Speaking the Nations Mind

Obasanjo Asks Governments To Legalise Drugs Use

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West African governments should overhaul their drug laws to decriminalise personal use and prioritise treatment as a response to rising substance abuse in the region, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo said on Tuesday.

In an interview before he was due to present a model drug law to regional officials in Senegal, Obasanjo urged authorities to channel resources into fighting large-scale trafficking, which he said was undermining regional democracy.

The use of substances like cocaine, heroin and amphetamines is rising in West Africa despite strict drugs laws. Countries that once served primarily as transit points for trade between South America and Europe are now active consumer markets.

“All of us in West Africa know now that drugs are not just in transit through our countries. Our youth are becoming more and more consumers, even some form of drugs are being produced,” Obasanjo said.

In 2016, the last year for which data was available, Africa registered the second-highest growth in cocaine seizures behind Asia, according to the United Nations. Abuse of opioids, particularly the cheap painkiller Tramadol, has become a major health crisis in Nigeria and neighbouring countries.

The recommendations by Obasanjo’s West Africa Commission on Drugs come as a number of countries look to decriminalise drug use, especially marijuana, after decades of enforcement appear to have done little to curb it.

Canada legalised recreational marijuana in June and most U.S. states have legalised the drug for medical or recreational use. Prominent political figures have also called for decriminalisation in Mexico and Brazil in recent years.

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