‘Criminals are now converting chemicals into hard drugs in Nigeria’

The threat we want to concentrate on primarily today is the threat of drugs and drug trafficking.  I happened to look last night through – the UNODC has a really useful report, the World Drug Report, which you all can find online.  And their latest one came out in June, and I was looking at the numbers, and unfortunately the numbers of sort of abuse of drugs and use of drugs around the world continue to rise.  And I want to note at the top, it’s not just around the world; it is a rising problem in Africa.  It’s a threat in many ways, not only to public health but also to security, so we’re going to just talk about that as we go through.

So look, in Africa, illicit drug production, trafficking, and consumption are linked to organized crime, illegal financial flows, corruption, and, increasingly, terrorist financing.  Porous borders, poorly patrolled coastlines, weak institutions and enforcement regimes make Africa an attractive location for traffickers, and it’s something that we all need to work together to fight this transnational crime because it endangers us all.

So Africa’s coastline on the east, from southern Somalia to South Africa, has become a primary transshipment location for Afghan-produced heroin – also sometimes Pakistan or Iranian heroin – en route to markets in Africa, Europe, and the United States.  Heroin is trafficked along what’s referred to as the “southern” or the “maritime” route from the southern coasts of Pakistan and Iran by boat through the Indian Ocean.  The product can be offloaded, primarily along the coast of Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique, sometimes in the island states, and repackaged then for onward shipment to markets, often via South Africa or countries in West Africa.

West Africa as hub for cocaine trafficking

West Africa has also been a historical hub for cocaine trafficking and reports suggest that that route is experiencing a resurgence.  Increased cocaine production in South America destined for markets in Africa, Europe, and the United States has increased trafficking – and seizures – in the region.  More cocaine was actually seized in the first three months of 2019 in just two countries – in Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde – than the whole amount seized by the entire African continent between 2013 and 2016.  Those were an astonishing three months in 2019.

And even in the Sahel, there is increasing concern that the porous borders there and the movement of groups, including illegal armed groups and transnational criminals, is enabling narcotics trafficking that may be indirectly funding some of the terrorist networks and activities, as traffickers pay for safe passage via under-governed spaces and through routes that have been exploited as well by terrorist entities.

Africa becoming a source of illicit drugs

I think it’s important at the top as well to note that while transit is our primary concern, sadly, Africa also is becoming a source of illicit drugs.  We know, for example, that some Nigerian criminal organisations have learned simplified but effective production methods to convert uncontrolled precursor chemicals – so I would call them pre-precursor chemicals – into methamphetamine, and so it’s becoming Nigeria and a few other locations a growing methamphetamine producer and supplier.  And other countries in the region are sadly at risk of following this trend.

This relatively free flow of drugs threatens African countries and the United States and strengthens Transnational Criminal Organisations, or TCOs.  There are several well-established TCOs operating in Africa and they facilitate not only illicit drugs, but I would note that we believe strongly that the TCOs in Africa are largely commodity-agnostic.  The same people who can move drugs can also move weapons, can also move people, can also move wildlife goods, and so it’s something we all need to be concerned about.

As I noted earlier in Nigeria, there have been networks who have figured out how to make methamphetamine in new ways.  I think we worry a lot that other countries in Africa are at risk of following that lead, and so it’s something we have to work on together.  I would say that increasing within countries the vigilance to those precursor chemical markets and some of the things that are sort of legal – legal entities but if they are used improperly can lead to illicit trafficking, that’s going to be an incredibly important response by our law enforcement partners.

U.S. interest in Africa in the fight against drug trafficking

The United States is interested in cooperation and sort of stopping the flows of drugs globally because it really is a global demand and supply market and we need strong links in the chain to stop that global market.  Unfortunately, anyplace that’s a weak link in the chain can be exploited by those organized criminals, by the drug trafficking organizations.  Transportation flows, passenger flows – everyplace on the globe is connected now.  It’s hard to think of a place that wouldn’t be affected if it is vulnerable to exploitation by those criminal groups, eventually those illicit products can come and affect American citizens, as well as Mauritanian citizens, as well as European citizens, and so we need to cooperate and partner together.

I would also say that it’s in the U.S. interest to partner to counter those drug trafficking organisations and other criminals because we care about having a secure, prosperous, democratic set of countries in Africa with which we can partner.  We want to have trade flows, we want to have people-to-people ties, and we are better when we have strong, capable partners on the other side.  And what we know, unfortunately, is when countries are exploited by drug trafficking organisations or by transnational criminal groups or by illegal armed groups, they’re not strong enough sometimes to withstand the corruption that comes with the finances that underpin that group.  And sometimes the violence that those groups bring can really undermine legitimate governments and bring danger to the people.

And so it’s in our interest to strengthen the criminal justice response so that we can have strong trading partners who have control over their entire territory who can enforce their rule of law, who can be safe destinations for our citizens to flow back and forth and to exchange and to partner.  And I think it’s really in our interest.  Thanks.

Becoming better together

We can become better together.  So the United States and Africa have so much in common.  We have common dreams.  We want safe, healthy environments for our people.  We want to see the rule of law prevail.  We want our country to be able to trade and become more prosperous.

We want our people to get to know one another through tourism, through academics, through different ties.  And so what I think INL is doing and what we have seen in success is we’re helping to build the capacity of civilian security officials, whether they are law enforcement, justice, corrections, border agents.  You name it.  In – in our – in our government partners, we are trying to build that capacity so that they are more responsive to their own people, they are able to uphold the rule of law, they are better able to partner with their neighbours and with international friends like the United States, and we can all work together so that criminals and terrorists don’t exploit lack of knowledge or ungoverned spaces.

I think we have made tremendous strides during the time that I’ve worked in INL.

And in Nigeria, the numbers are even worse.  I learned when I was in Nigeria last fall what a terrible problem it is and how the Buhari Administration is incredibly concerned about drug use in the Nigerian population.  And according to the UNODC, 4.7 percent of adults in Nigeria are nonmedical opioid users.  That should be of concern to us all.  We need to partner together to stop that.  I think INL and the State Department are playing a key role.  And I see our work continuing.  We are pivoting to virtual because COVID has interrupted some of our travel and our face-to-face interaction.  But I believe that our partnership is only going to strengthen and continue.  And together, we will help to improve rule of law and stop those transnational criminal organisations.  So thanks for your time.



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‘Criminals are now converting chemicals into hard drugs in Nigeria’ ‘Criminals are now converting chemicals into hard drugs in Nigeria’ Reviewed by Osigwe Omo-Ikirodah on July 28, 2020 Rating: 5

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