The Mkpurummiri Challenge among Anambra Youths

There is a growing addiction to hard drugs, especially methamphetamine (mkpurummiri) by rural youths in Anambra State, but communities and youth leaders in the state have risen to fight the hydra headed monster which is known to be the root cause of armed robbery, rape and other crimes, reports Ikeugonna Eleke.

In a drinking joint (pub) in Awka, two young men occupied a table, close to this reporter. Their discussion was about a certain Vivian. One of the men told his friend that he believed Vivian (supposedly his girlfriend) was not normal.

‘She spent a night in my place the other day, and all through, I noticed she never slept,’ the man complained, saying that at about 2am, she woke him up and said she thought there was someone outside the door who was trying to burgle the house.

The youngman said he stayed awake for a while and noticed nothing, and as he made to go to bed again, Vivian looked through the window and said she was seeing a lot of people trooping into the compound. He tried observing too but saw nothing.

This reporter listened as the young man’s friend questioned him if he observed Vivian take anything that was not what he offered her. The conclusion was that Vivian might be on a hard drug.

The case of Vivian is the same as those of many young people today, including ladies. Investigation by Fides showed that there are a lot of substances young people take to heighten their level of happiness and most of them, even though dangerous to their health and body organs, also give them a false sense of happiness, as much  as causing them hallucinations, as could be found with Vivian.

Merely unwrapping some pieces of Tom Tom sweets into a bottle of Lacasera drink, it has been discovered, has been used by youths to give themselves a false sense of highness, just as pawpaw leaves soaked in hypo bleach, or urine collected and left for days can also intoxicate.

Methamphetamine is one of such substances and checks showed that the substance, also called crystal meth, glass or ice, has also acquired a local name; Mkpurummiri. It has proven to be the most commonly used among hard drugs today and is now very rampant in communities in Anambra State.

Investigation showed that it has same effect as cocaine, but even though it is much more destructive and addictive, it is far more cheaper.

Over to NDLEA. They have not concluded,’Ogbaji said, while talking to a source who spoke to Fides in Awka said Mkpurummiri had the same level of addiction like cocaine but noted that what was more fascinating about mkpurummiri was that it was cheap.

‘This makes it even more addictive than cocaine. This is because it is very highly affordable. For just N500, you can buy a dose of mkpurummiri or even more, depending on how much the dealer sells it in your area,’ the source said.

How Mkpurummiri is taken

Fides gathered from investigation that there are several ways of consuming the hard drug. A young lady who spoke to Fides on condition of anonymity said some local and unprepared users who take the drug for the first time use a foil to wrap the hard drug before using a lighter to melt it and then make a hole in the foil through which they slot a pipe to sniff the drug.

It was also gathered that some people preferred to melt it, then use syringes to inject it in their bodies. ‘This method is mostly used by those who have become so reliant on the drug. Others just melt it and sniff it. But people who are accustomed to it acquire a glass pipe with which they consume it, while others use electric bulbs which heads have been removed to melt and sniff it,’ the source further said.

How is mkpurummiri manufactured?

Mkpurummiri is a synthetic (man-made) chemical, unlike cocaine, for instance, which comes from a plant. It is commonly manufactured in illegal, hidden laboratories; mixing various forms of amphetamine (another stimulant drug) or derivatives with other chemicals to boost its potency.

Fides gathered that common pills for cold remedies are often used as the basis for the production of the drug. The meth “cook” extracts ingredients from those pills and to increase its strength, combines the substance with chemicals such as battery acid, drain cleaner, lantern fuel and antifreeze, to manufacture it.

It comes in clear crystal chunks or shiny blue-white rocks. Usually, users smoke mkpurumiri with a small glass pipe, but they may also swallow it, snort it, or inject it into a vein. Experts say its users have a quick rush of euphoria shortly after taking it, but it is dangerous and can damage one’s body and cause severe psychological problems.

The War against Mkpurummiri

The high number of cult activities, rape and armed robbery has been attributed to abuse of the substance. This has triggered a total declaration of war on it by most communities in Anambra State. Many communities are curently fighting the use of the drug in the state and they include: Enugwu-Agidi, Ekwulobia, Umudioka, Oba, Obosi, and many more.

Declaring war on the drug, the indigenes of Umudioka, a community in Dunukofia Local Government Area of Anambra State, through a press statement signed by the President-General, Umudioka Improvement Union, Chike Odoji, said indigenes and non-indigenes resident in Umudioka were prohibited from taking mkpurummiri, Indian hemp and any other illegal substances, all of which had been coded in local palance by their consumers.

The statement read, ‘This is to announce to all indigenes of Umudioka and non-indigenes living in Umudioka that henceforth consumption, smoking and selling of Mkpurummiri; Isi na Awa Agu;AjuAchuEnwe; Stonch; Indian hemp; and other substances/illicit drugs have been proscribed in Umudioka and her environs.

‘Soonest, UIU (Umudioka Improvement Union) in conjunction with NDLEA, anti-cult and other relevant law enforcement agencies, will commence a manhunt for all the dealers and consumers within Umudioka. You are therefore advised to stay away from any known bunk that deals on the above-prohibited items. We will not spare anyone once apprehended, no matter how highly placed.’

If youths of Umudioka were lucky to get a warning, then, some drug addicts in other communities were not, as a war on users was immediately declared and suspects rounded up for interrogation and punishment.

The trend in many communities in Anambra State is the flogging of consumers, and on a daily basis, videos of youths who have been apprehended, tied up in trees or pillars at village squares of village halls, have been surfacing on the social media.

Anayo Nwafor, a young man in his 20s in Enugwu-Agidi, is one of the unlucky users of Mkpurumiri. Fides gathered that in early November when the community declared war on consumers of mkpurummiri, Anayo was among several youths apprehended for being addicted to the drug.

The punishment is usually flogging, and right at the village square, youths tied Anayo and flogged him to unconsciousness. He later died as a result of the flogging.

Leaders of Enugwu-Agidi who addressed journalists in a press conference in Awka told the sad story of the painful demise of Anayo. The Enugwu-Agidi Town Union National Public Relations Officer, Hon. Dumebi Onubuiyi, told journalists that the town union had embarked on peace missions across the community since it came into office a few weeks ago, until the incident of the death of the youth occurred in the community last week.

‘We heard of the sad event that took place concerning one AnayoNwafor that was apprehended with illicit drug material; the one that they call Mkpulummiri. The youths instead of consulting us, manhandled him and he eventually gave up the ghost.

‘The boys that are involved are youths of the community. We are trying to lay our hands on them to hear from them. But since this sad event happened, they have not been seen anywhere. We have involved the police, the DSS and other security agencies on the matter,’ he said.

Also last Saturday, November 20, youths of Ekwulobia inAguata LGA also went to town and waged a war against the hard drug. Fides gathered from a resident of the community, AfamOgbaji, that four youths were arrested by members of the town’s central vigilante, and were currently at the town hall where their matter was being deliberated as at the time of filing this report.

‘There are some communities in Ekwulobia that have very notorious drug joints. Those are the villages where you will find some of the craziest youths in Ekwulobia. I joined them to a raid of one of the villages, but I later left when the Central Vigilante were going to another village.

Right now, four youths have so far been arrested. I hear that while some people want them to be flogged, others are asking that they should be handed  to Fides. The effort has been sustained  on a daily basis as reports of communities’ fight against the scourge keep coming in.

Views of Stakeholders

Meanwhile, some stakeholders have condemned the flogging of addicts, saying that flogging is not a form of rehabilitation for drug addicts. Former Senator representing Anambra South and the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the just concluded election, Senator Andy Uba, has added his voice on how he feels the scourge can be tamed.

Uba in a press statement he published on his verified Facebook page said: ‘One of the greatest threats today in Igbo Land, especially in our dear state, Anambra, is drug abuse among youths. Various communities’ youth leadership have adopted flogging anyone found to be taking the MET (Mkpulummiri).

‘The question has been if such beating solves or stops someone that is already addicted to that. My view is that we should embark on advocacy, reorientation and rehabilitation programmes among other things, as approach against the new threat from consumption of ‘Mkpulummiri’. The government and civil society organizations should lead this strategy.

‘In Anambra State, ministries of health, youth, women’s affairs, LGAs,etc, should synergize and coordinate the advocacy, reorientation and rehabilitation of youths on the issue of Mkpulummiri menace. In Anambra State, we have in existence, a well-organized local community administrative system (town union).

Community system, which remains a major means through which the above listed state government ministries and civil organizations can effectively manage the growing Mkpulummiri abuse in the state.

‘The rehabilitation content should accommodate training them on various skills for productive purposes.We cannot be facing such challenge and the state government agencies that should initiate intervention will be busy in Awka while the labour force of the state is under threat due to drug abuse. You cannot separate the growing consumption of Mkpulummiri from violent crime that is creeping into our state.

‘There is need for the government to takeover the narrative on the issue of Mkpulummiri in the state. If Awka is too busy to look into the happenings in various communities, why not devolve powers to LGAs who are closer to the people? I therefore, call for a new policy regime in confronting this threat as flogging mkpulummiri users won’t solve the scary challenge in Igboland,’ SenatorUba said.

Mr Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State, has also waded into the matter. Obi in a press release decried the scourge, while proffering solutions to the problem. He said, ‘It would be irresponsible on the parts of the elders to keep quiet in the face of the ugly stories emanating from different parts of the country on the new trend on hard drugs among Nigerian youths.

While commending various groups that have spoken on the menace, especially some towns that have been trying different methods to arrest the disturbing trend, I call on the NDLEA to devise a new strategy that will involve working closely with the government of various town unions across Nigeria towards arresting the new development.

‘I recognize the great efforts the NDLEA is making in the fight against drug abuse, but the rapidity and openness with which the youths are  embracing the condemnable acts is a sign that something is fundamentally wrong with society and I call on society to seek and correct those fundamental wrongs as a lasting panacea to the menace.

The United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC) has earlier reported that Nigeria has the highest drug abuse prevalence in the world, with 14.4 per cent of Nigerians presently engaged in drug abuse.

The situation will possibly be worse now with the recent spate of drug abuse among Nigerian youths. A timely action by the government and the concerned agencies will help save the youths from the ugly trend,’ Obi concluded.

Also reacting, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has threatened to go after distributors and consumers of the hard drug in the Southeast. The group described the development as very strange and completely unacceptable. In a statement by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, IPOB blamed security agents for the drugs’ prevalence in the North, vowing not to allow same in the Southeast.

While accusing some security agencies of complicity in the racketeering of the hard drug, the separatist group called on communities to ensure they reported those involved in the madness to its office for proper torturing.

The statement partly reads, ‘We note with utter displeasure, a very ugly and disturbing trend among some youths in Biafra Land who have resorted to the consumption of the destructive hard drug, Methamphetamine, popularly known as Mkpurummiri.

This development is very strange and completely unacceptable. It is this same hard drug that renders Almajiris in the North useless, and we won’t allow this madness to creep in or fester among Biafran youths.

‘IPOB hereby declares war against this nonsense. We shall go after those taking or distributing this harmful illicit drug. Henceforth, anyone found peddling, consuming or in any way involved in the distribution of this illicit drug shall be decisively dealt with.

Biafran youths are known for their enterprising spirit, entrepreneurship and diligence. IPOB will not allow evil men and unpatriotic elements to ruin or destroy the future of our youths with Mkpurummiri. While we commend communities who have already risen to curb this evil, we solicit useful information about those behind the distribution of this illicit drug so we will teach them in the language they understand.’

What are the Authorities Doing?

Fides visited several government institutions to find out what they were doing to arrest the scourge of hard drug in society. The Commissioner for Health, Dr Vincent Okpala, said that a small ministerial committee had been put together to study and design a community based intervention plan for the ongoing epidemic.

‘Our design will involve every political ward and draw support from relevant law enforcement agencies like NDLEA, police and civil defence.With respect to treatment, the state’s psychiatric hospital is available. We have also reached out to state based clinical psychologists to explore adaptable CBT programmes.

‘Cutting the supply chain is key. His Excellency (Governor Obiano) is committed to sanitizing our drug distribution system in line with national drug distribution policy. Achieving the Coordinated Wholesale Center in Anambra as intentioned by the Federal Government will truly help us achieve the latter and the government is committed to this,’ Okpala explained.

The state police command also expressed worry about the new trend and said it was working to ensure that the scourge of the drug in the state was broken. The Police Public Relations Officer of the Command, DSP TochukwuIkenga, while interacting with Fides, said, ‘Drugs are the oxygen that drive most crimes and bad behaviour exhibited by individuals. It is an unfortunate situation that youths engage in drug taking to serve whatever purpose or satisfaction.

‘The Anambra State Police Command has frowned on this ugly development and we have since joined a deliberate programme by the police high command called Police Campaign Against Cultism and Other Vices (POCAVCO), a programme targeted to sensitize the youths on the dangers of drugs and others vices. We are also planning town hall meetings in different communities, among other strategies to deal with the situation.’

Meanwhile, the job of fighting drug circulation rests squarely on the shoulders of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). A visit by Fides to the Anambra office of the agency was unsuccessful. It was gathered that the public relations officer of the command was away on a course in Jos, while the commander of the agency had been transferred outside the state. A staff member who refused to disclose his name said the new commander just arrived the state and had not even started work.

‘She is a woman, and most of us have not met her yet. You may need to give her some time to settle down,’ she said.