In a bid to combat the escalating drug crisis plaguing the nation, the Senate has put forth a bold proposal to impose harsher penalties for drug trafficking, including the possibility of the death penalty.

The proposed measure, introduced on Thursday, May 9, seeks to replace the existing maximum penalty of life imprisonment with the ultimate punishment of death. This drastic shift underscores the severity of Nigeria’s struggle against drug-related crimes, as the country has transitioned from being merely a transit point to becoming a significant producer, consumer, and distributor of illicit drugs.

Of particular concern is the widespread abuse of opioids, notably tramadol, and codeine-containing cough syrups. Despite efforts by authorities to curb this epidemic, including the 2018 ban on codeine syrup by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the problem persists, contributing to a myriad of social and health issues.

While cannabis is cultivated locally, more potent substances such as cocaine and methamphetamine are trafficked into the country, exacerbating addiction and fueling criminal activities.

The proposal for harsher penalties, as outlined in a Senate report, aims to serve as a deterrent to would-be traffickers by instilling the fear of severe consequences, including execution. However, this move has sparked debate among lawmakers, with some expressing concerns about the irreversible nature of the death penalty and its potential for miscarriages of justice.

Notably, the bill had previously been passed by the House of Representatives without the provision for the death penalty. As it moves forward, the Senate and House versions of the bill will need to be reconciled before reaching the president for approval.