Drug lords on campus

■ Students prepare pepper soup, noodles with Indian hemp

By Bianca Iboma and Ileme Chidiebele

A growing addiction among students in tertiary institutions would shock many parents. In several public and private tertiary institutions, marijuana and other drugs have become spices for food. After the day’s hectic academic work, students addicted to these drugs retire to their hostel for a treat.  They eat jollof rice cooked with Indian hemp and wash it down with fruit juice spiked with other hard drugs.
Campus Sun investigation revealed the ungoldy world of several students in both public and private tertiary institutions who live on drug. They attend lectures dutifully in the day, but sneak into their closet at night to befuddle their brains with drugs. Like a strange fiction, pepper soup, rice, beans or noodles spiced with Indian hemp has become favourite dish on campus. The meal is often shared among close friends in their rooms, thereby making it difficult for university security personnel to detect the crime.
Findings revealed that lots of male students living off campus play a fast game by preparing pepper soup with Indian hemp to entertain their female visitors. These innocent girls, who carelessly walk into the trap, often have sad stories to tell. To worsen the situation, female victims get so confused about what actually transpired, thereby making it difficult to press charges of sexual harassment against their randy hosts.
Some of the students hooked on drugs, who spoke to Campus Sun on the condition of anonymity, claimed that the preparing pepper soup, rice, noodles or beans with Indian hemp has no health risk. They said the dish improves their sleeping time and reduces the stress of academic work. Eating the dish, they claimed, brings a feeling of euphoria and a deep urge to sleep after the day’s work.
Few weeks ago, the President, Women Arise for Change Initiative and prominent human rights activist, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin joined students of Mariere Hall, University of Lagos (UNILAG) in a rally organised to promote drug-free life on campus.  She said the campaign was timely and geared towards encouraging youths to desist from substance abuse.
“We cannot continue to lose our youths to the ruins caused by serial use of hard drugs. Sometimes our young boys and girls take drugs and narcotics to alleviate pain but most of the times to get a thrill at the persuasion of their friends. By and by they become addicted to this bad habit,” she said.
She noted that the growing addiction to drugs by youngsters could be blamed on lack of parental love and care. She explained that the economic pressure in the society has increased the number of working parents, both husband and wife, who consequently deny their sons and daughters the required companionship and parentage.
Okei-Odumakin said drug addicts become immoral and commit various crimes in order to get their daily drugs. “They must get their dose of it at the fixed time and if they do not get it, they feel weak and become incapable of the least movement. They lose their conscience, self-control, willpower and memory, in absence of which they become anti-social elements, engaging in anti-social activities. Sometimes the evil results in suicide and the ruin of the whole family. If not suicide, the drugs and narcotics have fatal effects which invite untimely death,” she said.
She called for public awareness to enlighten the young ones on the dangers of illicit drugs. “The young boys and girls must be made aware of the fact that they will be crippled by the rampant use of drugs. Not only this, there should be a concentrated drive against smugglers, who smuggle various drugs and narcotics into the country. These smugglers are the real enemies and they must be given strict punishment.”
She called for the establishment of de-addiction centres by the government to provide medical treatment for drug addicts.
Also, the former Financial Secretary of Students Union Government, Federal Polytechnic Oko, Anambra State and member of the National Drug Free Club, Mr. Casmir Ifunanya Uzor, said his school organises regular sensitization programmes for students, as well as class-to- class campaign to educate students on the dangers of using illicit drugs in school or at home.
Despite efforts to weed out substance abuse on campus, this new trend is on the increase in tertiary institutions, exposing more students to danger. A student in one of the universities in the South West region, Hakeem Akindele (not real names), admitted spicing his food with Indian hemp whenever his friends come over for the weekend. He said putting the dried marijuana leaves in their food keeps them mentally “high.”
Another student in a southeast polytechnic, who gave his name as Micky, said eating marijuana has huge health benefits.  “People don’t know that hemp has health benefits too. It is rich in fibre and aid satiety, holding your stomach longer between meals. Fatty acids in hemp also help reduce risks of heart related diseases, so I guess I need it as a student.”
Further investigation revealed that in parties organised on campus, students drink what they call schooshi, made from watermelon, pineapple, lemonade, mint or pink lemonade. They also mix this local drink with ‘thirsty thyme’, black current and marijuana as an additive. Apart from schooshi, there is another popular drink, a mixture of strong alcoholic drink like rum and marijuana. This concoction, which is often left to ferment for some days, is often served during initiation of new members into campus cult groups. There are other drinks known as monkey tail, Gegemu, in local parlance that have become common among students .
One of the female students in a faith-based private university said those university that banned smoking on campus would be shocked to discover that a large population of their students habitually take spiked drinks after dinner.
Campus Sun encountered one of the male students, who had in the past eaten rice cooked with Indian hemp. He explained that he never suspected that the rice contained Indian hemp but he became worried when his vision started failing him, and his head started swirling after the meal.
“I didn’t know what happened. I passed out. My friend pulled my clothes and left me on the floor. I was later told that I slept for more than six hours. When I woke up, I felt terribly hungry and drank a bowlful of garri,” he said.
Another student, who consciously ate the drugged food to prove himself before his peers, said he staggered about for hours, dazed and confused. “I prepared beans and added a whole wrap of Indian hemp. I decided to take a nap before doing laundry, but I woke up about 20 minutes later and found myself rolling on the floor. I was hitting my head on the floor, and I couldn’t stop. My heartbeat was so audible and fast, everything was extra bright and very loud. After a few minutes of confusion, I struggled to my feet but I felt as if I had just gained access to a part of my mind that I never knew existed previously. I started punching my chest but that made no difference.”
A concerned parent, Mrs Ifeoma Ezeh, said drug education should form part of the curriculum, right from the secondary school level. She advised parents to monitor their children effectively and to conduct regular search of their children’s room, luggage whenever they spend their holidays at home.
In an interview with Campus Sun, a neuro- physician at Pinnacle Medical Service, Lekki, Dr Maymunah Kadiri Yusuf, described as disheartening the increasing incidents at which drugs are laced with meals among youths.
“In actual fact, most young people are victims, yet, they are unaware. That was why I produced a movie titled Pepper Soup, after a young man who was brought to my hospital for treatment due to mental health tested positive to drug substance which was mixed in pepper soup among the spices used in preparing it. This young man works with one of the leading financial institutions here in Lagos. It took the mercy of God for the timely arrest of the situation, if not, it would have been worse,” she explained.