….At Tudunwada, the car in a street corner and Fatima went to call her friend. The girl, like many of the codeine girls, still lives under her parents. After about 25 minutes, Fatima appeared with a young girl in hijab, a veil traditionally worn by Moslem women to cover parts of their upper body. She entered the car and we chatted.
The new girl, Maimuna Sodangi, 20, was introduced to codeine by friends. She went on a visit and her friend entertained her with a bottle of soft drink mixed with codeine syrup. “It was so sweet and I felt so good,” she recounted.
That was three years ago and she has been hooked since then, graduating from one bottle to six per day. Since she is jobless and cannot afford the drug, she depends on boyfriends to buy for her.
She takes the codeine home because her illiterate parents do not know what it is. Sometimes her female friends buy and bring for her at home since her boyfriends cannot visit her residence.
After the chat, she collected a bottle of codeine from her friend and tucked it into her bra before covering with the hijab. She strolled back home, looking like any other girl in the neighbourhood.
At Abakpa, a different part of the city, a source introduced the reporter to another ‘codeine’ girl, Hauwa Mohammed, who hesitated to reveal identity because she would not want to cause any “anxiety” for her parents with whom still lives. But after brief persuasion and a promise of gift, she admitted taking codeine, rohypnol and other prescription drugs she couldn’t name.
She started taking the drugs two years ago after her fiancé’s death a few weeks to their wedding. She was 16 at the time, and was the only one among her four sisters not taking the drugs.
But after the death of her fiancé, she fell into depression and kept to herself for weeks. Then her sisters advised her that a sip of codeine syrup would help her ‘forget’ her sorrow. “At the time I almost went mad because of the death of my fiancé,” she recounted.
She tried it once and got hooked.
“Now when I drink codeine I enjoy myself and feel good,”
she said with an i-don’t-give-a-damn look on her face.
She takes up to four or five bottles of codeine mixture in a day, sometimes diluting poring a bottle or two inside a coke plastic bottle to deceive her parents.
At 18, she only has a secondary school certificate. She hopes to get married and stop taking drugs because she wouldn’t want her children to engage in drug abuse like her. “But I’m hoping I will get a man who will help me to stop,” she said, with a flat smile.
The story of Fatima, Maimuna and Hauwa exemplify the serious drug addiction problem facing many young women in many parts of Northern Nigeria and the changing complexion of the war against drug use and addiction in the region…
…. To be Count…