The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency says its custody facilities are not necessarily punitive but serve as places where drug users are kept for counselling and rehabilitation.
The NDLEA Director of Media and Advocacy, FemI Babafemi, told the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos on Friday that such a place would help to wean users off drugs.
Babafemi said in the wake of recurring cases of drug demand, the agency puts efforts in saving susceptible persons from drug addiction.
He said some drug users were merely victims and quite a number of factors, including socio-economic, were contributory to their plight.
According to him, some users who have no jobs often resort to drugs to get over their pressures, adding that the NDLEA works with relevant government agencies to ensure such persons are rehabilitated.
He said: “We work with relevant government agencies for post rehabilitation; we also make sure that they are handed over to relevant agencies for possible empowerment.
“For instance, we visited Lagos State Government weeks ago with the Chairman; we met with the Governor and even went ahead to the rehabilitation center at Isheri where we interacted with officials.
“All of these are meant to take care of some issues raised, so that we can partner the state government and its agencies.
“While we do our bids, some of these people rescued will be prepared to face the future which is post rehabilitation; we can have the relevant government agencies to refer them.
“In essence, some of the detention may not really be punitive in itself, but to take care of them; kit, rehabilitate and reintegrate them back to society in a manner that they will be useful to themselves, their families and communities.”
The Media Director told NAN that NDLEA was working with relevant government agencies, but may not have the means to empower rehabilitated drug users or provide them with requisite skills or capital to reintegrate post rehabilitation.
“This is the reason the agency works in partnership with state governments and other government agencies that has this responsibility,” he said.
Babafemi further said the NDLEA was also promoting the culture of drug testing for early detection of those already in the habit of abusing drugs.
He said this would enable an early detection, treatment and rehabilitation of such individuals, adding that there are already good feedbacks and reception from the public.
He said: “Just last week, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a firm that is ready to supply NDLEA with test kits free of charge.
“This will enable us do the test across board and some government agencies and institutions are already inviting NDLEA for this.”
He noted that in some cases, suspects who were arrested on the streets with insignificant volumes of drugs are often not prosecuted but taken in for counselling.
Also, an NDLEA Prosecutor, Jeremiah Aernan, said there was a distinction between drug users in custody of the NDLEA and those who had left its custody.
Aernan told NAN that for those in NDLEA custody, the agency carried out rehabilitation and counselling.
“Apart from those charged to court, there is a unit that deals with that department which is the Drug Demand Reduction Unit.
“Before people are even prosecuted or arrested at all, that same department goes out for public enlightenment in schools, churches and work places on demand.
“Where such people leave NDLEA and are on remand or are convicted, that becomes a complete function of the Nigeria Correctional Service.”
The prosecutor added that once a suspect was charged, remanded in custody or convicted by the court, the NDLEA no longer had any role to play.