THE Federal Government says it is taking practical steps to address the problem of drug and substance abuse, particularly among vulnerable young people using the instrumentality of its At-Risk-Children Programme, an initiative of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)’s administration, facilitated by the office of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
Speaking on Tuesday at the opening of a two-day stakeholders’ workshop to begin the implementation of ARC-P in Niger State, the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, who is also the National Lead of the ARC-P, lamented the spate of substance abuse among young people across the country, saying the central government, working with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime and other relevant stakeholders, was making the necessary interventions to discourage the distressing habit.
Uwais stated that with the support of the NDLEA, the ARC-P has since created a National desk that is working with the state offices of the programme to sensitise young people on the many dangers of substance abuse while putting in place support structures to assist and rehabilitate those who were already addicted.
“I should mention that substance abuse is like the elephant in the room in efforts to tackle the vulnerabilities associated with youth. We find too many young people, including women indulging in this unacceptable behavior even in our rural communities. Those who cannot afford the expensive heroine and cocaine quickly go for cheaper alternatives that are readily available. Interestingly, in the ARC-P, we have a very senior, experienced and vibrant official from the NDLEA, who has been accompanying us to engage youths already using illicit drugs, with a view to dissuading them from the unwholesome practice by providing them with viable alternatives in the form of skills acquisition to enable them become productive,” Uwais said.
The presidential aide, who made a presentation on the roadmap and objectives of ARC-P to the stakeholders gathered for the workshop in Niger State, said the programme was anchored on seven pillars strategically designed to empower the beneficiaries with basic education and life skills that would help them productively engage and take ownership of their lives.
Uwais, who underscored the importance of education in the mental development of the child, told the gathering that the ARC-P initiative wa not creating anything new, noting that the programme would continue to leverage the existing structures across the states and the Federal Capital Territory to deliver on its mandate of addressing the cross-cutting concerns of out-of-school-children and vulnerable young people.
“We are not looking at replacing what is happening in primary schools, rather we are working with the Universal Basic Education Commission, using their Master Trainers on an intense curriculum that introduces basic literacy and numeracy to these children. It is important for those who have never been to school to connect with classroom activities so this ‘pre-induction’ interim course facilitates a basic appreciation of the critical elements for such children. Again, let me emphasise that we are not trying to take away the Islamic education already being taught the children currently in Tsangaya schools because Islamic knowledge is critical to our faith, imbibing the foundational values for life. We are only trying to ensure that they are empowered with the knowledge that would enable them to become more productive in a rapidly developed and highly competitive world. It is important that the children have skills to help them brace up to the challenges of this high-tech era”
In her remaks, the wife of the Governor of Niger State, Dr. Amina Bello, appreciated President Buhari for the ARC-P initiative which birthed the partnership in addressing the plight of out-of-school children and vulnerable youth in the state, saying the state which was already taking steps in the direction remained open to innovative ideas and solutions to address the conditions of children-at-risk in the state.
Secretary to the Government of Niger State, Ahmed Matane was among top government officials who attended the opening of the two-day workshop organised to get stakeholders’ input and draw a roadmap to facilitate smooth and strategic implementation of the At-Risk-Children Programme in Niger State.