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NDLEA warns against calling drug victims addicts

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has warned against calling victims of drug misuse addicts, noting that such description is derogatory.

Spokespersons of the agency told PUNCH HealthWise that continual use of such appellation could further expose drug victims to stigmatisation.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in its latest World Drug Report estimated that about 35 million people suffer from drug use disorders globally.

In the report, the UNODC identified cannabis as the most widely used drug globally, adding that an estimated 188 million people have used the drug in 2017.

Speaking with our correspondent, NDLEA national spokesman, Jonah Achema stressed that describing an average drug offender as ‘addict’ is stigmatizing.

While conceding that engaging in drugs and other harmful substances is truly an ignoble act, he explained that many of the offenders were often victims of circumstance.

“Yes, I agree that it is an ignoble act. But those who use those drugs are victims, not offenders! Victims of any form need sympathy, empathy, help and not discrimination or stigmatization.

“I am speaking from the global best practices perspective! Except I find out from lawyers (if it’s otherwise)!” he said.

His position was corroborated by Lagos State Command’s spokesman of the NDLEA, Superintendent of Narcotics, Malum Musa.

According to Musa, the NDLEA has stopped the description of drug victims as addicts.

“We have stopped using the word ‘addicts’ in NDLEA a long time ago because it is derogatory. They are often referred to as victims or clients. Even in court, we don’t call them addicts or suspect. They are simply called defendants,” he said.

He said the change became necessary in compliance to reform made by the administration of the Criminal Justice Act 2015.

In the said Justice Act, Part 20 talks about “description of persons in the criminal process” while Part 29 harps more on “Persons of unsound mind.”

The purpose of the legislation, highlighted in the explanatory memorandum of the document, is to express that the system of administration of criminal justice in Nigeria promotes efficient management of criminal justice institutions, speedy dispensation of justice, protection of the society from crime and the protection of rights and interest of the suspect, the defendant and the victim.

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