By Vaclav Prusa and Abubakar Jimoh
There are indications that West Africa is conveniently situated for drug and illegal weapons’ trade between South America and Europe, and Nigeria accounts for about 70% of the illegal small arms in the sub-region.
These hints are contained in 20-page report titled ‘CrimeJust: Fact Sheet Nigeria’ published by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) under the aegis of Criminal Justice project supported by the European Union (EU), implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with INTERPOL and Transparency International.
The report, which aims at raising policy consciousness on the dreadful impacts of Organised Crime and enhancing the capacity of relevant authorities to effectively devise appropriate countermeasures, reveals that Nigeria stands at the centre of a number of transnational crimes.
According to the report, the existing porous borders have not only paved ways for free flow of arms in and out of Nigeria but also contributed to increasing number of violent conflicts, constant human and drug trafficking which remain a challenge to authorities within and outside Nigeria.
The report observes that the broken political system, corrupt law enforcers and social environment are contributory challenges to many criminal activities as socially acceptable, thereby putting Nigeria at the epicentre of highly internationalised and organised crime. “The established linkage between the worst forms of criminality at an industrial scale and the political elite is widely observed and documented both in Nigeria and internationally.”
Narrating the networks in Organised Crime, the report traces drug trafficking and other serious crime to high public officials including the police and the army. “Political Exposed Persons and individuals within the Nigerian police and armed forces do not only assist criminal activities but also sometimes run illegal activities including drug and human trafficking and weapons smuggling.
“Drug trafficking, money laundering, arms manufacturing and arms trafficking, human trafficking, advance fee fraud, armed robbery and commercial kidnapping, piracy, pipeline vandalism and cybercrime are forms of organised crime with significant Nigerian involvement nationally and internationally.
“Allegations of corruption, heavy-handedness, and politicization have dogged the Nigeria Police Force,” it recounted.
The report discloses that drug trafficking remains a thriving business and serious issue with a global dimension of Nigerian involvement, noting that networking Nigerian gangs operate from Brazil and other South American countries though Europe and South East Asia with no fewer than 30% of the foreigners arrested across Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Portugal were from West Africa, mostly Nigeria.
On human trafficking related crime, the report explains that vast and porous borders have exacerbated human trafficking routes from Nigeria through North African countries in the Sahara via the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
“These vast borders have proven to be very difficult to control. The porosity of Nigeria’s borders has serious security implications for the country.
“With the porosity of Nigeria’s border, the security of Nigeria is threatened by the flow of arms, criminals, terrorists, drugs and thriving illegal human trafficking operations.
“Law enforcement agencies and security services are poorly organised, ineffective and, frequently, too corrupt to control the influx of drugs and other transnational crime to enter and exit Nigeria,” the report noted.
As related to reporting of abuses by security establishment, the report observes that frequent verbal and physical threats and repeated crackdown on whistle-blowers, journalists and activists persistently obstruct accessibility to public information increasing public disillusion about meaningful participation in governance.
The report further bemoans rivalry and overlapping roles amongst the law enforcement agencies with resultant poor coordination in the fight against Organised Crime, stating that the lingering inability of the agencies to exchange information and data results in incomplete evidence from prosecution in complex cases of organised crime, and poor conviction rate.