Emmanuel Onwubiko: How govt pushes citizens into drugs

The emergence in March of this year on the global scene of Covid-19 pandemic has come with devastating developments around the area of mental health.

The lockdown and restrictions imposed by many governments in a bid to check the spreading like wild fires of the pandemic are perhaps very problematic in terms of the complications that millions of people have faced around the world either for some reason not unconnected with what scholars identified as elevated rates of stress and anxiety.

Scientists also stated that as measures and impacts are introduced, especially quarantine and its effects on many peoples usual activities, routines or livelihoods , levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use, and self harm or suicidal behavior could be triggered.

In Nigeria, the above physiological impacts of the health emergency are well pronounced even as total absence of any form of palliative to the greater members of Nigerians by Nigerian government means that more Nigerians are now confronting disturbing phenomenon of mental health challenge just as addictive drugs have become rampant and are rapidly being embraced by a lot of people in a bid to beat these physiological impacts aforementioned. These mental health problems in Nigeria have added to the general health infrastructural crises afflicting the nation going by the fact that not enough efforts or commitment are energized by the National and sub national governments to find lasting panacea to the debilitating illness. Before the advent of the COVID-19 PANDEMIC in Nigeria, not a lot is known about measures by governments to tackle the challenges of mental health which has now become compounded by the CORONAVIRUS emergency. The absence of any forms of assistance to help stabilize millions of small businesses around Nigeria that were crippled by the COVID-19 PANDEMIC in Nigeria has forced a lot of people whose businesses crumbled to the miserable life of drugs.

The bad thing about the rise in drug addictions by a lot of Nigerians who are worried about survival going by their apparent abandonment by all levers of government is that the cases of mental health has become astronomical.

A Consultant Psychiatrist, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr. Dapo Adegbaju, said there must be a greater investment in mental health if Nigeria is serious about moving forward as a nation. He spoke extensively in a recent media outing where he reeled out a frightening statistics showing that 30% of Nigerian populations have mental health challenge.

Hear him: “With the socio-economic issues that we are experiencing now in the country, more people are likely to come down with various mental illnesses.

“People fall into mental challenges, depending on each individual’s breaking point. We react differently to issues and situations, but the percentage of people coming down with the disorder is increasing,” he said.

He attributed the triggers to stress, depression, stigma, poverty, lack of social support, isolation, poor antenatal care for pregnant women, anxiety, mania, bipolar disorder and substance abuse, among others.

Adegbaju, however, said mental disorder is a health challenge that can be properly managed with the right approach. No doubt, these issues elaborated by this scientist have become PERVASSIVE in Nigeria. Two years ago, Nigeria became the Poverty capital of the World, this over taking India. This means that nearly 90 million Nigerians are in absolute poverty. Nigeria’s poverty situation is induced by lack of good governance and poverty is a factor pushing people into hard drugs addictions and since the COVID-19 PANDEMIC in Nigeria brough extensive poverty, the consequence is that many more people have embraced drug addiction. This local fact has international validation going by the latest report from the World Health organisation.

The World Health Organization says the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted critical mental health services in 93 percent of countries worldwide.

While attributing its discovery to a recent survey, it disclosed that the demand for mental health is on the increase.

According to WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the survey of 130 countries provides the first global data showing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on access to mental health services and underscores the urgent need for increased funding.

“COVID-19 has interrupted essential mental health services around the world just when they are needed most. World leaders must move fast and decisively to invest more in life-saving mental health programs ̶ during the pandemic and beyond.

“And the pandemic is increasing demand for mental health services. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones,” he said.

The WHO also observed that many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety. This Global issue has also received local acclaim in Ekiti state.

The Ekiti State Government and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency(NDLEA) have said the increasing level of mental illnesses among youths due to the high spate of drug abuse is worrisome to policymakers.

They said a large percentage of those suffering all manners of mental illnesses is the result of inordinate indulgence in the consumption of illicit drugs, particularly, Indian Hemp, heroin and cocaine.

They advised the people of the state to take the issue of mental health seriously, saying mental imbalance can ruin the lives of the populace.

The Commissioner for Health, Dr Olabanji Filani and the Head of Public Affairs, NDLEA, Mr Peter Njoku, spoke in Ado Ekiti, during an event commemorating the 2020 world mental health day tagged: ‘Mental Health For All’.

These Ekiti state official and the National Drugs Laws Enforcement Agency got it wrong because they were talking about the symptoms and not the cause of the disease of drug addiction which as we have seen aforementioned has poverty pointing towards being the most dominant cause. These poverty related issues keep expanding because those wielding political powers in all levers of government have failed to stick to the law.

For instance, the Chapter 2. Section 16 . Economic Objectives Chapter 2 Section 16 of the Nigerian Constitution provides that:
“(1) The State shall, within the context of the ideals and objectives for which provisions are made in this Constitution.
(a) harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, a dynamic and self-reliant economy;
(b) control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity;
(c) without prejudice to its right to operate or participate in areas of the economy, other than the major sectors of the economy, manage and operate the major sectors of the economy;

(d) without prejudice to the right of any person to participate in areas of the economy within the major sector of the economy, protect the right of every citizen to engage in any economic activities outside the major sectors of the economy.
(2) The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring:
(a) the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development;
(b) that the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good;
(c) that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group”. These provisions are being disrespected by the officials of government. Then even as international leaders in their various nations are introducing measures to ameliorate the effects of Covid-19 on businesses, in Nigeria the government pushes more people into poverty and drugs by hiking the pump price of petrol and that of electricity power.

The British government is one of those government that is conscious of the need to provide cushions for businesses facing challenges of the Pandemic. On 9 October, the Chancellor announced further support for businesses legally required to shut under local lock-downs. This will be achieved by extending the terms of the Job Support Scheme and increasing local authority lockdown grants.

The Job Support Scheme (JSS) will replace the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme from 1 November 2020. Originally announced on 24 September to support part time workers, a second strand was added on 9 October 2020 to help businesses legally forced to close their premises due to local lockdowns (the JSSC).

As with the CJRS, both strands of the scheme support employee wages and focus on the hours that are not worked by the employee compared to their normal hours, with grants paid in arrears. Both will run for six months but will be reviewed in January 2021, so could change at that point.

A new, temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), delivered via the British Business Bank, will support SME businesses to access lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £25 million in value. All SME businesses can apply for a CBILS loan – those with a turnover of up to £45m can apply for loans up to £5m. The terms of the loans will be ‘attractive’ and the Chancellor has stated no interest will be charged for the first twelve months of the loan period. Banks will not be able to refuse to lend on the basis that businesses could borrow on normal financial terms and will not be able to insist on personal guarantees from business owners for loans of up to £250,000. For larger loans, personal guarantees will be limited to 20% of the borrowing: lenders are prevented from taking a charge over the business owner’s home. On 24 September, the Chancellor announced that the terms of the scheme were to be extended – read more.

A further Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) is to be developed for companies with turnover up to £250m to access facilities up to £25m, and larger companies to access up to £200m. The CLBILS will also feature the 80% guarantee but loans will be at commercial rates of interest.

The British Business Bank will be working with its current Enterprise Finance Guarantee delivery partners and the government to make the new schemes available and to implement the package of enhancements.

For large businesses there is also a special funding arrangement, the COVID Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), available through the Bank of England. Businesses will need to issue special 1 year corporate bonds which the Bank of England will purchase to give businesses liquidity.

For further information on the eligibility criteria, features, success rates and accessibility of the two schemes including its applicability to Private Equity portfolio companies read our article on the current debt landscape.

The Chancellor extended the package of Business Rates relief again in his announcement on 17 March. Retail businesses in England with a rateable value below £51,000 will pay no business rates for the year to 31 March 2021. This is expected to apply to up to 90% of independent shops, pubs, restaurants and other qualifying businesses.

In Nigeria, the federal ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster management due to systemic and endemic corruption failed to implement the distribution of COVID-19 palliatives to millions of poor Nigerians including even vulnerable members of the population like babies. Rather, the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster management siphoned funds provided for palliatives. Recently the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences commission ICPC indicted the Ministry for diverting over N3 billion in the name of School Feeding PROGRAMME. The failure of government to even consider practical steps to provide reliefs to women and families is in direct VIOLATION of international law protecting babies.

Specifically, the international Convention on the Rights of the Child: The children’s version says thus: 1. Definition of a child
A child is any person under the age of 18.

Article 2. says: ” No discrimination
All children have all these rights, no matter who they are, where they live, what language they speak, what their religion is, what they think, what they look like, if they are a boy or girl, if they have a disability, if they are rich or poor, and no matter who their parents or families are or what their parents or families believe or do. No child should be treated unfairly for any reason.
3. Best interests of the child
When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children. All adults should do what is best for children. Governments should make sure children are protected and looked after by their parents, or by other people when this is needed. Governments should make sure that people and places responsible for looking after children are doing a good job.
Article 4 is on Making rights real thus: “Governments must do all they can to make sure that every child in their countries can enjoy all the rights in this Convention.
5. Family guidance as children develop
Governments should let families and communities guide their children so that, as they grow up, they learn to use their rights in the best way. The more children grow, the less guidance they will need.
6. Life survival and development
Every child has the right to be alive. Governments must make sure that children survive and develop in the best possible way.”

THESE functional ways of taking people away from drugs must be implemented forthwith by the Federal and State governments.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs @www. huriwanigeria.com; www. huriwa@blogspot.com, www.thenigerianinsidernews.com.

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