Executive Director of the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) has told Members of Parliament that in 2015 some 1.5 million people were addicted to illegal drugs like cannabis sativa, locally called ‘diamba’, adding that the users were between 16 and 60 years.
During a presentation to the Internal Affairs Committee, Retired Colonel SIM Turay said that among the provisional census population of around seven million inhabitants, 22 percent of the teenage and adult population (14 years and above) are addicted to illegal drugs, adding that for a low income country with scarce resources, the menace could have devastating impact on social and economic development.
“This is also destroying the very fabric of the country’s proud cultural heritage and tradition. If Sierra Leone’s Agenda for Prosperity is a reflection of the country’s history, culture, tradition and level of development, is the notorious illegal drugs trade not seriously undermining Sierra Leone’s development and long term stability,” he asked and added that drug culture in the country was visible as cannabis smokers are found in almost all spheres in society.
He claimed there was hardly any distinction between elites, the middle-class, ordinary man or woman in the street and the innocent. “Looking at school going teenagers, some as young as 13 years are in the business of smoking cannabis. Sierra Leonean culture has also witnessed a dramatic upheaval. Once upon a time respect for the elderly and civilised behaviour, norms every Sierra Leonean was proud of, are now things of the past. Teenagers and the young who constitute the majority of the population are very insolent, behave badly at home and in public and quickly turn violent. The psyche of our young population has undergone such a dramatic transformation, civilised behaviour and respect for the law and order matters little or nothing at all,” said the retired military officer.
“Cannabis smokers abound everywhere with hard core criminals, some as young as 16 years. And with the proliferation of competing teenage gangs, minor confrontations quickly turn violet, sometimes resulting in fatal stab wounds. The tribal rebel war apart, our country has never been gripped by such lawlessness since ancient times,” he said.
Earlier, Acting Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Amadu Kanu said the purpose of the meeting was for the agency to submit a comprehensive status report of their activities in the financial year 2015 to 2016 and to also elaborate on challenges and successes.
Hon. Francis Kowa of constituency 107 in the Western Urban Area commended the agency for what he said was their hard work despite the challenges they face as an institution, adding that they should foster collaboration with other stakeholders in a bid to tackle drug addiction in the country.