The World Health Organisation report reveals that apart from cannabis, other substances used by children and youths surveyed in Africa include benzodiazepines such as diazepam and chlorpromazine while 3.7 per cent inject themselves with drugs. In this report, GBENGA OLONINIRAN writes about drug-addicted children’s battle against brain disorders and violence
Twenty-seven-year-old Omotayo Olajide was stabbed multiple times in June 2023 by teenage boys numbering up to seven and of ages between 14 and 17 in the Mile 12 area of Lagos. Saying he was terrified during the attack when speaking with our correspondent, Omotayo narrated how the boys were reeking of alcohol and Indian hemp.
“That day in the afternoon, I was going to buy a reading lamp. I stopped at the Mile 12 market. Some boys beckoned me but I ignored them and told them not to call me again. They were just small boys; I did not answer them, because they were very rude.
“I thought it was over. But after some time, one of them entered the shop where I went to get the lamp. He came with a broken bottle and ordered me to come out of the place. He was going to destroy things in the shop if I didn’t come outside,” Omotayo, who said he was still shocked by the experience, told our correspondent.
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According to him, he became scared of the boy when the shop owner asked him (Omotayo) to leave because he did not want trouble.
“At that point, I knew the boys were dreaded in the area. He (the boy) was holding a little portion of wrapped Indian hemp that was left with him which he was still smoking, and the broken bottle was on the other hand. The owner of the shop told me to leave when the guy kept threatening and shouting that he would destroy things in the shop,” he added.
He said before he knew it, other boys numbering about six, suspected to be members of the other boy’s gang, arrived at the scene.
“They started hitting me with weapons all over my body. When I realised the situation was becoming a matter of life and death for me, I tried to defend myself with an item I found around. But they overpowered me, they stabbed me all over my body, I was in the pool of blood,” he told The PUNCH.
Omotayo was later hospitalised at Helaal Specialist Hospital in the Mile 12 area with plasters and bandages on his head. When our correspondent visited him at the clinic, part of his skin was being stitched. He left Lagos for another state, which he said he would not want to disclose for safety reasons.
The tale of young boys causing terror in Lagos has been recurring, and in many cases, this was linked by most of their victims and other residents to their abuse of hard drugs.
WHO on substance abuse
According to the World Health Organisation, cannabis remains the most widely used illicit substance in the African Region. The highest prevalence and increase in use is being reported in West and Central Africa with rates between 5.2 percent and 13.5 percent.
Amphetamine-type stimulants such as “ecstasy” and methamphetamine now rank as Africa’s second most widely abused drug type. Other substances that were used by children and youth surveyed in Africa, included benzodiazepines such as diazepam, chlorpromazine and different inhalants, while 3.7 percent were injecting drugs.
The WHO further noted that on average, every person in the world aged 15 years or older drinks 6.2 litres of pure alcohol per year.
Lagos children and drugs
Our correspondent was at the Mile 12 and Agege areas of Lagos and observed that young boys at different nooks and crannies were seen with some adults. He gathered that the adults were sending them on errands to purchase alcohol or cigarettes. In some cases, they share some of the substances with the young ones, especially alcohol contained in sachets, which were easy to hand out, and in other cases, the kids watch the adults smoke cannabis or drink alcohol.
A resident, Akeem Jimoh, who spoke with our correspondent, said it was not a new practice in the area.
“This is Mile 12 my brother. These are notorious Lagos areas. Those boys start from a tender age like this. They run errands for the elderly. Some of the boys are already smoking. The ones that are not smoking are exposed to the smoke.
“This is also how insecurity is eating deep in the communities because if the elder ones sending them on errands also get involved in some criminal activities, the kids will also follow them. Sometimes, when a fight or any other violence breaks out in Mile 12, those small boys will also queue behind the older ones that they are loyal to.
“They even send them to go and attack a stranger. As a stranger, you will see them as small boys, but when you argue with them, they go and call the older ones out and you’re in trouble. That is how it is and that is what must have happened to the Omotayo you talked about,” Akeem told our correspondent, relating to the experience of Omotayo who was stabbed multiple times in the area.
“So if we are talking about ending crime and how Lagos is getting worse due to miscreants’ activities, we have to start dealing with these ugly trends from a stage like this,” adds Akeem.
The spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, Benjamin Hundeyin, said the police would review their strategy to improve security when a motorist, Samson Olanrewaju, was robbed inside traffic in late August by some boys numbering seven in the Ijora Olopa area of the state. “They were small boys, and they had weapons,” Olanrewaju told our correspondent. People who witnessed the incident said the yet-to-be-identified boys were also reeking of substances suspected to be Indian hemp.
Smoking at young age
A corps member, who gave her name simply as Moyo for not being authorised to address the media, said the Agege area of Lagos was a hotbed where teenagers were exposed to hard drugs. Born and raised in Agege, Moyo was specific about the areas where the menace is dominant.
“I was born and raised in Agege. I will tell you the specific areas. Areas like Agbotikuyo, Dopemu, and Orile Agege/Oko-Oba suffer from this menace. In fact, it’s like everywhere in Agege. At the secondary school where I serve, students of 12, 13, and 24 years are involved in hard drugs. It is more pronounced in these areas because at least two or three persons are selling marijuana on the street. They don’t hide it. People send kids to go and buy the hard drugs, and there is no way these kids will not want to practice it one day.
“I remember when I was small; we used to play with smoked cigarette leftovers. I remember that one day; I picked up one cigarette wrap and didn’t know it still had flame in it. I tried to smoke it like our usual playing habit. I just realised that I already inhaled it and smoke was coming out. I had mistakenly smoked the cigarette for real,” Moyo, told our correspondent in an interview.
“Through that method, some of my friends began smoking, and they eventually became addicted. But because of my religious background, I was really guided, and I stopped. If not, I could have turned into someone else on the street today,” she added.
Moyo noted that the menace was not limited to the male gender, saying apart from drugs; young girls were exposed to prostitution.
“It’s a ghetto here. It’s not limited to boys. There are ladies involved in prostitution, who also groom young girls in the act. The adult ladies take alcohol or marijuana so they can perform well. They send the young girls or boys on alcohol errands,” adds Moyo.
When our correspondent visited Orile Agege, it was observed that on Amoo Street, teenagers were also exposed to hard drugs because they were often sent on hard drug errands. There is a mini stadium on the street where children and adults alike play football, and where the young ones are then engaged in errands.
In the Oko-Oba area of Orile Agege, the situation is the same with a similar pattern of teenagers’ exposure to illicit drugs.
A resident, Henry Ajinde, who conducted our correspondent in the area showed our correspondent a newly constructed pavilion sharing a fence with Orile Agege Secondary School.
Our correspondent who sat in the stadium while it was less busy saw boys smoking and others wrapping and preparing their smoke materials. They were uncomfortable with the strange face of our correspondent and quickly left the vicinity.
Student takes ‘Colorado’
Our correspondent gathered that in the same Orile Agege, a Junior Secondary School Student (name withheld) was said to have consumed a hard drug suspected to be Colorado.
A resident who did not want his name in print told The PUNCH in September that the boy was misbehaving after consuming the substance and everyone was amazed.
“The teenage student took Colorado. He started acting funny in the school and the matter attracted officials of the Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps. They attempted to trace the location where the student bought the drug from but they were unsuccessful,” the resident said.
The Principal of Community Junior Secondary School, where the incident happened, Mumuni Risiqat, told our correspondent that the student indeed took a substance. The principal who said she could not say what substance it was, said the boy was misbehaving after consuming it. According to the principal, the student was given the substance by another student. She disclosed that the parents of the student who supplied the substance were invited and the kid was subsequently suspended from the school.
Risiqat said, “It happened last term. You know all these children, somebody brought the drink, and you know (some of the students would say) ‘give me, I want to drink.’ That was what happened. One of them was just misbehaving. He did not even know what was put inside (the drink he took). But we were able to make him calm, and he became okay. The person who gave him that drink was punished. We suspended him and invited the parents. In fact, the student is no longer in the school. He was a former JSS 3 student, but we punished him. It wasn’t what you called it (Colorado), but he was just misbehaving. Nothing like that has happened again.”
Another resident in the area, Bamidele Idris, however, said that when some of the students took such hard drugs, they caused unrest in the community like planning inter-school clashes.
“You will see students from Community Junior School and other schools waiting at a junction and staging fights among themselves. You cannot disconnect the fact that some of them have already taken those hard substances from the way they act and the atrocities they further perpetuate. This is why I cannot put my wards in public schools. There is little attention or close monitoring for them. They can easily mingle with hoodlums and from there, they start acting like them. You will see some of them tattered and you wonder if they are students,” Idris said.
Suggesting what could be done to salvage the situation; Idris said teachers should be well paid to enable them to perform optimally.
“I will advise that the government should adequately fund these schools and reward teachers well so that they can go the extra mile to cater for those wards at their young age. But in a country of N30,000 minimum wage and where some civil servants are even owed the little they get, how will you expect them to be very effective?” he queried.
Teenage student conceals meth
In July, 2023; the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency, arrested a teenage student, Benjamin Daberechi, with methamphetamine drugs concealed inside crayfish.
According to the anti-narcotic agency, 19-year-old Daberechi attempted to export 7.2 kilogrammes of methamphetamine concealed in a crayfish sack to Europe where he was going for undergraduate studies.
“While being interviewed by operatives, Daberechi claimed he was a student on his way to Cyprus for studies, but upon a thorough search of his luggage, he was found possessing 7.2kg of whitish substance neatly concealed inside a sack of crayfish. A field test of the substance however proved it is Methamphetamine,” the agency’s spokesperson, Femi Babafemi said in a statement.
Trafficked Imo girls
In Imo State, the NDLEA operatives while on patrol along the Aba-Owerri Expressway, rescued five pregnant teenage girls suspected to be victims of child trafficking used as a baby factory.
On September 13, 2023, the girls were picked up while being relocated from a hideout in the Naze area of Owerri to the Ikenegbu area of the state capital, Babafemi confirmed in a statement.
“The victims: Chioma Emmanuel, 15; Uma Faith, 15; Divine Adimonye, 17; Opara Gift, 15; and Amarachi Mbata, 16, in their statements, claimed they didn’t know the men who impregnated them,” the NDLEA said.
The possibility that the teenage girls could have been exposed to hard drugs by their traffickers was not dismissed by the NDLEA spokesperson, Babafemi, when contacted by our correspondent.