While sensitisation on the effects and dangers of drug abuse continued to be on the increase across the nation, especially in the north, wife of Sokoto state governor, Hajiya Dr Mariya Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, has gone beyond lamentation to finding rehabilitative mechanism for those already involved as captured in this report by ANKELI EMMANUEL.
No doubt, the devastating effect of drug abuse to young Nigerians especially in the northern part of the country is a very worrisome scenario.
After all, the menace of drug or substance abuse in the region has become so disturbing to a point that no right minded individual in the region does not foresee danger ahead if left unchecked.
This was even more so given the age bracket of those who engaged in drug abuse. They falls within the productive age of 15 to 45 according to available statistics.
And most amusingly, recent findings in the region clearly showed that married women have also taken to substance abuse as a way of either increasing their libido, dousing worries or beating frustration.
While the complaints and sensitisation continue, the menace of substance abuse like deadly disease continues to spread beyond imagination.
Bearing this in mind, the wife of Sokoto state governor, Hajiya Mariya Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, being a mother feels that a more drastic approach must be employed to cater for those already neck deep into it and those thinking of going into the rave of drug abuse as well.
Just as it is said that, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, Mrs Tambuwal feels productive engagement of youths in the region would certainly go a long way in reducing appetite for such negativity.
Her reflection, however from the onset was not without diverse challenges. Prominent amongst which include, how possible will it be to bring drug addicts together in the name of rehabilitation without people stigmatising them?
Amongst her worries, were also the possibility of these addicts accepting to be rehabilitated and numerous other rhetorical questions? Overcoming these initial huddles led to the adoption of a unique name that is accommodating in nature and operation.
This therefore gave birth to a gigantic building, well fenced and situated within the perimeter fence of Sokoto Specialists Hospital. The building, was thus named, “Sokoto State Occupational Therapy and Youth Development Center”.
Though, the owner of project in one of our initial publication was erroneously captured, that however does not change the fact that, it was a project conceived and executed by Hajiya Dr Mariya Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
A smart anatomy of the occupational therapy showed that, it is designed to cater for the peculiarity of the people of the region, as it has both male and female segments.
Though both segments has equal facilities with all of them having well furnished 2 wards each and a Nursing station (common Room) amidst.
The occupational therapy also comprises of Recreational room, where indoor games such as table tennis, snocker, gym and others are played to help reduce worries.
Other segments include, Group Therapy room, Counseling Hall, both local and modern kitchenette, Dining hall, Library, High Dependency room, Consulting room and Emergency room, Mosque, Basket Ball Court and the host of others.
Speaking on the center, its operational mandates and how it intend to become a referral center for rehabilitating drug addicts from neighbouring states of Kebbi and Zamfara as well as other states of the federation, the acting coordinator of the center, Abubakar Shehu said towards commencing operation a committee of experts was set up with himself as a member.
According to Abubakar, experts from health, school of Nursing, NDLEA, Neuropsychiatric hospital as well as other relevant agencies that were members gave valid inputs.
While stressing that, the center is solely designed to threat and rehabilitate drug addicts, Abubakar said, the services of psychologists, nutritionists, Gym experts and so many others whose expertise will be of great significance to effective running of the place.
Giving vivid example of how treatment of some drug addicts begins, Abubakar said, “Sometimes, when we have patients, we play visuals of how drugs ruin the future of those that are into it. We begin by showing them how a normal person who never ventures into drugs could stay for the rest of his/her life without any mental health threatening illness and how someone who indulged in drugs most often than not ends up with mental illness”.
Going by the available patients record in Sokoto State Occupational Therapy and Youth Development Center, no fewer than 34 patients, (6 female, 28 males) are receiving treatment in the center.
What however baffles North West Zonal Watch was the fact that, nearly all the 34 patients are within the age bracket of 15 to 30 with the oldest just 32 years old.
While it was gathered that a good number of these drug addicts came on their own, only 4 were brought by their parents. And most pathetically is that fact that, nearly all of the patients are educated, as 2 of them are degree holders, 2 NCEs and some SSCE.
The coordinator, Abubakar said, the occupational therapy for now is rendering outpatient services with a consultant psychiatrist and other supporting staff.
Speaking on the initiative and its expected goals, the state commissioner for Health, Dr Muhammad Ali Inname, said, the reason behind the Sokoto State Occupational Therapy and Youth Development Center as conceived by Dr Mariya Tambuwal was borne out of the fact that there was the need to have a complete package in place which must cover sensitizing those that have not been initiated into drug abuse not to contemplate the habit. And remind those that are already into it that it is not healthy for themselves and the society hence the need to embrace a way out.
According to Dr Inname, getting a drug addict patient out of the habit takes a long period of patience and efforts backed by treatment, support, psychological therapy and training in a particular skill that could enable him or her become self reliant after rehabilitation.
Talking on the motive behind the occupational therapy as conceived and actualized by the wife of the governor, Mariya Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, through her Maiya Tambuwal Development Initiative (MTDI), the commissioner said, Mariya, as one of the northern governors’ wives forum member has been very passionate about a drug free society.
“All the Northern Governors’ Wives (NGWF) were in the Sokoto for the official flag off of the occupational Therapy and Youth Development Center. And they meet quarterly to understudy how far they have gone in their onerous decision to fight drug or substance abuse in northern Nigeria to stand still.
“And from time to time, we do give her report of the activities of the center because the project is very dear to her mind. We do give her situation reports so that she will also report to the (NGWF)”
While stressing that multiple reasons could be behind addiction, Dr Inname said, recent survey showed that young people easily gets into drug abuse because of peer pressure influence. Their friends introduce them into it with the believe that it has some benefits.
“Both male and female are engaged in this drug abuse. But most worrisome lately is the fact that more females especially in the northern part of the country are even getting into drug or substance abuse in an alarming number.
“Like I said earlier, lots of factors are responsible for this drug addiction. Like in northern Nigeria were the people are very conservative, some takes codeine containing syrups and other drugs to be high and be able to indulge in certain activities. Because the society does not accept certain behavious, they believe they have to be high to able to engage in such acts without any fears. In their own mindsets, the drugs remove such social inhibition from them.
“Sometimes, they would want to emulate some of the things they watch or see in the advanced countries, especially, the civilization aspect which most often is not accepted in the northern part of Nigeria because of our conservativeness, and adherence to certain Islamic laws, they go ahead to get themselves into drugs as the only way to practice what they see as civilization.
“They know that there is no room for them to practice what they see in the advanced world but sometimes when they take the drugs, it removes the social inhibition and they do it without shame”.
Dr Inname also added that, frustration, idleness and illiteracy plays critical role in the high rate of drug or substance abuse witnessed in the northern part of the country.
According to him, treatment of drug-addicted patients requires many processes, ranging from detoxification and confinement to impacting holistic mindset of a drug free life to ensuring skills acquisition for self-reliant which explains why the Sokoto State Occupational Therapy and Youth Development Center gives all that.
“And less you forget, the center is designed in such a way that everybody can come and acquire skills hence the chances of stigmatization would not be there. More so that seeing normal people coming to learn skills with the drug abused patients’ will go a long way in helping them to recover quickly and avoid stigma which is one of the major concern for those who once suffered any form of mental challenge.