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How Nigeria Became a Hotspot for Organised Crime

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How Nigeria Became a Hotspot for Organised Crime

(iexclusivenews) Nigeria is one of the most populous and diverse countries in Africa, with over 200 million people and more than 250 ethnic groups.

It is also a major oil producer and has the largest economy on the continent.

However, Nigeria is also plagued by various forms of organised crime, which threaten its stability, security and development.

According to the 2023 Global Organized Crime Index, Nigeria is ranked sixth in the world for organised crime, with a score of 7.28 out of 10 points.

This means that Nigeria has a high level of criminality, a complex network of criminal actors, and a low resilience to counter the threat of organised crime.

The index, which was released on Wednesday by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, is based on a comprehensive dataset and the expert knowledge of over 400 specialists worldwide.

It measures the status of organised crime in 158 countries across four dimensions: criminal actors, criminal markets, state response and resilience factors.

The report noted that “levels of criminality are increasing worldwide while resilience measures are falling short of meeting the threat.”


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The Rise of Criminal Actors in Nigeria

One of the main factors that contribute to Nigeria’s high criminality score is the presence and influence of various criminal actors in the country.

The index defines criminal actors as groups or networks that engage in illegal activities for financial or material benefit, using violence, corruption or related means.

However, the index assesses five types of criminal actors: mafia-style groups, private-sector actors, state-embedded actors, foreign actors and criminal networks.

Nigeria scored high in all these categories, indicating a widespread and diverse range of criminal actors operating in the country.

Some of the most prominent criminal actors in Nigeria include:

Mafia-style groups: These are groups that have a hierarchical structure, a code of conduct, a territorial base and a degree of social control.

They often provide protection, dispute resolution and social services to their communities, while also engaging in extortion, racketeering and other crimes.

In Nigeria, some examples of mafia-style groups are the Niger Delta militants, who have been fighting for a greater share of oil revenues and environmental justice;

The Oodua People’s Congress, (OPC) which is a Yoruba nationalist group that has been involved in ethnic clashes and vigilante activities;

The Bakassi Boys, which is a vigilante group that has been accused of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations.

Private-sector actors: These are individuals or entities that use their legitimate business activities as a cover or a facilitator for illegal activities.

They often exploit loopholes, evade regulations, bribe officials and launder money through their businesses.

In Nigeria, some examples of private-sector actors are the oil bunkering syndicates, which steal crude oil from pipelines and refineries and sell it on the black market;

The cybercrime networks, which use online platforms to defraud unsuspecting victims around the world;

The human trafficking rings, which recruit, transport and exploit vulnerable people for sexual or labor exploitation.

State-embedded Actors: These are individuals or entities that use their position or influence within the state apparatus to facilitate or participate in illegal activities.

They often abuse their power, undermine the rule of law, compromise institutions and divert public resources for their own benefit.

In Nigeria, some examples of state-embedded actors are the corrupt politicians, who embezzle funds, rig elections and patronize criminals;

The rogue security forces, who extort money, torture suspects and commit human rights abuses;

The paramilitary groups, who act as proxies for political or economic interests and carry out violent attacks against opponents or civilians.

Foreign Actors: These are individuals or entities that originate from outside the country but operate within it to conduct illegal activities.

They often collaborate with local partners, exploit weak governance, evade law enforcement and take advantage of regional or global dynamics.

In Nigeria, some examples of foreign actors are the Chinese smugglers, who import counterfeit goods, evade taxes and undermine local industries;

The Lebanese Hezbollah, which has been accused of using Nigeria as a base for fundraising, money laundering and terrorist activities;

The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), which is an offshoot of Boko Haram that has pledged allegiance to ISIS and carried out attacks in Nigeria and neighboring countries.

Criminal Networks: These are loose associations of individuals or entities that cooperate to conduct illegal activities across different sectors or locations.

They often have a horizontal structure, a flexible membership and a diversified portfolio.

In Nigeria, some examples of criminal networks are the drug trafficking networks, which transport cocaine, heroin and cannabis through Nigeria to other destinations;

The arms smuggling networks, which supply weapons and ammunition to various armed groups and criminals;

The wildlife trafficking networks, which poach and trade endangered animals and their parts.

The Impact of Organised Crime on Nigeria

The presence and activities of these criminal actors have a negative impact on Nigeria’s security, stability and development. Some of the consequences of organised crime in Nigeria include:

Violence and insecurity: Organised crime fuels violence and insecurity in Nigeria, as criminal actors often clash with each other, with the state or with the society.

According to the Global Terrorism Index, Nigeria is the third most affected country by terrorism in the world, with 1,245 deaths and 2,224 injuries in 2022.

The main perpetrators of terrorism in Nigeria are Boko Haram and ISWAP, which have been waging a decade-long insurgency in the North-east of the country.

Other sources of violence and insecurity in Nigeria include banditry, kidnapping, communal conflicts, cultism and vigilantism.

Corruption and impunity: Organised crime undermines the integrity and effectiveness of state institutions, as criminal actors often infiltrate, co-opt or coerce public officials and agencies.

According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Nigeria is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in terms of perceived corruption, with a score of 25 out of 100 points.

Corruption erodes public trust, hampers service delivery, distorts policy making and enables impunity for criminals.

Poverty and inequality: Organised crime deprives the country of its resources, opportunities and potential, as criminal actors often divert, exploit or destroy public goods and assets.

According to the World Bank, Nigeria is home to about 83 million people living in extreme poverty, which is about 40% of its population.

Poverty exacerbates social grievances, fuels criminality and hinders development.

Environmental degradation: Organised crime contributes to environmental degradation in Nigeria, as criminal actors often damage or deplete natural resources and ecosystems.

According to the Environmental Performance Index, Nigeria is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in terms of environmental health and ecosystem vitality, with a score of 27.6 out of 100 points.

Environmental degradation affects human health, biodiversity and climate change.

The Need for a Comprehensive Response to Organised Crime in Nigeria

Given the scale and complexity of organised crime in Nigeria, there is a need for a comprehensive response that addresses both the causes and the consequences of this phenomenon.

The index also measures the state response and resilience factors that influence the ability of a country to prevent, control and mitigate organised crime.

The index assesses four types of state response: law enforcement, criminal justice, international cooperation and prevention.

Nigeria scored low in all these categories, indicating a weak and ineffective response to organised crime.

Some of the challenges that hinder the state response in Nigeria include:

Lack Of Capacity: The state lacks adequate human, financial and technical resources to combat organised crime.

The law enforcement agencies are understaffed, underfunded and under-equipped. The criminal justice system is slow, inefficient and overburdened.

The international cooperation mechanisms are limited, inconsistent and politicized. The prevention programs are scarce, fragmented and poorly implemented.

Lack Of Coordination: The state lacks a coherent and coordinated strategy to combat organised crime.

There is no clear division of roles and responsibilities among different agencies and levels of government.

There is no effective information sharing or joint action among relevant stakeholders.

There is no consistent monitoring or evaluation of policies and programs.

Lack of accountability: The state lacks transparency and accountability in its response to organised crime.

There is no independent oversight or scrutiny of the actions and performance of state actors.

There is no adequate legal framework or mechanism to ensure compliance with human rights standards and international obligations.

There is no effective participation or feedback from civil society or affected communities.

The index also assesses four types of resilience factors: social protection, economic development, civil society mobilization and media freedom.

Nigeria scored low in all these categories, indicating a low resilience to organised crime.

Some of the factors that reduce the resilience in Nigeria include:

Social Exclusion: Many people in Nigeria face social exclusion due to their ethnicity, religion, gender or location.

They often lack access to basic services, opportunities and rights.

They are more vulnerable to exploitation, manipulation or recruitment by criminal actors.

They are less likely to trust or cooperate with state authorities or institutions.

Economic hardship: Many people in Nigeria face economic hardship due to unemployment, underemployment or poverty.

They often lack alternative sources of income or livelihoods. They are more tempted or forced to engage in illegal activities for survival or advancement.

They are less able to resist or report criminal actors or activities.

Civil Society Repression: Many civil society organizations in Nigeria face repression from state or non-state actors.

They often lack legal recognition, protection or support. They are more exposed to harassment, intimidation or violence