Patterns and Trends in Illicit Drug Supply
Nigeria, Ghana, Dubai, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand are the major transit point for Southeast and Southwest Asian heroin destined for the United States and Europe. Nigerian and other trafficking groups are among the largest trafficking organizations involved in heroin trafficking to the United States. Nigeria and India are also becoming an increasingly important transit country for the smuggling of cocaine into Europe, Australia and Thailand. Large amounts of cannabis from Nigeria, Ghana and Thailand are also smuggled to Europe, Japan and South Korea.
Nigerian criminal organizations began to diversify into drug smuggling from the early 1980s. In 1984, the first Nigerians were arrested for international heroin trafficking.
This trafficking groups are loosely structured, based on family and tribal ties. Connections between different organizations, however, do exist as different tribes supply each other in wholesale deals. These drug trafficking groups use multiple identities, communicate through pay phones, and use tribal languages native only to their country, which make their organizations difficult for law enforcement officials to penetrate. Moreover, many training schools are run by drug traffickers which teach individuals how to avoid detection when acting as couriers
The typical organization has a chief in their country back home with enough financial resources to make an initial investment and usually retains some type of loose control overseas. The chief controls a small clique of drug peddlers who operate in concert. For the most part, individual traffickers operate independently from other traffickers, using at least two to three regular couriers.
In recent years, however, this organizational structure appears to be changing - Nigerian drug trafficking groups are increasingly employing non- Nigerian couriers, including other African nationals (particularly South Africans), Europeans, Asians, and U.S. citizens. A continuous decrease in the number of Nigerians arrested in the United States between 1991 and 1994 has been attributed to the use of non-Nigerian couriers.
In the United States and Kingdom of Thailand members of Nigerian trafficking groups tend to operate in cell structures, usually headed by a lieutenant, supported by a recruiter, a cell leader and various soldiers. The cell leader exchanges information and interacts with cell leaders in other parts of the Thailand and United States. There is some evidence that controlling cells are operational in various parts of other countries, which may point toward centralized leadership in Nigerian organized crime.
There is also some evidence of collaboration with other drug trafficking groups. Nigerian traffickers are known to sell their heroin at the wholesale level to Spanish speaking street trafficking organizations (such as Jamaican groups and South American cartels) and in turn receive protection from them.
Another recent development has been the use of the same couriers to smuggle heroin from Thailand, Cambodia and Laos to other countries and cocaine from Brazil, Peru and Argentina to Europe (the United Kingdom) and Thailand. Some Nigerian, Ghana and Asian traffickers have been arrested with both drugs in their possession.
Nigerian couriers resort to a number of methods to minimize risk of detection, such as fraudulent passports and visas, multiple passports, travel with family members, use of multiple couriers, use of pregnant women as couriers.
Heroin is the illicit drug most frequently trafficked by Nigerian criminal groups. Initially they bought Southwest Asian heroin at the source and imported it wholesale into Europe and the United States. However, from the late 1980s, they began to buy much of their heroin from Southeast Asian sources in Thailand. For the Nigerians, the lower prices, higher purity, quantity available and ease of movement into and out of Thailand made Southeast Asia an ideal heroin supply centre. Before Nigerians do not require a visa to enter Thailand if they do not stay longer than a week. Most of the heroin is concealed on the person of the couriers or in legitimate merchandise and smuggled in commercial air and sea cargos.
The return route from the source countries to Nigeria are varied, with the couriers traveling through many countries in Africa - such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Benin and Togo, - and Asia - such as Indonesia, and the Phillippines,. Latest reports indicate the use of other, additional countries as transit points such as South Africa, Cameroon and Zaire in Africa, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar in Asia.
The heroin is then brought back to Nigeria for distribution and onward shipment. Nigerian government sources reported that in 1994, the wholesale price of one kg of heroin costs N60,000 (US$2,782) (U.N. Part III, 1994). U.S. government sources report a considerably higher price in Lagos at US$ 30,000 per kilogram of heroin.
Nigerian drug trafficking groups are estimated to be responsible for between 35%-40% of heroin imported from Thailand to the United States. This traffickers are the most active in the U.S. cities with well-established Nigerian populations (Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York and the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area). Nigerian heroin couriers usually take commercial airliners to India, Pakistan, and Thailand to obtain heroin. In the past, the Don Muang International Airport in Bangkok was the most often used by drug couriers to smuggle heroin to Africa, Europe and the United States. However, recent reports indicate that other airports in Thailand like Phuket and Chiang Mai are increasingly being used as a result of greater law enforcement at Don Muang Airport.
Since the suspension of direct flights between New York ( JFK International Airport), and Lagos, Nigeria, from the middle of 1993, Nigerian couriers are smuggling heroin into the U.S. from other West African countries, such as Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Senegal. In addition, beginning from 1991, several Nigerian couriers were arrested crossing the U.S. Southwest border. They have also transited Canada en route to the U. S.
Much of the heroin is also trafficked through Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. Moreover, Nigerian trafficking organizations often bypass Nigeria by using sea routes from the source countries to send the heroin directly to the United States or through European ports. Airports in the Commonwealth of Independent States, and East Europe (Bulgaria and Poland) have been utilized as transit points. The combination of weak legislation and law enforcement, unsophisticated controls, cheap flights from the source countries in Eastern Europe and the CIS has made that region very attractive to drug trafficking organizations (NDIC 1994). But their access to European heroin markets remain limited since Turkish drug trafficking organizations control the main wholesale heroin markets there ( DEA 1995, NDIC 1994).
Nigerian drug trafficking groups have increasingly been involved in cocaine smuggling mostly destined for European and Thailand markets, also to the United States. Nigerian government sources indicate that an estimated 90% of the total traffic through Nigeria in cocaine is destined for other countries, for which Nigeria is only a transit country.
Nigerian groups buy cocaine in Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Columbia paying US$8,000-$10,000 per kilogram. Brazilian sources of supply are also being increasingly used to buy cocaine wholesale. Nigerian government sources reported that in 1994, the wholesale price in Nigeria of one kg of cocaine with 70% purity was N280,000-N80,000 (US$12,844-3,669), which represented a strong increase from the previous year.
In many cases, the drug has been transported to Brazil (Rio de Janeiro or San Paolo) for shipment to Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos is the principal distribution centre for cocaine in Africa. From Lagos, the drug trafficking organizations hire couriers to carry the cocaine to European and Asian destinations. After Brazilian authorities canceled direct flights from Brazil ( Rio de Janeiro) to Nigeria (Lagos) in mid 1994, Drug trafficking organizations have resorted to alternative routes. The use of sea routes, in particular the use of containerized vessels have been frequently used for shipping large amounts of cocaine from Brazil to Nigeria. Another recent trend is the use of the airport in Recife, Brazil to smuggle cocaine to Nigeria.
Nigerian and Ghana drug traffickers smuggle cocaine to Europe and Thailand most commonly on direct commercial air flights from Nigeria, Ghana and also through other West African countries such as Cape Verde, Angola, the Ivory Coast, and Senegal.
South Africa is also being increasingly used by drug traffickers as a transit point to send cocaine to other countries. In 1993, Nigerian couriers were responsible for more than half the cocaine seized in that country. The large Nigerian community in South Africa provides a base for the redistribution of cocaine and allows couriers, on their way to Nigeria, to avoid the more time-consuming and therefore more risky smuggling route in East Africa. Nigerian cocaine couriers have also transited Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Swaziland on their way to South Africa.
From South Africa, Nigerian couriers travel to Europe, mainly to the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. As with heroin trafficking, Eastern Europe and the CIS are being increasingly used as transit points for cocaine destined for West European markets.
This drug trafficking groups are also involved in the smuggling of cannabis from Nigeria to other West African countries, particularly Liberia, and to Europe, particularly Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Marijuana has been transported from Nigeria to Europe concealed in commercial shipping containers, many of which enter Europe through ports in the Netherlands.
The average price per kg of cannabis paid to the farmer as raw material was N1,000 in 1994 (U.N. Part III). In Nigeria, marijuana is often used as a source of hard currency in illicit cross-border trade in food or consumer products.
Illicit trafficking in psychotropic substances, particularly pemoline, in Nigeria has grown in recent years. There are also unsubstantiated accounts of methaqualone smuggling in and through Nigeria.
Although Nigeria is neither a significant regional or international financial centre, it has the potential to become a centre for money laundering. There are indications that the proceeds from Nigerian drug trafficking operations are being infused into the Nigerian economy. Nigerian drug trafficking organizations use various methods to bring in large sums of proceeds into Nigeria; for example, huge sums of US currency are smuggled into Nigeria in imported refrigerators, televisions, and vehicles, and carried by couriers with false sided suitcases or taped to their bodies.
Following concerted pressure from the international community, the Federal Government of Nigeria enacted Decree 3 of 1995 to provide comprehensive legislation on drug money laundering which closely follows the provisions of the UNDCP model law. It is too early to comment of the effectiveness of the law yet. The big unanswered question here is, who is responsible for all this crimes against humanity.
Is it Nigerian citizens? OR Their selfish leaders who never care about the welfare of Nigerian citizens OR The Europeans who bent on sucking our natural resources with our dear leaders, thereby cultivating the seed of corruption on Nigerian citizens as well.
(MAY ALMIGHTY GOD HELP OUR DEAR COUNTRY NIGERIA)
Written by?.PRINCE JERRY CHIKE OBINABO Esq (BANGKOK)