ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, THE EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF BENUE STATE, SAMUEL ORTOM DURING THE UNITED NATIONS OFFICE ON DRUGS AND CRIME (UNODC) AND BENUE STATE GOVERNMENT TRAINING ON DRUG ABUSE MANAGEMENT AND CARE ANCHORED BY THE OFFICE OF THE WIFE OF THE GOVERNOR OF BENUE STATE ON 3RD AUGUST, 2015 AT HALLYDAYS HOTEL, MAKURDI
Her Excellency, the Wife of the Governor of Benue state (my dear wife), ably represented by the Commissioner for Women affairs, Local Government Chairmen here present, our Royal Fathers, distinguished participants, gentlemen of the press, ladies and gentlemen. I greet you all.
I am happy to be amongst this august gathering where a giant step is being taken in our state.
In today’s Nigeria there is no reliable and comprehensive data on the extent of drug use, the number and type of users, as well as the numbers of people with drug use disorders. The available data comes from a few hospital sources and some surveys and studies which indicate that mainly young people (21-30 years) are involved covering; upper and middle class, and students as well as a more deprived part of the population.
Not only are these surveys showing an increase in the drug use, but also a decrease in age at which young people begin to experiment with drugs.
The drug of choice for most of them is cannabis; although drugs commonly abused in other countries: such as cocaine, crack and heroin consumption seem to be rising. The use of amphetamines and counterfeited medicines are also frequent. Other substances that are peculiar to the Nigerian scene have started to surface (solution, glue, petrol, nail polish, pit latrines, lizard faeces etc). Also common is the phenomenon of multiple drug use, especially in combination with alcohol.
This picture is compounded by the fact that treatment and continuing care in our country are mainly based in psychiatric hospitals, with few non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and faith-based organisations offering some services. In-patient (drop-in) facilities are limited and out-patient services are not adequate in addressing this situation.
It was the early recognition of this gap that caused Her Excellency, my dear wife in 2006 to establish Oracle BL foundation (OBFL) with the heart of raising the standard and quality of life of impoverished people in our society. Through this Foundation she was able to:
– Increase behaviors conducive to the prevention of substance abuse among young people by strengthening protective factors and addressing risk factors of drug and substance abuse.
– Create an enabling environment for behavior change and program sustainability in collaboration with other partners.
– Reduce stigma, discrimination and harassment against young people suspected to be abusing substances.
– Increase access to substance abuse prevention and drug dependence treatment services alongside social integration and rehabilitation.
With my assumption of office as the Executive Governor of Benue State, my wife in her capacity as the Wife of the Governor has prioritized the scaling up of activities to address the drug situation in this state. It was this desire that drove her to seek collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for projects within the Benue State.
UNODC has shown itself a global leader in the struggle against illicit drugs and international crime. It is implementing a large-scale project funded by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) – NGAV16 Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crime in Nigeria. This project aims at supporting Nigeria’s efforts in fighting drug production, trafficking and use, and in curbing related organised crime; including counterfeit narcotics and psychotropic substances.
My wife in acknowledgement of the work of the UNODC in response to drug treatment in the country has formally approached UNODC with a desire for these efforts being carried out at the national level to be replicated within the State. Benue will thus be having the full complement of activities. This training programme is the first project marking the collaboration between Benue State Government and the UNODC. It will complement the ongoing training at the Federal Level.
There will thus be two trainings running simultaneously within the state; one at the Federal Level at the Federal Medical Centre where 30 professionals will be trained; and the other here at Hallidays hotel. To ensure this training goes far and wide, we will be training 75 drug treatment practitioners.
My declaration of this TREATNET Training open this morning signifies not just the beginning of the commitment of my government to seeing a dramatic improvement in the way drug treatment service is delivered in Benue State, but also our collective commitment to seeing a change in our communities that have been so negatively affected by drugs.
We are in discussions with UNODC and in the near future we will be establishing community based drug treatment (drop-in) centres to help complement the services currently being offered in our hospitals. We will identify Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and begin the process of helping them identify suitable facilities to house the drop-in-centres; we will equip these centres. We will again be collaborating with UNODC to get personnel within these facilities trained to provide community based service, which will include sensitizing the members of the public, and building necessary linkages with other service organisations.
I expect that this training will amongst others,
- Promote a sound understanding of drug dependence treatment and care, and the recognition of drug dependence as a health disorder that requires a multidisciplinary and comprehensive approach
- Improve the technical skills and capacity of drug dependence treatment and care service providers at State and Local Government level
- Support the State in development and improvement of evidence-based treatment and care services that provide a continuum of care
- Provide accessibility to treatment alongside social integration and rehabilitation
In due time, my government will roll out a lot of needed health solutions to the people of Benue state, whose support and cooperation is unwavering. I have instituted clear policies that will support the health care services in the state and make it a beacon of excellence and succor not only for the people of the state, but the entire Nation. My government will also provide the enabling environment for cooperation and participation of all individuals and organizations that strive to further better the life of the people of Benue state
At this point, the training is hereby declared open.
Thank you all and have a wonderful and fruitful training programme.
IN GOD WE TRUST
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