By Ifeanyi Nwoko
The Senate has developed and is set to initiate two draft bills for legislation to tackle the menace of drug abuse in the country, especially among youth.
The bills are coming as the outcome of the roundtable convened by the President of the Senate, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, in December 2017 in Kano on the rising spate of drug abuse in the country,
The proposed bills are: National Drug Control Bill and National Mental Health Bill.
A statement by the Media Office of the President of the Senate said the Drug Control Bill seeks to clarifies the mandate and strengthen the capacity of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) and other relevant law enforcement and regulatory bodies to eradicate the illicit production, and trafficking of controlled substances.
It also seeks to establish a central mechanism to facilitate collaboration among law enforcement, regulatory and public health authorities in line with the National Drug Control Policy.
The Bill further focuses on proactive law enforcement and regulatory measures towards the eradication of the illicit importation, production and trafficking of controlled substances.
It also criminalizes the diversion, distribution or otherwise dispensing of controlled substances without a prescription or license
In recognition of the fact that psychosocial issues are the key drivers for the abuse of psychoactive substance, the mental health Bill was crafted to ensure that standard facilities are available in every state to provide mental health and substance abuse services.
The proposed law guarantees the protection of the rights of people with mental illness and stipulates that mental health practitioners and facilities no longer engage in practices that are harmful to people with mental health and substance use disorders.
In recognizing the low number of mental health practitioners in the country with the ratio of practitioners at one psychiatrist to 1.6 million people, the draft law makes provision for quality mental health and substance abuse services available for women and adolescents, who are an underserved segment of the population.
Commenting on the draft bills, Saraki said a provision for stiffer sanctions would be made in the bills as proactive mechanism in the prevention of drug trafficking and abuse.
He pledged the commitment of the Senate in the speedy passage of the bills to give a legal framework to help mitigate drug abuse in the country.