Drug addicts go for Lizard faeces
• It’s a new way to get high •As students hold codeine parties to mark birthdaycodeine
Photo credit: goforbuzz.com
Any child old enough to spell his name would readily reel to you the names of existing hard drugs. There is cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, indian hemp and a few others which bear criminal tags and as such banned from open sale and consumption. But no one will ever consider an ordinary cough syrup like benylin or lizard faeces as one of those substances to be categorized as ‘hard drug’.
The reality however is that the criminalization and high cost of the usual hard drugs listed above have in combination with other factors led to the discovery of other potent substances with similar stimulant and/or suppressant effects on the central nervous system by consumers of hard drugs especially teenagers. Top on the list now are a brand of a popular cough syrup; benylin with codeine and lizard dung.
The demand for these on the streets of Nigeria’s major cities particularly Abuja and Lagos has obviously beaten the standard set by cocaine addicts. The abuse of these substances got so alarming that the federal government recently banned the sale of benylin with codeine off the counter except with a medical doctor’s prescription.
Though it is common knowledge that there have been instances of drug peddling by the low and mighty in the society, what is however new is the fact that sale of narcotics has finally entered the streets of Abuja, with local shop owners, popularly known as ‘aboki’ now selling raps of marijuana (indian hemp) and codeine syrups.
Abuja is the nation’s seat of power and home to children of the rich and top government officials. Investigation by our correspondent revealed the new modus operandi drug peddlers have now adopted in plying their trade. Codeine syrup which ordinarily should be sold to patients based on doctors’ prescription are now sold by owners of small shops, popularly referred to as kiosks. It is however unclear how these small shop owners get their supply, but they readily have products available for any customer who discreetly walks into their shop to buy. Codeine is primarily used to treat mild to moderate pain and to relieve cough. It is also used to treat diarrhea and diarrhea predominant irritable bowel syndrome.
In Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Romania, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and several others, codeine is regulated under various narcotic control laws. In Nigeria, the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), strictly forbids pharmaceutical shops from selling cough syrups, particularly codeine to patients without doctors’ prescription. Although there are few cases of non-adherence to this directive, many of the pharmaceutical shops comply.
Unregulated small shop owners who now thrive in the trade of selling these cough syrups usually don’t attract the attention of relevant regulating agencies. A small shop owner who refused to disclose his name told Saturday Sun that he sells more than 20 bottles of cough syrups (codeine) everyday. Speaking in pidgin English, he said: “Oga, I dey sell plenty codeine everyday. Plenty boys dey come my shop come buy am. Some go even park their big big cars because they wan buy codeine from me.
I dey do am with sense make people no put me for trouble.” The abuse of codeine syrup which is common among secondary school pupils and undergraduates both in Lagos and Abuja has almost turned to a fad as young girls and boys now organize what they call “codeine parties” to mark their birthdays or other events. Saturday Sun gathered that in such parties, it is either one is allowed entry at the venue as long as one can show one or more bottles of the syrup or it is the only drink allowed to be taken by all.
Investigations also reveal that the syrup is often mixed with coke. For those who still hide their addiction from their parents, siblings and friends or who want to take this in public places without the suspicion of others, they also pour the syrup into a plastic bottle of coke after pouring away half of the coca-cola content to give the impression they are taking coke.
A Lagos based young lady who indulges in this act told Saturday Sun under condition of anonymity that “I take mine with coke because the taste is not just a perfect blend but the plastic bottle of coke can take three or four bottles of syrup with some coke inside to mix it.”
The undergraduate further added that “I used to hide mine in the coke plastic bottle for a long while until recently that I discovered that my aunty who I stay with in Lagos also secretly takes it and has been hiding hers even in large quantity in her wardrobe.” She boasted that “ we all take it openly in the house now including her (aunty’s) children to treat ‘family cough’ and that’s why I don’t see anything wrong with it.” Calls and messages to the mobile phone number of the Director of Public Affairs NAFDAC, Abubakar Jimoh by Saturday Sun were neither acknowledged nor replied.
Another popular hard drug that has gone viral and openly sold by owners of small shops in Abuja is marijuana. Although the NDLEA regularly makes public announcements of major seizures of marijuana that have been destroyed by its operatives, it is gradually becoming a common phenomenon to see smokers of this on the streets of Abuja. Sometimes, policemen look the other way whenever they see group of boys smoking marijuana. Arrests are made sometimes, but no serious prosecution has been recorded.
The new twist to the sale and usage of marijuana in Abuja is that it has gone beyond the era when peddlers of this hard drug carried out their trade with fear and trembling. Small shop owners have been introduced into the business. Customers openly visit these small shops, scattered all around Abuja and majorly operated by people of northern extraction to buy raps of marijuana. One rap of marijuana is sold between N20 and N50, depending on the area of the nation’s capital city.
These shop owners have also now created conveniences behind their shops for their customers to discreetly smoke the purchased wraps of indian hemp. Apo Quarters and Utako/Jabi District top the list of places where small shop owners confidently sell marijuana. Other areas include Kado Estate, Gwarinpa, Life Camp as well as high brow areas like Wuse, Asokoro, Garki and Maitama.
The high brow areas also house the highest number of small shops operated by security men (gatemen) of some of the beautiful edifices in the city. In particular, some streets in Wuse zone 4 area of the city have for years been noted as places where residents can get cheap sex, cocaine, heroine, cannabis and other hard drugs as well as bureau de change operators that operate round the clock.
Further investigations by Saturday Sun also revealed another reigning but harmful intoxicant in Abuja and other major parts of northern Nigeria. Lizard dung is now a flourishing way of getting ‘high’ in this part of the country. What started in core northern states as a child’s play is gradually becoming a booming trade. In Abuja and in northern states, young boys are hired to hunt for lizards.
These lizards, captured alive are then kept in cages, just like poultry farms and cattle ranches. They’re fed daily and their dungs are collected, dried and kept safely for use. The users then blend the dung and rap them in small papers for use. While some users inhale the blended dung, others smoke it like marijuana. The intoxicating effect of the dung is believed to be 50 percent higher than marijuana and cocaine. Although lizard dung has not officially been banned by relevant agencies of government, there are strong indications that it could turn into a multi-million Naira industry with the potential of selling the ‘finished products’ at robust prices.
The developing areas of Apo Quarters and suburbs towns and villages of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are becoming safe havens where lizards are being hunted like regular animals and caged in order to extract their excreta for use. There are also fears that when intoxicated with lizard dung, the ‘highness’ can make the individual engage in some unimaginable things.
A medical expert, Ben Omoze believes the intake of lizard dung could propel those involved to carryout violent acts like rape, reckless driving and physical violence without any knowledge of what they’re doing. Reacting to this, spokesperson of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Mitchell Ofoyeju told Saturday Sun that more than 15,000 kilograms of marijuana have been seized between January and March, 2013 in Abuja alone. He added that several arrests had been made of operators of retail shops where marijuana is sold openly and culprits brought to book. “It is our responsibility to control the production, sale and abuse of hard drugs,” Ofoyeju stated.
“We are doing that. A lot of places in FCT have been abusing drugs. It will interest you to know that NDLEA between January and March this year, has mopped up over 15,000kg of cannabis in FCT alone. The number is still on the increase.
“That is to tell you the extent of drug abuse in FCT alone. We are not relenting. The fact that we’ve made several seizures doesn’t mean we will rest. Every retail shop that we’ve information on, we’ve raided them. The people selling have been brought to book. Members of the public shouldn’t always assume that we know. Those places where these things are sold should be forwarded to us and we take action,” Ofoyeju added.