Dr Bala Muhammad of the Bayero University Kano, has denied blaming Igbos for the proliferation of codeine in northern Nigeria.
A recent BBC report painted a troubling picture of the codeine abuse plaguing most of Nigeria.
Codeine is the active ingredient in certain cough syrups. It causes drowsiness and could lead to other dangerous side effects when taken in large doses.
Nigerians have watched codeine go from a medication to a narcotic.
Codeine has become a feel good and ‘highness’ syrup for millions of young Nigerians, inspiring urban tunes like ‘codeine diet’ and ‘science student’.
An estimated 3 million bottles of codeine is consumed daily in two northern States of Kano and Jigawa, according to a recent report submitted to the national assembly.
Analysts say codeine abuse is most prevalent in the north of Nigeria.
In April, some online news platforms ran stories in which Dr Muhammad was quoted to have blamed drug peddlers of Igbo extraction for the prevalence of codeine abuse in the nation’s northern region.
“Our investigation revealed that drug abuse is beyond normal marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, etc. It has moved to the extent that the medicines we take in order to cure our diseases are now being converted into hard drugs”, Muhammad was quoted to have said.
The reports also quoted Muhammad as saying: “We then discovered that it is the handiwork of the Igbo people, who connive with our local people here, to supply the codeine into our region, especially into Kano state.
“There are many instances where Igbo guys were arrested for supplying codeine into Kano and some parts of the north. The cases have been reported in national dailies.
“So, why shouldn’t they take it to their region? Why don’t their youth engage in drug abuse? This is really sad, and we have to rise up to fight this menace.”
When Pulse asked Dr. Muhammad if those quotes were his, he flatly denied that he authored the comments.
“Were those your actual words, Sir?”, Pulse asked.
“No. Google my Saturday Column on Daily Trust for past 3 weeks to confirm what I did say and write. DRUGS: AREWA MUST DEFEND ITSELF and followed with reader comments on subsequent Saturdays with the same title and suffixed ½. What’s written there is what I did say. Hope you’ll do that. Best of luck”, Muhammad told Pulse.
Pulse followed Dr Muhammad’s instructions and found the article as published in the Daily Trust of April 7, 2018.
In the piece authored by Muhammad, the lecturer wondered why the drug peddlers of Igbo extraction (whose consignments of Kano bound codeine and tramadol were impounded by law enforcement) were never prosecuted.
Muhammad had written among other things:
I was quoted to have blamed a minority within a certain ethnic group of being the major suppliers of drugs to OUR, not THEIR, youths. Our youths, and us, are under siege wallahi. And the earlier we jettison all fear of Diaporic Curses by Loud-Mouthed Internet Warriors, the better for us.
Let me say this - I am Hausa-Fulani. Despite my Fulani-ness, I have time without number condemned so-called herdsmen who are mainly Fulani AND who are involved in criminal activities. I again condemn them and call on them to fear God and recant.
So, if herders are Fulani, and that’s not hate speech, I see no reason why the identity of drugs traffickers who are destroying our youths cannot be said. Every ethnic group should be courageous enough to do as much - condemn the criminal elements among them. And that’s not asking for too much.
As an academician and journalist, it comes easy, by Allah’s Leave, to be able to do some little research and follow-throughs on this matter. The following are a few illustrations:
“The Katsina State Command of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA…said it had…impounded a trailer in Dutsenreme area of Funtua loaded with 24,000 bottles…of cough syrup with codeine in a trailer from Onitsha to Funtua…Among those arrested are Christian Chukwuma and Obiora Chukwuma…”
“A hard drug (Intoxicant) supplier, identified as Stanley Arinze, has been arrested by the Kano Police Command for trying to smuggle hard drugs...The tablets worth N19, 200,000 were intercepted after being concealed inside LG Plasma TV cartons in a trailer along Kano Eastern by-pass.
The man, a native of Anambra State, reportedly supplies Tramadol tablets to Kano and Republic of Niger…” and “Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja…sentenced a man, Mr. Anthony Chidi Ikeaba, to 14 years imprisonment for unlawfully importing 1.782 kg of cocaine into the country…”
“Officials of the…NDLEA at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos prevented two Nigerians from execution in Malaysia…Onovo Sylvester Henry…and Ufiri Onyedika Emmanuel…were caught attempting to smuggle 2.575kg of methamphetamine to Malaysia where drug offences attract capital punishment. Nnamdi John Kingsley was nabbed while taking delivery of the television sets containing heroin…“ I have also asked in previous articles:
“Where is that container of tramadol intercepted a few months ago by a team of patriotic customs officers destined for No. 3, Festing Road, Sabon Gari, Kano? Where are the arrested and named traffickers Mr. Stanley Arinze, Mr. Onuchukwu Benjamin Owulu and Mr. Igboanugo Vincent Tochukwu?”
And then, if this doesn’t alarm you, nothing else will, ever! “NAFDAC has intercepted 33 containers of tramadol which were being conveyed to a yet-to-be-ascertained location in Nigeria…The disclosure was made by the NAFDAC Director-General, Prof Adeyeye, in Abuja…”
Arewa, are we also drugged? Why would we just sit down and watch people from elsewhere just come and destroy our youths in broad daylight? Why is nobody following up on these traffickers? Where are the prosecutors and the judges who are alleged to be conniving and using technicalities to release - purportedly on bail - these traffickers who more often than not are never arrested again?
The ministry of health banned the importation of codeine based syrup in the wake of the BBC documentary.
Regulatory health agencies have also been asked to up their game and rein in codeine peddlers.
The Emzor Sales Rep mentioned in the BBC documentary was immediately fired by the pharmaceutical company.