The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has again denied appointing Naira Marley as its ambassador for discouraging substance abuse.
It said the artist’s decision to speak openly against the scourge of abuse is voluntary.
Femi Babafemi, NDLEA, director of Media and Advocacy told BusinessDay that Marley’s open stance last month was welcomed as an advocacy tool to extend the message to his millions of followers.
As of August 16, the artist had over 4.9 million followers on X, 7.3 million on Instagram, and 0.6 million on Facebook.
He became a voluntary associate of the agency after some of the artists under his record label including Mohbad and Zinolesky were arrested last year over the possession of various quantities of illicit drugs.
“The Naira Marley’s issue dates back to 2022 when Zinolesky was arrested over possession of illicit drugs after we received intelligence. We raided his apartment in Lekki and arrested him. After that, he gave a commitment alongside others to be of good behaviour. Naira Marley made a commitment and Zinolesky did a video speaking against substance abuse. That has been all,” Babafemi said.
“We have been trying to engage them since then. Our work is not only about arresting. We also counsel people, provide help and rehabilitate them. This has been part of our engagement with this group until last month when Naira decided to openly denounce drugs. That was why he visited the NDLEA office and made an open statement to denounce substance abuse, which for us goes a long way in sending a strong message to his followers,” he added.
Marley, whose actual name is Azeez Fashola, made a short video afterward, urging his fans and all Nigerian youths to stop substance abuse of any form.
“I have keyed into this campaign to support NDLEA to stop drugs on the streets. Please join us. It is really not good. It makes you go back into crime,” he said.
Since the death of Ilerioluwa Aloba, popularly identified as Mohbad, many are revisiting the allegations of Marley’s appointment by NDLEA as they connect him to circumstances leading to Mohbad’s death.
According to the NBS, the social consequences of drug use manifest as disruption in family lives, loss in productivity, and legal problems.
Nearly one in 8 Nigerians had experienced consequences due to other people’s drug use in their families, workplaces, and communities.
However, access to free or affordable mental health services is limited. According to the Countdown Global Mental Health 2030 report, the cost of providing a significantly scaled-up package of specified cheaper interventions for mental, neurological and substance use disorders in lower-income countries such as Nigeria is estimated at $3 to $4 per head of population per year.
However, just five percent of lower-middle and low-income countries receive help.