The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.
Challenges: Nigeria possesses an under-developed, under-resourced criminal justice sector. The Nigeria Police Force (NPF), a national force, faces numerous security challenges related to criminal gangs and kingpins, extremist groups, transnational organized crime, and internal conflicts over land and resources such as farmer-herder conflicts in the Middle Belt. The challenges vary by region, requiring a more adaptable and skilled force than the under-resourced NPF can deploy. The NPF also faces constant criticism from Nigeria’s states and communities for giving too little attention to local security and crime issues, leading several states to recruit their own law enforcement forces, which are not recognized by the government. Within the NPF, poor training, inadequate supervision and management, corruption, and a lack of political will and accountability hampers law enforcement efforts and creates conditions for misconduct, including use of excessive force and non-observance of constitutional and human rights. These failures to perform duties professionally while observing human rights fuel public distrust of the police and public discontent with the government. The overwhelmed, under-resourced judicial and corrections institutions experience many of the same challenges: poor training, inadequate management, corruption, and a lack of accountability and political will. Court cases rarely involve physical evidence, rely heavily on witness testimony, and take years to adjudicate. The corrections system suffers from extreme overcrowding, notably with pre-trial detainees who wait months, even years, for their cases to be heard, and endure harsh prison conditions.
Goals: INL’s goal is to support the development of effective and professional Nigerian law enforcement and justice sector institutions to prevent, detect, respond to, investigate, and prosecute crime in order to safeguard its citizens and protect human rights. A primary focus of INL’s law enforcement programming in Nigeria is building capacity for civilian security actors, particularly the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), to assume responsibility for security throughout the country, with particular focus on in northeast Nigeria, which remains volatile due to the devastating impact of ISIS-West Africa and Boko Haram. INL is developing a Transitional Police Unit (TPU) to be deployed in northeast Nigeria, which will allow the NPF to focus on civilian criminal concerns, instead of the military.
- INL has partnered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the British National Crime Agency (NCA), and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to support the establishment of several vetted units within Nigeria’s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and to help build the agency’s capacity to conduct complex investigations, collect and share intelligence, and successfully prosecute suspects arrested during the course of investigations. The units supported by INL have led to record numbers of arrests and seizures of tramadol, cannabis, methamphetamine, cocaine, and financial instruments and properties. Their conviction rates are among the highest at the NDLEA. INL is currently collaborating with DEA, DoD, NCA and others to assist with the establishment of additional units to further expand the very successful vetted unit model.
- In the justice sector, data collected in 2018-2019 through the Kuje Prison Legal Aid Clinic project identified reasons for delays and adjournments of court cases, which contributes to prison overcrowding. As a result of this data and analysis, an interagency committee mandated all relevant legal entities (e.g., Nigerian Prison Services, NPF, Ministry of Justice, and the courts) develop internal performance monitoring tools.
- INL is also working to reform the court systems in Nigeria. In 2019, INL hosted several U.S federal judges who trained Nigeria’s federal judges on election disputes. Currently, INL is working with individual state courts to assist with electronic court scheduling to further ease delays and adjournment of court cases.
- In addition, INL programs aim to increase citizen interaction with the Government of Nigeria to promote transparency and good governance. Through the Access Nigeria project, Nigerian civic leaders and technology enthusiasts developed OpenGov, which are innovative technology tools that are used by citizens to demand greater access to government institutions. These tools include the ability to track progress on corruption cases, track Freedom of Information requests, and map areas where crimes have been committed. Additionally, in 2018, INL’s assistance helped establish the Open Nigeria Alliance, a collective of civil society and private firms that successfully advocated for Nigeria’s membership in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and collaborated with the Government of Nigeria to co-create the country’s first OGP National Action Plan that is currently being implemented.
- Finally, Nigeria hosts an International Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (ICHIP) prosecutor, who is part of the Global Law Enforcement Network (GLEN) program. The GLEN program, a partnership between the Department of Justice and INL, leverages expertise of ICHIP prosecutors, cyber-forensic analysts, and federal law enforcement partners to deliver training and technical assistance to foreign law enforcement partners to combat intellectual property and cybercrime activity, as well as to assist in the collection and use of electronic evidence to combat all types of crime including TOC.