Drug of ruin
Narcotics are becoming a grave concern for West Africa. The controlled or banned substances have been subjects of illicit trades, raking in an estimated US$13bn in their movement through the region. Terrorist acts carried out by groups that obtain their funds directly or indirectly from the illicit drug trade are on the increase.
The United States and other developed nations are concerned with this increase, probably more concerned than African nations. Recently, in July 2012, the New York Times reported that the “United States has begun training an elite unit of counternarcotics police in Ghana and planning similar units in Nigeria and Kenya as part of an effort to combat the Latin American cartels that are increasingly using Africa to smuggle cocaine into Europe.”
There is concern about Guinea Bissau, which is being described as ‘the world’s first narco-state’, a state where all leadership is hinged on or linked to drug trade. In fact, it is said that not only are the 88 islands off the country’s coast prime drug transit points between South American and Europe, narcotics account for US$2bn which is twice Guinea Bissau’s GDP. This is alarming.
But more so is the spread and influence of the illicit drugs trade across the region. There are suspicions of drug being used to fund elections in Ghana; narco-terrorism being a fuel of instability in countries like Mali, Liberia and Nigeria. West Africa is alluring to drug peddlers because of weak state institutions. For instance, Nigerian comedian Mr. Babatunde Omidina popularly known as Baba Suwe, got judgment to be paid N25m (about 158,400 USD) by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) after the agency detained the actor for weeks following body analyses that supposedly revealed foreign objects in Baba Suwe’s stomach. The circumstances surrounding the arrest, airport scanner and labora-tory analyses, as well as the unusually speedy legal processes raised eyebrows, especially on social media. Some commentators argued that narcotics catalysed the processes!
Donor support for and aid to national institutions in the form of gadgets and machines for detecting narcotics are important. But these are only reactive. The push and pull factors comprise of bad governance and weak institutions. State structures are important in combating trafficking. Glamour associated with entertainment is serving to recruit more traffickers. The more delicate is how to dissuade future generations from taking to this vice. Home enter-tainment holds prospects for enlightenment in this regard. Nevertheless, like all else, the onus seems to lie in commitments of governments. And that’s a boring refrain!
Odoh Diego Okenyodo