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Transnational Crimes and Nigeria's Security

Studienarbeit 2017 32 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Region: Afrika


Table of Contents














This work articulates that Nigeria’s security is troubled by transnational crimes prevalent in West Africa by making an important argument that since West African states lack the capacity to uphold the basic demands of statehood within their territorial domains, they unavoidably serve as safe havens for trans-organized criminal networks, which has grave implications to Nigeria’s domestic concerns.


A great deal of Nigeria’s security challenges comes from other West African nations. This is notably a result of the porosity of the borders arising from their failure to contend with illegal cross-border flows. These countries are loosed in their national security frameworks, a situation which results in weak collaborative efforts and defective law enforcements Addo (2011). On this note, Brown (2013) emphasizes that traffickers find it conducive operating in West African states where the rule of law does not count while stressing that powerful cartels and terrorist organizations flourish here due to its permissive environment, vast ungoverned sea, land, and air spaces. According to Pape (2005), governments in the sub-region are feeble and corrupt with myriads of challenges that militate against their capacity to enforce laws and monitor coastlines and airports. Englebert and Tull 2008, believe that even though state feebleness and failure is a phenomenon peculiar to every region in the globe, it is unarguably a fact that the African continent is more given to this, which has caused many scholars to claim that “…state failure is a broadly African phenomenon”

Some of these criminal activities are drug trafficking, trafficking of small and light weapons/ammunitions, trafficking of human beings, especially women and children and oil bunkering, Willie (2008) cited in Nte (2011). These crime command both local and international collaboration and have enormous impacts on Nigeria’s security. As noted by Willie (2008) cited in Nte (2011) the situation has led to untold destruction of lives and property, severe pollution of water/ land and the birth and growth of a culture of violence, inter-communal clashes and terrorism in Nigeria . Right now, Nigeria is covered with sophisticated arms and ammunition which are often employed to fuel conflicts and ignite violence. Majority of these arms come in through borders, be it land, sea or air across Nigeria’s boundaries Willie (2008) cited in Nte (2011). For instance, (Stohl and Tuttle (2009)and Ibrahim (2003), report that out of the 640 million Small Arms and Light Weapons SALW circulating globally, 100 million are found in Africa and about 30 million in the sub-Saharan Africa and 8 million in West Africa, alone. They note that about 59% of these SALW are in the hands of civilians, 38% are owned by national military forces, 2.8% by police and 0.2 % by armed groups. Therefore between 1999 and 2003, there were over 30 communal clashes, sectarian violence and ethno-religious conflicts with each claiming hundreds of lives/ properties and rendering several women and children homeless in Nigeria. Nte (2011).

The impact of this insecurity on Nigeria is enormous not just in terms of human suffering and loss of lives and property, but also in terms of the frustration it has meted on the nation’s macro-economic arrangement which attests to Alemika et al’ (2013) postulation that organized crimes weaken government capacity by leeching away resources, capacity and legitimacy required for the sustenance of democracy. Hence, Ogbodo and Mieseigha (2013), declare that trans-national crimes war against nations’ financial sectors which are vital to economic growth by diverting public resources and encouraging criminality which slows down economic growth and distorts external economic sectors.

The cooption of government officials into criminality in Nigeria has debased the country’s institutional efficacy and responsiveness and this is another major implication of criminal business on Nigeria’s security. It is in response to this that Aning (2010) in Aning and Pokoo (2014) points out that well placed officials of government were found to be involved in several cases of cocaine and heroin trafficking seizures in the late 2000s, noting that both formal and traditional security systems in West Africa are parties to trans-national criminal networks.

Another major risk posed to the country by these criminal enterprises is the defamation of the nation’s character. Morgentau (1949) describes the national character as those fundamental intellectual and moral characteristics which are expressed at all levels of thoughts and deeds, giving every nation an unmistakable distinctiveness. These criminal businesses portray Nigeria in bad light and create an erroneous impression that the country is incapable of maintaining security and providing for their citizens especially in terms of employment and social welfare Njoku (2015).

Hence, this dilemma necessitated the investigation of border entry points to ascertain the nature, dynamics of these crime and their implications for Nigeria’s wellbeing. The Nigeria-Benin border, which is located in the West of the country and particularly notorious for illegal trans-border activities, was selected for the study.


Trans-border crime has been in existence in West Africa since the 1970’s which were initially in the form of individuals or groups of traders and merchants smuggling goods across the borders, de Andres (2008). Some of the factors responsible for its growth in the sub-region are the colonial pattern of exploitation and trade, official corruption, the structural adjustment program, unequal distribution of resources and weak legal/institutional frameworks Alemika (2013). Shaw (2001) posits that the origin and growth of trans-border crime in the sub-region directly coincide with the decline and economic crises of the states in the 1980’s. Therefore, since the 1990s, cross-border criminal industries have more than ever been become strong, providing nefarious opportunities for former combatants and criminals who would do nothing else that crime and in the process undermine state security and abuse human rights de Andres (2008).

According to Shelley (1995), the growth of international illegal activities is indeed due to the rise in the scope of legitimate business across the globe and the ease in which they are carried out. He notes that technological advancement, particularly in the areas of commercial airlines, telecommunications and the use of computers, has led to the sophistication of these enterprises. For example, between 1960 and 1974, the passenger volume on international flights had increased six-fold. By 1992, it had increased more than four times from the 1970’s level, Shelley (1995).

A report from the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime UNODC (2007), notes that countries in the sub-region have become important locations in the smuggling of illicit goods because there has been increased law enforcement success in the Caribbean and Europe. This points to two important issues, firstly, that international crime prevails in weak or developing states because of the involvement of some highly placed public officials, who take advantage of their good offices to perpetuate the crime and secondly, that the weak states, due to their incapacity to apply drastic measures in their territories and for the fear of counter strikes from the perpetrators of the crime stay away from taking actions. Inadequate financial, human and material resources required in the fight against the criminal business have also been labeled a major contributor to their growth in West Africa. Therefore, although there are signs of some legal and institutional instruments to confront the crime, they unfortunately do not make good impacts because the environments do not have the organizational wherewithal to support such moves and also because there is a lack of political will on the part of the governments UNODC (2007).

Addo (2006) notes that the failure of states in fighting the crime is behind the endorsements of the UN, ECOWAS and the EU for the establishment of more unified regional strategies in solving the problem. However, whenever such efforts may arise, they too get frustrated by the same complications inherent in the system and the criminal business continues to thrive. Rice and Patrick (2008) see this as a lack of capacity and will to fulfill the exigencies of statehood. In the view of McGuire (2010), West Africa is one of the most underdeveloped and instability prone regions in the world and this attests to the postulation of Brown (2013) that the sub-region’s governance and law enforcement are the direct reasons for its underdevelopment. McGuire, therefore, describes many states in the sub-region as obviously feeble, without strength to perform basic security and welfare responsibilities of statehood. They are therefore marked by corruption, political disorderliness and crises, McGuire (2010).

The weakness of West African states, however, continue to engender cross-border crime and instability in the sub-region because there are no goods mechanisms in place to monitor movements and activities across borders which evidently hampers good governance and security, with impacts on the rule of law, economic activities and growth, human rights and general societal wellbeing Andres (2008). In this view, Alemika (2013) has notes that in recent time, these criminal enterprises have hampered the governance and economies of nations in the sub-region which in turn have exponentially grown in the direction of crime.


State Fragility Theory

The state fragility theory is often used to explain how states’ internal makeups do hinder them from living out their full potentials. It was adopted as the theoretical basis for this research. The main thrust of theory is that national environments which cannot project and fulfill critical government roles such as the provision of conducive and enduring economic environments, the establishment and development of credible formal organizations, prevention of violent conflicts, provision of basic needs and safeguarding of the citizens inalienable rights are weak and therefore susceptible to breakdowns ( failure).

In their report, Rice and Patrick (2008) cited in the Pardee Papers of March (2010) conclude that state weakness is directly related to poverty, with the evidence that poor countries anywhere in the world display such symptoms that characterize weak states. According to them, Poverty fuels and sustains civil strife, which slowly but steadily diminishes states’ strengths. (Rice and Patrick( 2008), while taking note of this say that strength or weakness is directly a product of how much ability a state has to cater for essential public goods such as economic opportunities, protection from threats, accountability in governance.

However, while it is true that weak or failed states are everywhere in the world, the African continent is in particular noted for this, a situation that has caused many observers to believe that it is mainly an African issue, (Englebert and Tull 2008, 108). Unarguably, the entire continent is surrounded by weak nations but West Africa nations are more especially so which clearly reflects in their incapacity project and actualize meaningful national development goals.

The State Fragility theory was relevant to the research because it helped to explain how West African States’ internal characteristics have stopped them from living up to the demands of such status especially in their failure to make and implement drastic policies to curb trans-border crime.

In furtherance, the research established nexuses between and the situation in the sub region. The analysis was done with specific attention on institutional lag and corruption.


West Africa’s primary attraction to traffickers is about geography, but rather its low standard of governance, low level of law enforcement and high rates of corruption Brown (2013). Therefore Brown emphasizes here that traffickers consider it more favorable doing business in West African states because their laws are not effective with a note that criminal and terrorist organizations would have no trouble operating from the sub-region on account of its permissive environment, large unregulated sea, land, and air spaces. On this note, Pape (2005) intimates that West African governments are corrupt and crippled by several difficulties which negate law enforcement and territorial monitoring. While weak states are found in every region across the globe, (Englebert and Tull 2008, 108) note that the African continent has been outstandingly noted for these, leading to conclusions that “…state breakdown is almost entirely, a West African issue. McGuire’s (2010) view is that since these nations are poor, unstable and hampered by corruption, they lack the wherewithal to deliver public goods and services to the citizenry are therefore practically weak. He characterizes the sub-region as that with impotent institutions, non-transparent governance.

Although many nations in the sub-region are now democratized with some commitment to accountability and civil society , they however are unstable because of corruption which has had manifold implications on them and have compounded their challenges to the extent that the majority of them are rated very on Transparency International’s Corruption index and this has continued to defeat every meaningful effort to make a difference McGuire, (2010). This situation can best be examined in the context of Atuobi (2007) that corruption erodes governments’ capacity and leads states into fragile conditions that promote destructive conflicts and perpetual of disorder. Allen (1999) hereby adds that criminal groups explore for and take advantage of these weak entry points within state structures to establish and spread their tentacles and since West African states provide for such loopholes, they become their unavoidable destinations. Sequel to this, Gberie (2016) points to the fact that West African governments do not respond properly to national security needs and the exigencies of governance except by highlighting them at the international arena. He therefore notes that many West African countries are seriously troubled by insecurity expressed through drug trafficking, irregular migration, arms trafficking, human trafficking and terrorism all of which constantly rise in scope. Therefore, the governments noted as being lukewarm in their disposition to national security matters and the states have become insecure because they have failed to uphold local governance, authority and territorial integrity which have in turn opened their borders to multiple threats with devastating implications on security systems , regional integration and economic progress, Andres (2008). Andres notes therefore that the absence of reliable security machinery and the expansiveness of borders in the sub-region have opened up the states to criminal penetration.

A UNODC (2008) report uses West Africa’s high rate of poverty to explain its power position. The report notes it is the poorest in the world, depicting a situation in which all except just three of its members are not on the UN list of least developed countries including the five countries with the lowest record of human development in the globe: Mali, Niger, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone. From the report, it is clear that due scarcity of resources , many of these states do not have functioning criminal justice machinery to handle criminal cases and as explained in the report, a country like Guinea Bissau does not even have a prison in which to accommodate convicted suspects. Besides Nigeria’s large national police force, there is no other country in the sub-region that can boast of same. Ghana, for example, has just a trivial number of 74 police officers per 100,000 people, with Niger having less than half of that. Even though the ability and will to arrest criminals abound, there is usually a little or no capacity at all to subject the criminals to trial and conviction because a lot of high ranking officials are on the side of the criminals. Examining these shortcomings, Addo (2006) asserts that even the arrested criminals have nothing to be afraid of given the fact that they can beat the criminal justice system by bribing key government officials to avoid prosecution. This development has thus eroded the efficacy of the states’ public institutions to effectively combat these crimes.


Corruption is a general problem in West Africa. On this note, Ekpenyong (2016) points to the fact that illicit business and political relations are closely related factors in the sub region, stressing there has been a revelation that corruption among West African public officials has demeaned the fight against these crimes. As remarked by Aning (2007), it is true that states’ fragility has been responsible for the proliferation if the crime in recent time, the involvement, of state officials is nevertheless of important effect. For example, he notes that in the month of January, 2004, there was a large arrest involving a gang of international drug smugglers in Ghana that had shipped about 675 kilograms of cocaine, estimated at about USD 140 million. However the report notes that the suspects were later being released on a bail of just USD 200,000, which was by far less than the intensity of the of the crime. In the Nigeria- Benin border axis, Nte (2011) in his remark notes that efforts to stand up to trans-border crime has always been defeated due to the rate of corruption at there . Agu (2013) notes that these acts are done in the forms of bribery, abuse of office and influence peddling to nepotism and squandermania. Accordingly, Alemika et al (2013), accuses the security actors of being in partnership with the criminal networks and frustrating meaningful efforts in the fight which has destabilized the sub-region by weakening the institutions saddled with security responsibilities. He therefore stresses that high ranking security personnel have been implicated on grounds of accepting bribes from drug traffickers to look away from them. Aning et al (2013), makes it clear that the Ghanaian judicial system is frustrated by corruption so much that judgments in recent times have become questionable with regards to credibility and freedom from organized criminal gangs. Addo (2006) has also noted that the heads of these criminal businesses are in strong alliances with some top border officials who also benefit from the proceeds of the crime. Addo notes here that because of the huge financial rewards associated with these businesses many of the officials cannot overcome the temptation of consenting.



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Titel: Transnational Crimes and Nigeria's Security