Monday, December 15, 2008

Women and hard drug trade

The recent report that about 238 Nigerian women are currently serving various prison terms for drug trafficking in London is another sad pointer to the precarious condition of many of our compatriots in foreign lands.

Olga Heaven, Coordinator of the non-governmental organisation, Hibiscus, who disclosed the sad fate of these women, said that the women represent Nigeria’s low class women who were forced by poverty and the temptation to get rich quickly into illegal drug trafficking. Seventy of the women are said to be in a single prison, where they constitute a significant percentage of inmates of the prison.
The sorry fate of these compatriots is disturbing.

The imprisonment of so many Nigerian women is a dent on the image of the country. Sadder still is the fact that the case of these women is a tip of the ice berg of the imprisonment of our compatriots for drug trafficking in foreign lands. So many of our citizens are in jail for drug trafficking in many parts of the world.

Only recently, we had occasion to comment on the case of seven of our citizens on death row in Indonesia, with two of them already executed on June 2, 2008. In that instance, efforts by the Federal Government to secure amnesty for the convicted Nigerians failed.

This unfortunate state of affairs calls for introspection on the part of the Nigerian authorities and indeed all Nigerians on the cause and the remedy for the development. While we agree with Hibiscus that the endemic poverty in the nation could exacerbate the tendency to succumb to the lure of the huge sums of money involved in the hard drugs trade, we do not think that that reason alone explains the propensity of our women for the illicit business. We hold these views because Nigeria is not the only country that is ravaged by poverty neither are the imprisoned persons the only poor persons in the country.
The problem, we think, can also be traced to the collapse of values and the desperation of many Nigerians to become rich by all means, fair or foul.
The foregoing, however, is not to exonerate the government of the responsibility of providing the normal economic and social pillars that should ensure opportunities for gainful and responsible living for the people.

It is no news that Nigerian youths, for some years now, have been largely left to their own caprices to fashion out a living in whatever way they can. The society that should support the effort to provide gainful employment and ensure that the youths remain on the path of moral rectitude has largely ignored them.
Our courts which oftentimes impose ridiculously lenient sentences on convicted drug traffickers have also not helped the situation.

This permissive attitude to drug trafficking runs contrary to the serious view of the offence in many countries, with the result that many of our compatriots have either been imprisoned, hanged or are on death row in countries like Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Indonesia.

This situation gives a very poor image of our country. It is casts a slur on the perception of our compatriots who are now subjected to several indignities and body searches at many airports across the world.
The involvement of our women in drug trafficking is also a debasement of the public image of Nigerian women who are mostly hardworking and responsible members of society.
This sad state of affairs should be addressed holistically at all levels of government. Non Governmental Organisations, schools, religious and traditional rulers should be involved in the campaign to dissuade Nigerians from the ignoble trade.

Our drug law enforcement and other security agencies should step up surveillance to ensure that drugs do not easily pass through our borders. Stiffer sanctions should be provided for drug trafficking in our law books and the sanctions must be faithfully enforced by our courts
The society, through moral sanctions, should seek to project a new image of drug trafficking as a truly reprehensive trade.