The Liberian government and partners now have a situation urgently at hand: to provide rehabilitation and psychosocial counseling that could lead to vocational training for nearly 1,500 young Liberians, whose spokesman told the Daily Observer yesterday they are drug addicts and want to get out of it.
Known as ‘Zogos’ for males and ‘Zogesse’ for females, the overwhelming number of ‘neglected’ Liberians say they want the Liberian government to join partners, for example, Winners Chapel International of Congo Town, to help them return to society for they don’t know what the future holds for them.
“As I stand here now, my body is asking for ‘Thai White’ (heroin) to get in shape,” said Thomas Howard, who said he graduated from the AME Zion High School in 2011 and completed a computer course at the YMCA, but found himself taking illicit drugs, and became an addict. “I need money from someone to get it into my body, but Winners Chapel wants to help me.”
Howard insists that if the government agency responsible to help them regain their humanity does not join others to get the job done, it is highly likely that the future could be disastrous.
“If we are not helped from this situation,” said another Zogo Prince Sali, “whenever there is any problem tomorrow, we will go after those people we know are supposed to help us and are not doing it.” Sali insisted that message should be printed and put on air for government officials to know their mind. Sali’s position may seem a threat, but its conditionality suggests that the Liberian government cannot ignore the salient message that these young men and women are sounding for help.
‘Zogo’ and ‘Zogesse’ – how did those words come about? According to Daily Observer’s News Editor, C. Y. Kwanue, who hails from Nimba County, the word may have been a manipulation of the Gio word ‘Zo’ which means ‘to snatch’. Snatching of purses, cell-phones and other items from unsuspecting individuals in traffic, is a trademark of these young drug addicts.
In an interview with several members of the group at the headquarters of Winners Chapel International in Congo Town yesterday, where they congregated to get help to turn their lives around, Moses Nagbe said it is high time the government decide to get them help.
Edward D. Dolo, known popularly as ‘General Process’, who works with the church, told the Daily Observer that Winners Chapel International in collaboration with the Association of Progressive Youths, a not-for-profit organization, is working out a program to fight against drug addiction.
“We want them to say ‘No to Drugs,’” Dolo said, “and we brought them from their various locations and we have their personal information, like their dates of birth, where they live, as well as when they started using drugs.”
He said with that done, “we will bring about 200 of them back and provide them counseling and eventually ensure that they have access to vocational training of their choice, and this entails a lot of resources, and so we will be glad to get support from the government and its partners in the sector.”
What kind of illegal substances are used by these people who were drawn from places such as Caldwell, Mount Barclay, Central Monrovia, Slipway, and Point 4. Dolo said illicit drugs that are common among the group are Thai white (heroin), cocaine, crack-cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, and hallucinogens.
Many of the ‘zogos’ explained that though the cost of any of the single dose is from L$300-L$350, they always find money from stealing, washing cars, and selling bottles. “There are times when I need to have it so much that I will end up stealing or trying to harm someone for money to do it,” said Moses Nagbe.
Nagbe said it is necessary now for the government to provide support to Winners Chapel International that has begun a program to help them change for the better. “That’s what I want,” Nagbe said, “and every one of my friends who are here wants the same.”
Thomas Howard, interviewed earlier, believes that the prevalence of illicit drugs in the country to damage them is because ‘some people’ in the government are responsible for the drugs coming to Liberia, though he offered no further clarification.
“The government should make it a duty to establish places that can help those of us who are caught in this,” Nagbe said. “Many of us live in the streets; sleep in the streets and we go out looking for money to carry on this habit.”
According to Dolo, Winners Chapel International is committed to helping them change from their current dangerous lifestyle and the current campaign should claim the attention of the government and every Liberian who knows someone who has become a victim to drug abuse and the use of illegal substances.
Others interviewed suggest punitive measures against drug dealers who continue to flood the Liberian market with illicit drugs that turn young, but unsuspecting people to zombies that prey on society to satisfy their addictions.
Meanwhile, the Association of Progressive Youth (APY) and Winners Chapel International have appealed to the government, local and international partners to assist in the establishment of Anti-Drug Abuse Recovery and Rehabilitation Treatment Center in the country.
They said the establishment of such an institution will help rehabilitate young girls and boys who had over the years engaged in drug activities that continue to destroy them, making them liabilities to society.
Winners Chapel’s Senior Pastor Johnson Audu and Reuben B. Logan of APY told journalists on Thursday in Monrovia that the initiative in collaboration with Winners Chapel has been going on for the last two years preaching to young people at the various ghettoes in and around Monrovia.
“We have about 48 ghettoes in Montserrado County that we visit regularly and talk to them about the impact of being a drug addict and how God can change their lives to become better citizens. We also have a record of over 1,500, many of them being youth,” they said.
They attributed the cause of young people taking drugs to peer pressure, lack of parental guidance, lack of support to engage them in useful activities and marginalization by family members and friends at the community level.
“We always say that the future of Liberia rests on the young people…they are in the ghettoes today and don’t have sleeping places. Taking these young people from the streets will be a milestone in the development of Liberia and hope the government and its partners can begin working toward that program,” Logan said.