The Federal Government says it is taking practical steps to address the problem of drug and substance abuse, among vulnerable young people using the instrumentality of its At-Risk-Children Programme(ARC-P).
Mrs Maryam Uwais, Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs Maryam Uwais, who is also the National Lead of ARC-P, disclosed this is a statement on Tuesday in Abuja.
ARC-P is an initiative of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration facilitated by the Office of the Vice President.
Uwais, who spoke at the opening of a two-day Stakeholders’ Workshop to inaugurate the implementation of ARC-P in Niger, regretted the spate of substance abuse among young people across the country.
She said that the Federal Government, working with the NDLEA, UNODC and other relevant stakeholders, was making the necessary Interventions to discourage the illicit and distressing habit and practice.
Uwais said that with the support of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency(NDLEA), ARC-P had since created a national desk that was working with the state offices of the programme to sensitise young people on the many dangers of substance abuse.
According to her, the programme is also putting in place support structures to assist and rehabilitate those who are 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 ARC-P, we have a very senior, experienced and vibrant official from NDLEA who has been accompanying us to engage youths already using illicit drugs.
”(This is) 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.
The presidential aide, who made a presentation on the roadmap and objectives of ARC-P to the stakeholders in Niger, said the programme was anchored on seven pillars.
She said that the pillars were strategically designed to empower the beneficiaries with basic education and life skills that would help them productively engage and take ownership of their lives.
“We are not looking at replacing what is happening in primary schools rather we are working with UBEC, 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,” she said.
In her remarks, Wife of the Governor of Niger, Dr Amina Bello, appreciated 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.
Bello expressed optimism that ARC-P would have a great impact in Niger as she projected that over 105 vulnerable children would benefit from the programme in the first two stages of implementation
She decried the high-level of substance abuse by young people in Niger, expressing confidence that much of the problem would be addressed with the ARC-P strategic Intervention.
Ahmed Matane, Secretary to the Government of Niger State, was among top government officials who attended the opening of the two-day workshop.