The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), has raised an alarm over the increasing importation of hard drugs including cocaine and Tramadol into Nigeria and other West Africa countries through the Gulf of Guinea.
The UNODC also applauded the federal government for signing into law, the Suppression of Piracy and other Offences Act, which they said gives comprehensive framework to tackling the issue of piracy and other maritime crimes.
According to UN, the most prominent kind of drugs being smuggled into the countries in West and Central Africa, are tramadol and cocaine.
Speaking with newsmen on the side line of the on going 3-day Global Maritime Security Conference (GMSC) holding in Abuja, yesterday, Oliver Stolpe, representative of UNODC Nigeria, said in 2014, Nigerian authority seized about 8 tonnes of tramadol that were smuggled into the country, but the latest data shows that in 2018, the volume of seized tramadol hits a record high of 150 tonnes.
“There is massive increase in quantities of tramadol that are smuggled into the country and all of these seizures happen at the seaports,” Stolpe said.
According to him, Nigerian government have done a few things right by signing into law, the Suppression of Piracy and other Offences Act, which for the first time, gives comprehensive framework to tackling the issue of piracy and other maritime crimes.
“Nigeria is on good part, but the big issue is, specific follow up with prosecutions because that has been lacking. One of the challenges in the Gulf of Guinea countries is basically the extremely fragmented legal framework when we look at all the countries in the region,” he stated.
He said there are regional, international and sub regional frameworks like the ECOWAS level of framework, but there is gap between countries having signed on to these different legal frameworks, to actually be able to put them into domestic legislation or policies.
“At the moment, that is a crucial gap but UN is actually working very extensively with Nigerian government and governments of other countries in the region to assist them in terms of legal reforms and capacity building for judges, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Guiseppe Sernias, programme officer for UNODC, who stated that the countries in Gulf of Guinea, and the whole of West African waters, are recording high level of drugs and cocaine trafficking by sea judging by the seizures in recent years.
According to him, Cape Verde, for instance, recently seized 10 tonnes of cocaine, which is a huge amount in the market while Guinea Bissau Authority recently seized large quantities of cocaine that mainly come by sea.
“Therefore, we need countries to implement trade agreements that would enable vessels to be board at sea. Countries need to be able to apply the Vienna Convention on Narcotics Substances, which articles 17 provides for proceeding to board a vessel of foreign flags. So that coastal countries could board a vessel of another flag, this can be put in national legal framework,” he further said.
Meanwhile, the federal government has been advised to invest in the development of the Niger-Delta region, and also create a special maritime court to handle cases of piracy and other maritime offences.
These were parts of the recommendations reached at the thematic sessions tagged, “Maritime Governance and Blue Economy”.
The participants argued that establishment of specialised maritime courts would be desirable to ensure quick dispensation of cases.
It was also agreed that the Nigerian Government should re-invest in the Niger-Delta communities by educating, creating skills development and enshrine adequate compensation scheme for the youths in the communities.
“Government needs to review and revise extant fishing laws and regulations and as well as ensure enforcement of the laws with particular attention on monitoring, control and surveillance,” they suggested.
They also advised that Nigerian government should provide social amenities in the Niger Delta region for peace in the GoG region.
“African Countries should leverage on the existing opportunities in deep sea mining activities and the resources abound in areas beyond national jurisdiction by taking advantage of their membership status with the international seabed authority and applying for mining licenses,” the said.