West Africa has become an important route for international drug trafficking, Mr. Benjamin Ndego, Criminologist and a Compliance and Risk Manager at Travelex Worldwide Money, has disclosed.
Mr. Ndego, who was also Ghana’s National Correspondent for Anti-Money Laundering in the International Governmental Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), said since 2006, between 20 and 40 tonnes of cocaine had been transiting through the region annually on route to Europe.
He said 20 tonnes of cocaine was valued at approximately US$1 billion on the wholesale market.
He said this at the ongoing fifth Maritime Security and Transnational Organized Crime (MSTOC) course being run by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) with support from the German Government.
He said drug trafficking was run like a multinational organisation by well-organized and powerful crime groups based in different parts of the world, a situation that makes it difficult for security agencies to easily breakthrough.
He said globally, some 210 million people, representing 4.8 percent of the population aged between 15 and 64 years, use illicit substances annually, adding that the annual global drug trade is worth $435 billion a year.
Mr. Ndego stated that in the past decade, drug barons had been peddling their goods through West Africa to feed hungry markets in Europe and North America.
He added that the United Nations reckoned that cocaine worth $1.25 billion passed through West Africa every year, an amount that was more than the national budgets of several countries in the region.
He observed that both drug trafficking and its policing were huge problems, saying that after a long period of quietness, there were subsequent seizures in 2018 and 2019, stating, however, that while some high-level arrests were being made, it was mainly small-time dealers and people buying drugs for their personal use who were being thrown into prison to make the statistics look good, while the men at the top went untouched due to corruption.
“Kingpins cooperate with politicians, businessmen, security people, and lawyers to get free passage; we are stuck with a policy in the region that understands the number of arrests made as the way to judge the success of drug control,” he said.
The criminologist said the emerging trend was that West African countries were becoming the centre that produced methamphetamine and synthetic drugs, which were shipped to Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.
He added that it emerged as a problem in Africa in 2010 when authorities discovered an international cocaine trafficking ring trying to set up a methamphetamine laboratory in Liberia, adding that in the following months, methamphetamine busts began to occur in Nigeria as well.
Mr. Ndego said porous legislation, poor law enforcement, poor implementation of the laws, a lack of collaboration between relevant local and national agencies, and turf wars between law enforcement agencies served as enablers for West Africa being a drug trafficking route.
He said get-rich-quick syndrome, a lack of government effort to support the youth, and the threat of poverty on the people were the drivers of the problem.