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  • Abuja: Saving A City Growing On Drugs

    A young man took a girl on a date and bought her a bottle of alcohol. She had never tasted beer before, and she declined. But she remained seated and continued to listen to the guy’s persuasion. For how long can she hold on?

    But the same guy takes another girl on a date to the same place and offered her alcohol. The girl politely refused the offer, saying she doesn’t take alcohol. The guy tried to press her into having the drink, but the girl sensing what he was trying to do, politely excused herself and walked out of the bar!

    “The first girl did not have assertiveness, and she stood the risk of being persuaded to start using alcohol. But the second girl had more assertiveness, that’s why she walked away, and the guy would never try to persuade her to drink again,” said Alexander Agara, a clinical psychologist, on why it isn’t enough to just say ‘No to Drugs.’   

    Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, is believed to be the fastest growing city in Africa, growing from a population of 776,298, in 2006 to an estimated six million residents by 2016. Now, it may also have become the city with the fastest growing drug use prevalence in the country.

    According to the National Drug Use Survey released in January, the first comprehensive drug use survey in the country, the number of drug users in Nigeria is estimated at 14.4 per cent or 14.3 million people aged between 15 and 64 years. Out of this number, an estimated 180,000 people in the Federal Capital Territory are among people with drug dependency.

    But Agara, who works as a mental health expert believes the figure is changing. He said nearly eight out of nine young people in the city use drugs, especially alcohol, codeine and marijuana. Breaking down the figures, he revealed that 60% of youths aged 12- 17 use drugs while 80 % of those aged 16-22 use drugs. More alarming is the revelation that 84 % of the age groups who use drugs are females. 

    Agara is one of the facilitators at a weeklong workshop for young people in Abuja organized by Reclaiming Futures In Northern Nigeria (REFINN), a project funded by the United States Department of State with the support of the US Embassy in Abuja.

    It was a gathering of 50 youths and teenagers who spent one whole week listening, talking and playing love games about drug abuse and addiction. It was a carefully selected group comprising drug and substance users, those in recovery and those who haven’t used drugs-among them secondary school students. 

    Ejikeme McBishop Ogueji, leader of the REFINN team, said the project was designed to empowered young people with necessary skills that would strengthen their response to drug abuse challenges. “We have found out that saying No to drug abuse is not enough to protect students and adolescent against drug abuse. They also need life skills that can help them become more assertive,” he explained.

    Through a series of ‘love’ games, presentations, and experience sharing the workshop showcased the dangers of drug addiction and why the youths must have the skills to resist going down the junkie land. 

    It started with a game where two boys blindfolded were each asked to seek out their female partners who were asked to stand apart. The boys whose eyes were covered staggered across the front of the hall stretching their hands in search of their partners even when they stood close by. The two, after searching for their partners in vain, ran into each and embraced, while the audience, amused, erupted in laughter. 

    The participants, which included students of Lugbe International Academy and the University of Abuja, were asked to explain the game and kickstart discussion around drug abuse and addiction. The game was to demonstrate how drug and alcohol affect the senses and impair the brain.

    Different facilitators led the participants in discussions on opioids addiction, how to detect addiction, drugs of abuse, why you should say No, assertiveness against drug abuse and harm reduction, among others.  They included Aisha Tafida, Projects Co-ordinator, Parents Against Drug Abuse and Marcus Ayuba of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). 

    But there was also experience-sharing to educate participants on why and how to kick addiction. Some of those who’d used drugs and are able to stop shared their inspirational stories. Like Daniel Bala, 30, who started drugs before he was 18 after falling for peer pressure. He grew from taking “weed” (cannabis) to pharmaceutical opioids such as tramadol, rehypnol, morphine and even injected drugs.

    Drug use eventually weighed him down and his academics began to suffer. He completed a four year course after suffering several carry-overs. 

    “Then I discovered that most of my peers who were not into drugs had gone far in life and doing well in their careers and I was jobless and not doing anything about it,” he said, admitting that apart from family pressure to kick addiction, it was the realization that he was behind that fired his determination to kick drugs.

    Then there is Falimata Animam, 22, who was lured into drugs by her male and female friends.  She had traveled to Lafia, Nasarawa State to re-write the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations five years back and had to share a room with a girl and three boys for nearly two weeks. The boys and girl were all using marijuana, tramadol and rohypnol. She initially resisted the invitation to “try” any of the drugs because she’d never smoked or used drugs.

    But after persistent pressure, she felt the urge to get into the groove and started with the codeine cough syrup considered to be ‘soft.”  ” I started with a bottle and then it increased, and I started taking the other drugs too,” she told her attentive audience.

    But the drugs had unsavoury effects on her, unbalancing her mentally and physically. After a few years of drug use, she succumbs to family pressure to stop drugs and a chanced meeting with some drug abuse educators. Now she is helping to educate others as a Gender Focal Officer for People Who Inject Drugs (PWID), at YouthRise Nigeria.  

    There are some still struggling with opioids dependency but have cut down on demand, admitting they’ve been unable to completely stop. This is why facilitators recommended harm reduction as a national strategy to reduce number of people living with addiction.   

    Womboh Tyohe, a civic teacher who led six senior secondary school students to the workshop, said the interaction had further exposed the students to the menace of drug abuse and how to combat it. “We teach them about drug abuse in school, but this would even make our job easier. The students that are here will definitely pass on the message,” he declared. 

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    Tajudeen Suleiman

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    Posted: by Sahara Reporters

  • Buhari Gives His Ministers One Week To Hand In Comprehensive Reports On Their Projects

    President Muhammadu Buhari has asked his ministers to submit reports of projects in their various ministries by Wednesday, April 24.

    The notice for submission was contained in a statement issued on Wednesday, by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity.

    The submission of the reports forms part of activities to wind down the first term of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.

    According to the statement, the President has asked for a comprehensive “status reports on policies, programmes and projects” from cabinet members on their respective ministries, departments and agencies.

    These reports have April 24 as the deadline for submission to the Presidential Audit Committee in the office of the Vice President.

    A circular to this effect issued by Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), also requested members of the Federal Executive Council to “ensure that all outstanding memoranda they intend to present to the Federal Executive Council are submitted to the Cabinet Affairs Office, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, not later than Tuesday, 30th April, 2019.”

    The circular also informed members that the “9th and 10th meetings of the Council have been rescheduled to Thursday, 25th April and Thursday, 2nd May, 2019, respectively” in view of the Easter break and May Day celebrations.

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    SaharaReporters, New York

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  • Ex Air Chief Amosun Plea-Bargains In N21.4bn Corruption Trial — The Third Time In Three Years

    A former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (retd.), and his colleagues who are facing trial for alleged diversion of N21.4bn budgeted for security operations have again indicated their intention to enter into a plea bargain with the government.

    Their lawyers — Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), Norrison Quakers (SAN) and Wale Taiwo (SAN) — on Tuesday urged Justice C.J. Aneke, who is hearing the case at the Federal High Court in Lagos, to adjourn in order for them to explore plea bargain with the government.

    Tuesday was the third time the defendants would be proposing plea bargain with government since June 2016 when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged them to court.

    Those facing trial along with Amosu are Air Vice Marshal Jacob Adigun and Air Commodore Olugbenga Gbadebo.

    The prosecution alleged that they used eight companies belonging to them to divert money budgeted for security operations by the Nigerian Air Force.

    They first proposed plea bargain on July 8, 2016, weeks after the EFCC arraigned them before Justice Mohammed Idris who was elevated to court of appeal mid 2018. Their lawyers had then urged the judge to adjourn the case to allow them to go to the negotiation table with the EFCC.

    But when they returned to court on October 20, 2016, rather than present the terms of settlement to the judge, the EFCC opened its case by calling its first witness.

    It was learnt that the defendants were scared off by the conditions imposed on them by the EFCC.

    After the trial had gone on for 16 months, the defendants again told the judge in February 2018 that they were then ready to enter into plea bargain.

    Again, they pleaded for an adjournment, which the court granted.

    But they later abandoned the proposed plea bargain and opted for full-scale trial.

    When the defence counsel made a fresh request for plea bargain on Tuesday, the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, said though the anti-graft agency was ready to prove the charges against them and had all its witnesses ready, it welcomed the plea-bargain proposal if the defendants were serious.

    In January, the EFCC had obtained a court order permanently forfeiting to the Federal Government a sum of N2.2bn recovered from Amosu and another N101m recovered from Solomon Enterprises, a company linked to him.

    Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, who granted the forfeiture order, equally ordered Gbadebo to forfeit to the Federal Government a sum N190,828,978.15, which the EFCC recovered from him.

    The judge ordered that the funds should be paid into the Federal Government’s Treasury Single Account (SA) at the Central Bank of Nigeria.

    Upon the fresh plea bargain proposition by the defence counsel on Tuesday, Justice Aneke adjourned the case till May 22.

    The first prosecution witness, Tosin Owobo, had on Monday furnished the court with detailed information about how the defendants allegedly used their companies to divert funds meant to combat insecurity in the country between 2014 and 2015.

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    SaharaReporters, New York

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  • Mother Weeps Profusely In Court As 'Killers' Of Her First Class Daughter Plead Not Guilty

    Mother of the slain Miss Elozino Ogege, the first class 300 level student of Mass Communication, Delta State University (DELSU) who was gruesomely murdered sometime in November 2018 by suspected ritualists, wept profusely in court on Wednesday as the suspects arraigned before an Asaba High Court pleaded not guilty to the eight-count charge preferred against them by the state Attorney-General.

    Mrs. Elizabeth Ogege, was in court to observe proceedings, and she burst into uncontrollable tears demanding for justice immediately the suspects pleaded not guilty in court. She refused to be consoled by the Director of Sexual Offences/Domestic Violence, Uche Akamagwuna, and other sympathizers as she wept profusely, saying “God will avenge the blood of my innocent daughter whose life was cut down in her prime.”

    The accused persons — Macaulay Desmond Oghenemaro, Ojokojo Robinson Obajero, Nwosisi Benedict Uche and Enaike Onoriode — took their plea after the charges were read to them by the Court Registrar, and pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

    According to the statement of offence in charge No A/2c/2019, count IV of the charge reads “That you, Macaulay Desmond Oghenemaro (m), Ojokojo Robinson Obajero (m), Nwosisi Benedict Uche (m) Enaike Onoriode (m) and one Emese Emudiaga Kelvin now deceased, on or about the 15th day of November, 2018 at Abraka, within the Sapele Criminal Division murdered one Elozino Joshualia Ogege, punishable under Section 319 (1) of the Criminal Code Law Cap C21, Volume 1, Laws of Delta State 2006.”

    Other charges contained in the information filed against the defendants include conspiracy to commit a felony to wit: kidnapping punishable under Section 516 of the Criminal Code Law, Cap C21, Volume 1, Laws of Delta State of Nigeria 2006.

    The substantive offence of kidnapping punishable under section 4(1) of the Delta State Anti-Kidnapping and Hostage Taking Law, 2016, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and the substantial offence of armed robbery.

    The accused persons, according to the charge, robbed one Elozino Joshualia Ogege (f) of her Tecno K7 Mobile phone while armed with a knife and other weapons.

    S.C. Okehielem Esq, who announced appearance for the 1st and 2nd defendants, made an oral application for the transfer of the case to Sapele Judicial Division on the ground that the alleged offence was committed in Abraka, which falls within the Sapele judicial division and cited Ibori Vs FRN, Nigeria Weekly Law Report, 2009.

    Opposing the application, Omamuzo Erebe Esq., Director of Legal Drafting, who led other Lawyers from the state Ministry of Justice, including the Director of Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence, Uche Akamagwuna Esq, urged the court to dismiss the application as it is frivolous and inapplicable to the case.

    He said the state acted under the provision of Section 94 (2), section 99 and section 104 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, 2017, adding that the Attorney-General of the state, through the DPP, had earlier made an application to the Chief Judge of the State for assumption of jurisdiction, raising security concerns not only for prosecution witnesses but as well as for the accused persons. The application was granted by the Chief Judge and the case assigned before the trial judge to adjudicate.

    Ruling on the application for transfer of the case to Sapele Judicial Division, the trial Judge, Justice Flora Ngozi Azinge, dismissed the application, saying that it was unmeritorious and holding that the case was before a proper venue to entertain the matter.

    Justice Azinge further ruled that the High Court of Delta State is one, and that the Administration of the Criminal Justice Law, which governs Criminal matters in the state, has empowered the Chief Judge to transfer any case from one criminal division to other.

    The matter was adjourned to April 30 and May 15 respectively for hearing.

    Meanwhile, a few days ago, Mrs. Ogege had cried out to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa a few days ago to keep to his earlier promise of speedy justice for her daughter.

    In a letter entitled ‘An Open Letter To The Governor Of Delta State From The Mother Of Late Miss. Elozino Ogege’, addressed to Okowa and obtained by SaharaReporters, she lamented the “slow and unfair proceedings so far from the court handling the matter” and appealed to the Governor to find time and pay a condolence visit to the family of the deceased.

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  • Senate Inches One Step Closer To Passing Bill Overruling Buhari’s Veto On Budget

    A bill to compel the President and state governors to lay their annual budgets before the legislature at most 90 days to end of a fiscal year has passed second reading at the Senate.

    The second reading of the bill is the second stage of process. If the bill passes the third reading with the required by two-thirds majority, and it gets the concurrence of the House of Representatives, then it becomes a law.

    The bill, The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (Fourth Alteration, No. 28) Bill, was sponsored by Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President, and was presented at plenary by Ahmad Lawan, Majority Leader of the Senate.

    Rejected by the President in 2018, the bill, if passed, will return Nigeria to the era of January-December budget cycles, while similarly mandating the National Assembly to pass the budget before commencement of the next financial year.

    Buhari had declined assent to the bill on the grounds that Section 2 (b) and 3 (b) of the proposal appears not to appreciate the provisions of Section 58 (4) of the 1999 constitution — an argument dismissed by David Umaru, Chairman of the Senate’s Technical Committee on Declined Assent to Bills.

    The bill will ensure that the budget is laid not later than 90 days to the end of a financial year,” Umaru said. 

    “The legislative intent behind this bill is to ensure that we run a normal financial year. Therefore, the provision of Section 58(4) which Mr. President made reference to, does not apply in this regard.

    “On the whole, we respectfully submit that the bill is not in conflict with the provision of Section 58(4) of the Constitution as implied by Mr President. It is, therefore, our concerted view that the Senate should override Mr. President’s veto.”

    Section 58(4) of the Constitution being spoken of by the President reads: “Where a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall within thirty days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds assent.”

    However, Section 58(5) also adds: “Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required.”

    As earlier reported by SaharaReporters, the Senate on Wednesday passed seven of the at least 16 bills rejected so far this year by the President.

    The bills are the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Bill, National Research and Innovation Council Bill, Stamp Duties Act (Amendment) Bill, National Agricultural Seed Council Bill, Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund (Amendment) Bill and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill.

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