US embassy cable - 01ABUJA2074

THE BLOOM IS OFF THE ROSE: NIGERIA'S DRUG CERTIFICATION AT MID-YEAR

Identifier: 01ABUJA2074
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA2074 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-08-17 18:16:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: KCRM NI PGOV SNAR
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 002074 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
DEPT FOR INL AND AF 
DEA HQS FOR OFE 
LAGOS FOR USSS 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/13/2011 
TAGS: KCRM, NI, PGOV, SNAR 
SUBJECT: THE BLOOM IS OFF THE ROSE: NIGERIA'S DRUG 
CERTIFICATION AT MID-YEAR 
 
REF: ABUJA 1547 
 
 
1.(U)  Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter. Reasons 1.5 
(b) and (d). 
 
 
 
 
2.(C)  Summary:  The March 1, 2001 drug certification of 
Nigeria appears to have had the unintended consequence of 
lulling top Nigerian law enforcement officials into a 
counter-narcotics complacency.  Unless the NDLEA's 
operational efforts are revitalized quickly by its current 
Chairman and funded more generously by a reluctant federal 
government, Nigeria will have to struggle to meet established 
requirements by year,s end. End Summary. 
 
 
 
 
3.(C)  Five months after Nigeria received its first narcotics 
certification in seven years, top GON policy-makers appear 
lethargic in their moves to implement more aggressive drug 
enforcement efforts to ensure renewed certification in 2002. 
The false belief that certification has been obtained 
indefinitely appears pervasive.  President Obasanjo's 
surprise to learn that certification is an annual process, 
after recently being told of the impending USG review by the 
Ambassador (reftel), is indicative of this false confidence. 
The NDLEA Chairman is acutely aware of the need for progress, 
however, and has written to Obasanjo to make that point. 
 
 
 
 
4.(C)  Meanwhile, the country's sole drug enforcement agency, 
the NDLEA, has produced unimpressive results. So far this 
year, no major traffickers have been investigated, arrested 
or prosecuted.  Seizures of hard drugs are less significant 
than in the past few years.  Money laundering remains largely 
unchecked as highlighted by the FATF's June 2001 declaration 
of Nigeria as a "non-cooperating" country in international 
efforts to fight money laundering.  The NDLEA's "Joint Task 
Force" set up to cooperate with DEA on major drug cases is 
moribund. Nigeria's largest ports -- Lagos' Apapa and Tin Can 
Island -- remain off limits to the NDLEA. 
 
 
 
 
5.(C) The NDLEA would prefer to cast Nigeria's drug 
trafficking situation as improving, with traffickers moving 
to off-shore bases and increasingly avoiding Nigeria as a 
transit area.  This theory is often espoused by the NDLEA 
Chairman and the Attorney General and rationalizes the 
limited drug enforcement gains made in Nigeria so far this 
year.  Reality as depicted by information available to DEA 
and others, however, is far less sanguine.  Large quantities 
of heroin and cocaine, often in loads over 100 kilograms, 
continue to enter Nigeria from Southwest and Southeast Asia 
and Latin America before being parceled out in smaller 
quantities for delivery to US and European markets. 
Continued arrests of Nigerian drug couriers made around the 
world provides confirmation that many drug rings remained 
centered or tied to Nigeria, though it is true that some may 
now operate largely in other countries. 
 
 
 
 
Extradition - The Forgotten Issue 
--------------------------------- 
 
 
 
 
6.(C) With the sensational November 2000 rendition to U.S. 
justice of four fugitives, including two drug traffickers on 
the U.S. President's List of Major Drug Kingpins, the 
perceived need to cooperate with the USG on the requested 
extradition of 18 other fugitives appears to have waned. 
Some senior GON officials may have perceived the USG's 
reluctance to accept additional extrajudicial renditions as a 
sign of flagging US emphasis on extraditions.  The emphasis 
we have placed on the long-term building of an efficient 
extradition mechanism respectful of due process could have 
been misinterpreted as a sign of diminished USG interest in 
seeing fugitives turned over for U.S. prosecution.  Though 
pledges are plenty from the Attorney General on making this 
goal a reality, there has been no discernible movement 
towards selecting prosecutors for a dedicated MOJ 
"extradition unit" or a judge to hear extradition cases 
exclusively.   Similarly, there has been no move to initiate 
new proceedings against the several fugitives subject to 
outstanding USG extradition requests. 
 
 
 
 
Airport Interdiction - The One Bright Spot 
------------------------------------------- 
 
 
7.(C) The silver lining to NDLEA's otherwise lackluster 
performance is the dramatically improved drug interdiction 
posture at Lagos' Murtala Muhammed International Airport 
(MMIA).  Armed with two "Itemiser" drug detection scanners 
donated by INL in February as well as an existing body X-ray 
machine (to detect drug couriers carrying narcotics 
internally) the 50-man NDLEA team at MMIA is presenting a 
strong deterrent to trafficking through West Africa's busiest 
airport.  The South African Airways/Nigeria Airways non-stop 
flight from Lagos to New York is virtually drug-free, with 
only one confirmed drug seizure at New York/JFK since the 
flight started in February -- thanks to the 100 percent 
screening of passengers and baggage of the NDLEA airport 
unit.  This is no small accomplishment, especially 
considering the frequency of drug arrests made when Nigeria 
Airways operated a New York/JFK non-stop flight in the early 
1990's. 
 
 
 
 
8.(C) Using INL funds, Post hopes to further strengthen the 
NDLEA airport unit by providing two more "Itemisers," a 
vehicle and VHF radios (the unit currently has none).  The 
Ambassador has weighed in with the Minister of Aviation to 
obtained a higher ceiling on the number of NDLEA personnel 
authorized to work at the Lagos airport - crucial to the 
adequate screening on the New York and other international 
flights. Additional assistance will aim to improve the 
NDLEA's interdiction efforts at the Lagos seaports ) 
contingent on the NDLEA gaining access to these ports through 
a legislative amendment - and invigorate investigations 
against major traffickers in collaboration with DEA. DEA 
believes that more assistance from our side ) assistance 
that has already been discussed -- could further improve 
Nigeria's performance. 
 
 
 
 
9. (C) Comment: The USG must continue to push the Nigerians 
to fully fund the NDLEA while fulfilling our own promises to 
help the GON increase narcotics enforcement effectiveness. 
The DEA Lagos office remains understaffed, making joint 
operations difficult to conduct.  Furthermore, we continue to 
seek Congressional approval for the vetted unit that we 
promised the Nigerians, a key component to successful 
enforcement. We have not yet fulfilled our own base-line 
commitment 
 
 
 
 
Greater NDLEA Funding ) The Bottom Line 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
 
 
 
10.(C) Of course, the GON must also support NDLEA more 
substantially. The Ambassador personally lobbied President 
Obsanjo for a reinstatement of the Nigerian FY01 
Supplementary Budget allocation for the NDLEA after receiving 
reports that an original 2.2 billion Naira figure had been 
whittled down to 250 million (USD 2.2 million) by the 
Presidency.   As reported in Reftel, Obasanjo pledged to 
double the amount, to 500 million, which would be the largest 
budget ever received by the NDLEA.  (Note: Chairman Lafiaji 
and his National Assembly supporters have confided the 
initial 2.2 billion Naira request was far more than they had 
hoped to received and more than the NDLEA needed.  End Note.) 
  To date, the funding has not been delivered and the NDLEA 
appears to be living "hand-to-mouth" with its Chairman taking 
out personal loans to make sure his men have adequate housing 
and benefits. (Comment: Most GON entities are not receiving 
allocations on time as the GON tries to stem inflation and 
currency devaluation by holding back disbursements to 
agencies. End Comment.) 
 
 
 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
 
 
 
11.(C) Last year the emphasis for certification was on 
extradition or rendition of fugitives from U.S. Justice.  We 
believe the emphasis this year should be on adequate funding 
for the NDLEA, to allow it to fulfill Nigeria,s obligations 
under the 1988 UN Convention and to meet the USG's 
certification benchmarks.  We should hold the Presidency 
responsible for funding Nigeria's drug control effort as a 
sign of the GON's commitment to sustain a robust 
counter-narcotics effort. 
 
 
12. Our pushing the Nigerians to fully fund the NDLEA should 
be accompanied by vigorous, targeted efforts to help the GON 
increase NDLEA,s effectiveness. DEA,s Lagos office remains 
understaffed, making joint operations difficult to conduct. 
Furthermore, we continue to seek Congressional approval for 
the vetted unit that we promised the Nigerians, a key 
component to successful enforcement. 
 
 
13. (C) Nigeria remains a major international drug 
trafficking hub with an anemic threat of arrest and 
prosecution for traffickers.  The NDLEA, lacking the 
budgetary backing it needs from the GON, has not yet been 
able to pass the test of persuasive performance. The proposed 
visit to Abuja of a USG law enforcement delegation and the 
first meeting of the Bilateral Law Enforcement Committee will 
afford us a good opportunity to underscore the need for 
improvement, in particular for the GON to fully fund NDLEA 
requirements. We propose that the bilateral take place in 
early to-mid-November to allow the GON time to pursue the 
certification agenda. 
 
 
14.  (C) In the interim, the Embassy will push the GON to 
take necessary steps, but we must simultaneously redeem our 
own pledges. 
Jeter 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04