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.
Nigeria faces numerous challenges related to transnational organized crime (TOC), including narcotics and human trafficking, endemic corruption, and a minimal capacity to enforce law and order while protecting human rights. Transnational criminal groups leverage Nigeria’s central location within West Africa to exploit weak government structures throughout the region. Nigeria is a transit country for heroin and cocaine destined for Europe and, to a lesser degree, for the United States. Nigerian organized criminal networks remain a major factor in moving cocaine and heroin worldwide and produce and traffic methamphetamine to and around Southeast Asia. In addition to drug trafficking, criminal organizations engage in other forms of trafficking and fraud targeting U.S. citizens.
Widespread corruption in Nigeria facilitates criminal activity and, combined with Nigeria’s central location along major trafficking routes, enables criminal groups to flourish and make Nigeria an important trafficking hub. Official corruption plays a major role in facilitating TOC in Nigeria. Nigeria has anti-corruption laws, but has secured only a few notable convictions. A high level of impunity encourages narcotic trafficking. Corruption, poor training, and a lack of political will have also contributed to a weak law enforcement sector that is an impediment to Nigeria’s response to extremist groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – West Africa (ISIS-WA). The Nigeria Police Force’s (NPF) inability to provide security while respecting human rights fuels the public’s discontent with the government.
INL provides equipment, training, mentoring, and capacity-building support to Nigerian law enforcement and justice sector institutions. Specifically, INL assists Nigeria in the fight against narcotics trafficking through its capacity-building support to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). In order to address the narcotics trade comprehensively, INL works with the government and civil society to address substance use in Nigeria through drug prevention and treatment initiatives. INL’s assistance also supports the NPF’s efforts to prevent and detect crime and to increase the Government of Nigeria’s capacity to maintain a safe, secure, humane, and transparent correctional system.
INL has partnered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Department of Defense (DoD), the British National Crime Agency (NCA), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to support the establishment of several vetted units within the 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, by far, proven to be the most effective currently in operation at the NDLEA. Their combined efforts 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. Additionally, INL works with the Ministry of Justice and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to strengthen Nigeria’s legal framework and build effective financial crimes investigators to effectively address high-level financial crime, including all source money laundering, the financing of terrorism, and corruption. In the justice sector, data collected in 2018 through the Kuje Prison Legal Clinic that identified the reasons for delays, adjournments, and overcrowding and identified the rate of compliance with the Nigerian Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 was used by the Nigerian Prison Services to demonstrate the most critical problems to an interagency team of justice sector stakeholders. As a result of this data and analysis, an interagency committee mandated all relevant legal entities (e.g., Nigerian Prison Services, Nigerian Police Force, Ministry of Justice, and the courts) to develop internal performance monitoring tools.
Finally, 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, innovative technology tools that are now being 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. As a result of relationship building, 12 civil society organizations have consistently received key information on the work of the EFCC, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC). Additionally, this collaboration has enabled NAPTIP and ICPC to proactively release more information to civil society without being required under the Freedom of Information Act. 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 successfully collaborated with the Government of Nigeria to co-create the country’s first OGP National Action Plan that is currently being implemented.