The Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse (CRISA) organised its 14th Biennial International Conference on Drugs, Alcohol and Society in Africa. The conference took place in Abuja on 26 and 27 October 2022. In the context of a growing demand for the modernisation of the international drug control system themed “Towards the Reform of Drug Law and Policy in Africa: Research, Practice and Advocacy Considerations”.
The National Symposium serves as an important discussion and forum for scholars, policymakers, students and professionals interested in different aspects of drugs, alcohol, and addictive behaviours in Nigeria.
As part of attending the conference, WADPN and Drug Policy Alliance embarked on a two-day joint advocacy tour to the Nigeria Human Rights Commission and the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (Federal Ministry of Justice) and some drug use communities in Abuja, including Youthrise Nigeria drop-in centre in Nyanya, to engage with the community member with the support of OSF-Africa.
The visit was to discuss and highlight the negative impact of Nigeria’s punitive drug law enforcement on people who use drugs. And further, advise the government on a more effective alternative diversion mechanism from the criminal justice system that guarantees the well-being and human rights of people who use drugs.
With the ongoing rollout of Nigeria’s harm reduction strategy and the need for a parallel push towards sentencing and criminal justice reform, Youthrise, CRISA and WADPN were delighted to host the founder and former Executive Director of Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Ethan Nadelman, to the Biennial conference.
Tapping into Ethan’s experience in the drug policy space and knowledge of international practices, both successful and unsuccessful, will help inform the discussion with a series of meeting with key stakeholders in the process (NDLEA, Harm Reduction and Drug User CSOs) to advocate for decriminalisation and sentence reduction for the use and possession of illicit substances to date.
The key objectives of the engagement with various agencies and organisations are to access drug policy reform in Nigeria beyond the rhetoric - focusing on what works, unintended consequences of drug laws/policy on young people, the need for an evidence/right-based, and balanced approach to drug control response and the conversation around medicinal cannabis.
It also to understand the overview of programmes for People who Use Drugs, the package of services, achievements and the gaps. CRISA and DPA’s support is helping navigate the drug spaces and convincing stakeholders to move forward with the ongoing legislative processes.
CRISA works closely with the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Nigerian Drug Enforcement Agency to improve access to health and treatment for people who use drugs in Africa. They are directly involved in the ongoing harm reduction process in Nigeria.
WADPN is a young and dynamic CSO lobbying for drug policy reform, decriminalisation, access to health and treatment, the legal regulation of substances and a better understanding of the impact of drug economies on local development. We have successfully influenced the review of drug law and policies in Ghana, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast.