The venue for Tuesday’s celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Centre for Corrections and Human Development (CCHD) was the impressive Fountain of Life Church, Youth Hall in Ilupeju, in Lagos. The celebration coincided with the celebration of International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
The theme for this year’s event was: “Drug Demand Reduction in a depressed economy: prevention and intervention approaches.”
In attendance were members of the Board of CCHD led by the President, Barrister Martin Akpaka as well as the directors of the Bimbo Odukoya Foundation, Directors of the African-British Diaspora Returnees Organization, as well as representatives of Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Youth Development and Representatives from the Ministry of Health.
The Chief Psychologist at the Kirikiri Maximum Security and Correctional Centre was also in attendance as well as many experts in the field of mental health. The keynote was delivered by Mrs. Comfort Okonkwo, the assistant Director of Clinical Psychology at the Neuro Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba.
There were also students from Kings’ College Lagos, De Bright College, Ilupeju Senior and Junior Grammar Schools and others. Many of the students showed much interest and enthusiasm in the event. Actually, one of the key takeaways was the moment the Master of Ceremony, Godwin Nzekwe, invited some students to share with the audience some of the ways they communicate among themselves, to keep their parents out of their loop. Remarkably, none of the parents who were present could decipher the coded terms used by these young people until they explained the meaning of their coded expressions. It was quite revealing as parents present saw more than ever before the need to truly be friends with their children so that when situations arise which could tempt them to consider drug abuse, they will run first to their parents to ask for help.
Following the keynote, a panel comprising mental health experts, which was moderated by Mr. Rotimi Aroge discussed the theme in detail. This was followed by question and answers after which Mrs.
Obioma Agoziem, the Chief Executive Officer of CCHD invited members of the audience to support the CCHD-Rehabilitation Centre. She had earlier provided details of the 10year journey, including some highs and lows and why CCHD decided to establish a Rehabilitation Centre. The 5-bedroom duplex, which CCHD has already acquired, requires furnishing for it to be put to effective use. The calls have been relentless and she is convinced that if the Rehab Centre was fully furnished today, it will begin receiving clients immediately. The needs of the Rehab Centre range from office and home furniture, computers, cookers, refrigerators and freezers, fans, food, toiletries, beddings, etc. Mrs. Agoziem asked for the items instead of cash donations! She welcomed interested persons to continue engagement with CCHD using the website and the different social media platforms.
One of the top moments of the celebration was the presentation of a fully-reintegrated former inmate at the Kirikiri Maximum Correctional Centre. He went into prison with only a school certificate qualification but obtained his BSc while serving time at the Kirikiri Correctional Centre. Today, he is an employer of labour who is living in his own house. He is a landlord! He went to great lengths to acknowledge the role played by CCHD. His was one of the many numerous stories of transformation associated with the CCHD. Thousands of young people have been impacted in the last ten years and many are still being impacted by the different programs of the CCHD.
One of the guests at the event wished young people would take more active part in the fight to radically reduce the incidence of drug use. Actually, he wished they would own the fight seeing that they are the principal persons at the center of the fight. Why can they not use their technological prowess and interests to enlist creative technologies in the fight? Why can they not creatively engage some of their ‘idols’ or ‘models’ who glamourize the use of drugs like marijuana and make it look ‘cool’ to use drugs? Some of the biggest influencers of young people in the area of drug use are big time entertainers and award-winning artists? How can young people respectfully challenge these persons and make them see that using drugs is uncool rather than cool?
Can the government not introduce some kind of whistle-blowing program for young people with regards to their friends or those they observe using drugs, like the other whistleblowing program of the government? What kinds of incentive may be given to young people to convert them into more active partners in the fight to eliminate illegal use of drugs? This matter of incentive is one that certainly requires further interrogation.
Something else that requires further interrogation is the ambivalence or double-speak of those who condemn marijuana on one hand and who on the other hand, are talking about legalizing its use so that the country can earn foreign exchange from its sale abroad. Are political leaders giving sufficient thought to the implications of this ambivalence on young people and the overall fight against drug abuse and illicit trafficking?