Borno Youths’ Craze For Fermented Urine Frustrates War Against Substance Abuse

Drug Abuse
Drug Abuse

Amid its fight against illicit drug use and trafficking, and the achievements recorded, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency is grappling with the rising and seemingly intractable use of unconventional substances among youths in Borno State, UTHMAN ABUBAKAR writes

Throughout Abdullahi Sardauna’s long years of service as an anti-narcotics operative, nothing seemed more disappointing than the fact that he could not violate the privacies of people’s homes in search of youths lifting the lids of pit latrines first thing in the morning to sniff the steamy stench emanating from the depths to derive some psychotropic satisfaction.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act limits his operation to conventional drugs like cocaine, heroin, cannabis sativa, cough syrup with codeine, ICE, tramadol, Rohypnol, diazepam, pentazocine and all other related drugs.

It does not empower him to trespass into homes, fishing out youths taking unconventional substances like stagnant water from gutters (also known as ‘gutter juice’ among addicts), lizard dung, a brand of soft drink mixed with food seasonings or methylated spirit to get high on.

Sardauna cannot identify and arrest youths sniffing the content of one of the most popular and most-trusted antibiotic capsules or fermenting their urine for about 10 days and drinking or sniffing it.

The NDLEA operative was even more pained by the helplessness of the agency, as it grievingly watched the consumers of such unconventional psychotropic substances, unable to clamp down on them with the force of the law.

Lately, the consumption of such psychotropic substances among Nigerian youths has spread like bushfire, creating a frightening challenge to Nigeria’s anti-narcotic war.

In February 2022, the North-East Forum of Secretaries of State Government expressed worry over the 2018 statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Narcotics which placed the region at a 13.6 per cent drug prevalence rate.

The forum’s Chairman and Secretary to the Gombe State Government at that time, Prof Ibrahim Njodi, said, “The statistics are glaring for Nigeria and the region.

“Highest levels of drug use is among those aged 25 to 39 years; one in five persons who had used drugs is suffering from drug use disorder.

“In the North, the North-East has the highest prevalence rate of 13.6 per cent (over three million people) which is disturbing and we have to note that this is in 2018. It is not in doubt that the figure may have increased significantly.”

Worried by the problem, the Senate in October 2023, called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in response to the escalating crisis of drugs and narcotics abuse within Nigeria.

Speaking during deliberation on a motion titled, “Immediate Intervention Required to Combat Drug Abuse in Nigeria” during its plenary session, Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, expressed concern that some young individuals had resorted to drilling holes in soakaway pits to inhale vapours

Also, the Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, underscored the significance of a country’s youth in its future.

He said, “The future of every country lies in its youth and when you have something that is destroying your youth, it shows that your future is in jeopardy.”

However, to nip the growing menace in the bud, the agency chose to diversify the drug war from fighting with the weapon of the law to public sensitisation campaigns on the attendant health hazards in the use of not just the common banned substances but also the unconventional ones.

“We have observed that drug and substance abuse is on the rapid increase not just across the North-East but the entire country,” the Borno State Commandant of the NDLEA, Ilyasu Mani, told Sunday PUNCH on the sidelines of a youth sensitisation programme against substance abuse in Maiduguri recently.

“More disturbing is the consumption of unconventional substances, many of them conventional household edibles, by youths to achieve some psychotropic satisfaction,” he lamented.

Fermented urine, ‘gutter juice’

Mani continued, “Some youths ferment their urine for five to 10 days, and then drink it or soak their handkerchiefs with it and sniff it. Some drink gutter waste water or dip their hands right to the bottom of the gutter, scoop the sand at the bottom, tie it in their handkerchiefs and then sniff it; this is apart from sniffing the hot steam of the pit latrine every morning.”

He further disclosed youths across the country had formed the habit of consuming various substances for psychotropic satisfaction largely because they were accessible at no financial cost.

“Our law does not cover such substances. We can only, therefore, mount sensitisation campaigns to draw the attention of parents and the governments about the frightening trend,” the senior anti-narcotics officer said.

“This is the only action we can take now but the problem with sensitisation is that it is not as forceful as the law because parents and the youths are at liberty to heed sensitisation or not; the law enforces compliance.”

As part of what he observed as the solution, he said Nigeria must first admit that it had a frightening problem threatening the sanity and capacity of the larger component of the society – the youths.