heard from Wale in a few years but knew he had 2 boys, I knew his wife as well, she was a delightful woman. When I heard of Wale’s death, I was in total shock. His body was brought home for burial. His death in the first instance was blamed on the witches.

Several years after Wale’s death, I was chatting with a family member. So I asked again, “what really killed Wale?” Posing the question to the uncle I spoke to several years ago. He said “drugs.” Janet, Wale’s wife knew that Wale took drugs, the habit he only started when he moved to Lagos, not to say that drugs are not available in Osun, but it is more widely available in Lagos and if you happen to have lots of disposable income, you have got yourself a deal. Janet tried her best to encourage him to stop and even told the same uncle to talk to Wale but no one thought it was a big deal – he would get off it in time, they thought but the reality was for someone who had money flowing in daily, it proved to be difficult for Wale as he was hooked already. So the real story as narrated to me was that as Wale woke up that fateful morning beside his wife, reached for the needle by the bedside and injected a little bit too much for his system.

Wale is gone but we can safe so many lives if people are aware that drug abuse is a big problem in Nigeria today especially in the big cities, and parents to help educate their children on the danger. Many family members today still do not know the real cause of Wale’s death because like everything – it is a stigma.

Time to be honest so others can learn to avoid the same pitfalls?

Resent drug related case in Nigeria

Tolani Ajayi  and drug-related offence at his university prior to killing father.

* I am talking mainly about class A drugs, the ones that were meant to be illegal but still readily available at Obalende, Ikeja etc

Categories: Africa, Nigeria

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 reply


  1. Tolani Ajayi – Physical abuse triggers mental health disorder? « Folakemi Odoaje

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