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U.S. Department of State
1996 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1997

United States Department of State

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

Africa and the Middle East


I. Summary

Nigeria is the focal point of West African narcotics trafficking. Illicit drug producing and trafficking organizations in Asia, South America and, increasingly, Nigeria itself, either use Nigeria as a transshipment point or rely on Nigerian courier networks to transport Asian heroin and South American cocaine destined for US and European markets. Nigerian trafficking organizations are among the leading carriers of Southeast and Southwest Asian heroin into the US. In addition, Nigerian traffickers ship cannabis--the only illicit drug produced in Nigeria--to Europe and other West African countries. The Government of Nigeria (GON) has failed to address corruption adequately among law enforcement and other government agencies, hindering counternarcotics efforts.

Nigerian trafficking organizations operate sophisticated money laundering operations in addition to controlling courier networks. These organizations have been quick to adapt in response to vigorous international law enforcement. They have found new ways to evade detection and to alter and expand their narcotics smuggling routes and markets. As GON counternarcotics efforts have effectively reduced the amount of drugs shipped through international airports in Nigeria, courier networks increasingly have relied on overland shipments to transport narcotics. Nigerian trafficking organizations actively recruit couriers of diverse nationalities, backgrounds and ages.

II. Status of Country

Although not a significant producer of drugs or precursor chemicals, Nigeria is a major transit country and the home base of many organizations involved in international narcotics trafficking. Nigerian trafficking organizations control courier networks that move heroin from Asia to the US and Europe and cocaine from South America to Europe and South Africa. Most trafficking through Nigeria is import/re-export oriented, with only a small percentage imported for domestic consumption. The only illicit drug produced in Nigeria is cannabis, which is exported primarily to Europe and, to a lesser extent, other West African countries. Nigerian trafficking organizations also run sophisticated money laundering operations. Of particular concern is the export of Nigerian drug trafficking and money laundering activities to other West African countries.

The GON first formulated a comprehensive drug control strategy in 1995. The GON passed a comprehensive money laundering decree in February 1995 which allows for the seizure of property and assets belonging to suspected narcotics trafficking and money laundering organizations. Unfortunately, the GON has not provided sufficient funding or support to adequately implement the decree. The one positive indigenous force working to combat drug trafficking in Nigeria is the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), which has attempted, albeit not yet successfully, to shift its focus from drug couriers to leaders of narcotics trafficking organizations. Due to counternarcotics efforts by the NDLEA, particularly at Lagos International Airport, some Nigerian trafficking and money laundering organizations have relocated to other West African countries or use businesses in neighboring countries as fronts. They increasingly rely on overland methods of transporting narcotics through neighboring countries whose ports and airports are less-tightly monitored.

Nigeria's land borders are poorly patrolled and border patrol agencies are rife with corruption. Nigerian and US authorities suspect that the amount of drugs shipped through Nigeria's land borders far exceeds the amount that was, or ever could be, shipped by air.

The NDLEA has taken steps to address corruption within its ranks, but has made no effective efforts to address corruption in other agencies of government. The NDLEA's efforts to cooperate with other Nigerian law enforcement agencies are hindered by pervasive corruption in those agencies. The NDLEA also suffers internally from an organizational culture that stifles initiative and requires that all decisions be made at the top. Fear of stiff reprimand for failed operations and possible accusations of corruption make agents reluctant to take the initiative. Counternarcotics efforts have resulted in the arrests of many couriers, but few major traffickers; controlling organizations remain intact. Perhaps the most glaring omission by the GON is its failure to provide adequate funding for its law enforcement employees, thus making them ever more vulnerable to bribery and related forms of corruption. Most law enforcement employees are paid far less than is sufficient to feed, clothe and house their families.

III. Country Action Against Drugs in 1996

Policy Initiatives. There were no major positive policy initiatives in 1996. The GON did not enact any new counternarcotics legislation. Moreover, plans were stymied to shift the focus of narcotics control operations from the arrest of couriers to the prosecution of leaders of narcotics trafficking and money laundering organizations in Nigeria.

Accomplishments. Nigeria made only marginal progress in counternarcotics efforts during the year and did not meet the goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Convention, to which Nigeria is a signatory. The NDLEA conducted drug raids and seizures primarily at airports, seaports and border checkpoints. Authorities took few steps to reduce cannabis production in the country. GON efforts focused primarily on the destruction of isolated cannabis fields and a limited program to encourage crop substitution.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Nigeria's counternarcotics efforts were inadequate in 1996. Narcotics control operations lack adequate funding and training, and extraditions to the US have not been forthcoming as promised. Counternarcotics operations also suffer from a lack of cooperation among the NDLEA, police, immigration and customs. The first NDLEA-US DEA/Lagos joint operation, which resulted in the arrest of eight traffickers, was less successful than anticipated. The Nigerian agents' lack of experience, insufficient follow-up investigation efforts and failure to pursue higher-level players within the smuggling ring limited the results of the operation. The lack of broader GON cooperation on other issues of international concern adversely affect NDLEA efforts to cooperate with foreign missions and law enforcement officials.

Corruption. There is rampant corruption at all levels of government which facilitates narcotics trafficking and money laundering in Nigeria. The GON has conducted publicity campaigns against corruption, but has achieved few concrete results. During 1996, the NDLEA dismissed some agents (more than 600, according to the NDLEA's General Bamaiyi) under the Drug Agent Corruption Decree of 1995 in an effort to combat corruption. Paradoxically, agents are reluctant to take responsibility and unwilling to take action for fear that failure may result in allegations of corruption or incompetence. Decision-making responsibility is almost entirely centered at the uppermost levels of the agency.

Agreements and Treaties. Nigeria is a party to the 1988 UN Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and its 1972 Protocol, as well as the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotopic Substances. The 1931 US-UK extradition treaty, which was made applicable to Nigeria in 1935, is the legal basis for US extradition requests. The US and Nigeria signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) in 1989, but it has not been ratified by the US Senate. The GON and Nigeria Airways (Nigeria's national carrier) signed an Air Carrier Agreement with US Customs in 1993.

Cultivation/Production. The only illicit drug cultivated and produced in Nigeria is cannabis. Nigerian cannabis is produced mainly for domestic consumption and export to Europe and other West African countries. It is shipped in insignificant quantities to the US. The GON took only limited steps to reduce cannabis production in the country during the year, destroying some fields of cannabis and recommending crop substitution to farmers in cannabis-producing regions.

Drug Flow/Transit. Nigeria was Africa's most significant transshipment point in 1996. The shift of some Nigerian drug trafficking and money laundering operations to neighboring West African countries has not resulted in a decline in activity in Nigeria. Nigerian trafficking and money laundering organizations have proven adept at devising new ways of subverting law enforcement efforts and evading detection. Nigerian organizations succeeded in altering and even expanding their smuggling efforts, primarily through Nigeria's porous land borders, despite counternarcotics efforts by the NDLEA.

Demand Reduction. Domestic drug abuse is rising in Nigeria. The GON denies the existence of significant drug abuse in Nigeria and has repeatedly implied that Nigeria's narcotics trafficking problems are the result of demand in the US and Europe. There was no credible demand reduction program in Nigeria in 1996.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Policy Initiatives. The primary goal of US counternarcotics policy is the reduction of trafficking in illicit drugs by Nigerian organizations, particularly those dealing in heroin destined for the US. Achieving this goal depends substantially on GON willingness to arrest and extradite major traffickers and to enforce anti-conspiracy laws that allow for the prosecution of those controlling courier networks. Operational cooperation, as well as serious anti-corruption efforts, are essential to realizing this goal.

Bilateral Accomplishments. The NDLEA and the DEA office in Lagos reactivated the USG-GON Joint Narcotics Task Force in November 1995. DEA/Lagos supported NDLEA operations throughout 1996, providing information and guidance in many NDLEA operations and one joint investigation. Nonetheless, cooperation between the US and Nigeria fell far below USG expectations. There was little significant change in either narcotics control law enforcement efforts or government policy since the 1995 GON announcement of a narcotics control strategy. Improved USG-GON cooperation can only be achieved if the GON makes an effective effort to move forward with its narcotics control strategy and takes significant steps to combat corruption at all levels of the Nigerian Government. The USG is exploring the possibility of offering counternarcotics assistance to the GON in the areas of training and information sharing.

The Road Ahead. The USG will stress the importance the US attaches to counternarcotics efforts and will seek full GON cooperation in the extradition of prominent drug traffickers and other Nigerian citizens wanted in the US on drug and related charges. The USG will press for the investigation, arrest and prosecution of major drug traffickers and the dismantling of trafficking organizations within Nigeria, in addition to the apprehension of couriers. Furthermore, the USG will aggressively monitor GON willingness to share information with the international community on narcotics trafficking and money laundering organizations in Nigeria, and will look for effective GON efforts to eradicate corruption in the government and promote cooperation among law enforcement agencies. The USG will encourage the enforcement and strengthening of money laundering and asset seizure and forfeiture laws, as well as the reform of financial regulations to increase the integrity of financial transactions. The USG will assist in viable counternarcotics efforts and, depending upon Nigerian cooperation, will focus on training and support programs aimed at strengthening the institutions responsible for narcotics control operations in Nigeria.

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