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Support.Don’t Punish Urges Alignment of Drug Punishment with Human Rights

Benin City. On Friday, 26th June, thousands of activists of different professional fields and endeavour would converge on more than 150 cities around the world to make their voices heard as part of the global campaign, called Support. Don’t Punish.

The campaign calls on governments to put an end to the expensive and counter-productive war on drugs. Campaigners believe the war to criminalize drug users has failed to reduce drug use or drug supply with huge costs running in excess of $100 billion each year, incurred in the bid to enforce the law, often resulting to the mass incarceration of vulnerable and poor people, fuelling human rights violations and HIV epidemics etc. in the process.

It would be recalled that the NDLEA convicted 2, 054 offenders out of a total of 8, 826 suspected drug traffickers (8, 332 males and 494 females) that were arrested in 2014. Illicit drugs seized in the same year were 166, 697.18 kilogrammes, made up of: cannabis sativa, 158,852kg; cocaine, 226.041kg; heroin, 56.449kg; methamphetamine, 119.2kg; amphetamine, 0.05grammes; ephedrine, 35.8kg; and psychotropic substances 7, 407.44kg.

Edo State is one of the states with high prevalence of drug use, trafficking and abuse.

In spite of increasing success from prosecution for drug trafficking and drug abuse by NDLEA, counselling, treatment and rehabilitation of drug users have not been as successful in Nigeria.

While the 26th of June has always been the United Nations’ International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the day is traditionally used by governments to ‘celebrate’ drug arrests, seizures and executions. The campaign’s “Global Day of Action” therefore aims to change the narrative in order to highlight the need for a better approach.

In the past decade, the fight to reduce drug use and curb related crimes has continued to generate questions on the best approach. In recent discourse to reduce associated harm, legal, national and international institutions across the globe have strongly condemned the punitive approach and inhuman sanctions on suspects or victims of drug associated with drug related crimes.

A report titled: ‘Not Just in Transit: Drugs, the State and Society in West Africa,’ published by the West Africa Commission on Drugs in June 2014, recommended among others, the treatment of drug use as a public health issue rather than criminal justice matter.

Then report further called for the confrontation of weaknesses that traffickers exploit within governments, security services and the judiciary; development, reformation and harmonization of drug laws and pursuit of decriminalization of drug use and low-level, non-violent drug offences.

For this year’s celebration, members of the West Africa Drug Policy Network and other human rights partners in collaboration with the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) and the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) are organizing public events in 11 West African countries, including Nigeria, where a media event would be held in Abuja.

This year’s Global Day of Action comes ahead of another global activity scheduled for April 2016, when governments will converge on New York for a major drugs summit, the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs, a rare opportunity for high-level, open global debate about the world drug problem, its challenges and solution. END

Usifo Sebastine, Journalist from Nigeria



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