The illicit transport of hard drugs has been a major source of concern to many countries of the world. Not only does drug trafficking affect the national development of a country, it also poses a threat to the security of its citizens.
In an attempt to reduce or totally eliminate this menace known as drug trafficking, several drug regulatory bodies have been established. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for example, is a national organization charged with the responsibility of checking the production, distribution and sales of trafficked drugs in different nations of the world.
In Nigeria, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has been established to fight this menace. Despite the establishment and activities of these drug regulatory bodies, the subject matter still remains one of the most discussed in many countries.
Drug Trafficking: Understanding the subject matter
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), drug trafficking is as an illicit global trade that involves the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances that are subject to drug prohibition laws. Drug trafficking refers to the indiscriminate transport of hard drugs from one location to the other.
The most common prohibited and trafficked drugs across the world are cocaine, cannabis sativa (Indian hemp), heroin, diamorphine, crystal methamphetamine and morphine.
History of drug trafficking in Nigeria
The origin of drug trafficking in Nigeria can be traced to the period just after the Second World War which lasted between 1939 and 1945. Some Nigerian soldiers who had previously served in Burma, a former part of India, were reported to have returned to Nigeria with seeds of the cannabis sativa plant (India hemp). They further assessed its cultivation in the Nigerian soil and discovered that the plant, cannabis sativa, was capable of thriving in some parts of Nigeria. This single act led to a rise in the cultivation India hemp in Nigeria.
Subsequently, as years rolled by, Nigeria became a trafficking point for real hard drugs such as morphine and heroin and a middleman for the transport of cocaine from regions of South America to Europe and North America, while cannabis became the most abused and locally trafficked illicit drug in Nigeria and West Africa in general.
Banned drugs are usually smuggled across seaports, land and air; they may be sealed in ceramics, basket handles, women hairs and sewing threads or maybe parcelled alongside items like food flasks, cartons and bags. If the means is via air, the drug trafficker wraps the drugs in the protective film and takes it into his body via swallowing; he later excretes it on arrival at his destination or tucks it away in his luggage while on transit.
The trafficking of illicit drugs in Nigeria has succeeded partly because most of its borders are easily infiltrated or porous, this is because of its boundaries with other drug trafficking areas like Cameroon, Chad, Benin and Niger.
Trafficking of drugs is most common in countries that cultivate them. They are termed “hard” because they have the ability to cause addiction on exposure. The following countries are known as drug producing and drug trafficking countries. They include:
- Colombia: this is a country in South America. The major illicit drug produced here is cocaine.
- Bolivia: it is known for the production and transport of cocaine.
- Afghanistan is known for heroin production and trafficking.
- Mexico: This country is famous for the production and trafficking of cocaine.
- The United States is recognized as for the production of marijuana
- Venezuela: This is a drug trafficking country. Illicit drugs, usually cocaine are commonly transported from Colombia to other countries through its waterways or borders.
Why Nigerians engage in the trafficking of illicit drugs
No young person will nurse the ambition of becoming a drug trafficker in future. A long list of factors has prompted Nigerians’ involvement in the trafficking of prohibited drugs. Some of these factors are as a result of personal or societal causes which often emanate from depression and fear. They include the following;
- The failing economy of Nigeria.
- The increase in the rate of graduate unemployment.
- Poverty and failure of the government to provide basic necessities of life.
- High level of corruption.
- Get-rich-quickly syndrome among the youths in Nigeria and a desire to prove a point. This is one of the fundamental cause of drug trafficking in Nigeria.
- Peer influence.
In an attempt to curb the trafficking of illicit drugs, several countries have put up stringent penalties on drug trafficking, one of them is outright death penalty or execution.
Countries with strict drug trafficking penalties
- Vietnam: If found with more than 1.3 pounds of heroin, execution follows.
- Thailand: Drug traffickers of narcotics face the death penalty if caught.
- Saudi Arabia: Here, even alcohol is prohibited under its drug Acts and attracts penalties as public flogging, lengthy imprisonment and in rare cases, death.
- The Philippines: Trespassers of the drug laws face death sentences.
- Cambodia: In most cases, offenders face life imprisonment.
- China: Punishment is a compulsory admittance into a Drug Rehabilitation Centre in a government facility, in rare cases, execution could be the penalty.
- Dubai: Trafficking of illicit drugs in Dubai attracts a penalty of four years’ imprisonment and subsequently deportation.
Unfortunately, a large number of Nigerians have fallen prey of these penalties. Usually, they travel to these foreign countries under the guise of being a citizen of another country, but not long after, they are caught.
List of Nigerians executed in Singapore for drug trafficking
In November 2004, Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, an 18-year-old boy was arrested on transit in Changi airport, Singapore. He was allegedly caught with 100 capsules of diamorphine that weighed 727.02grams. According to Singapore Misuse of Drugs Act, a person may be suspected as a drug trafficker and may be exempted from penalties if contrary shreds of evidence are provided or may compulsorily face death penalty depending on the gram quantity of hard drugs found on him. In the Singaporean Act, different drugs have different thresholds. For instance, a person is said to be suspected of trafficking if more than 2 grams of diamorphine are found on him and will compulsorily face the death penalty if the diamorphine drug exceeds 15 grams. This is not the case for other drugs like cocaine and cannabis. Later in 2007, Iwuchukwu was executed by hanging.
Another Nigerian, by name, Okeke Nelson Malachy was also executed on the same day after being apprehended with the same drug found on Iwuchukwu (diamorphine). Subsequently, in 2016, Chijioke Stephen Obioha was executed in after a failed attempt to smuggle 2.6 kilograms of cannabis into the country.
List of Nigerians executed in Indonesia for drug trafficking
- Michael Titus Igweh.
- Martin Anderson was found with 1.8 ounces of heroin in Jakarta.
- Nonso Kingsley Okonkwo; executed for attempted trafficking of heroin.
- Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke; executed by firing squad after a failed attempt of smuggling heroin into the country.
- Okwudili Oyatanze; arrested at the Jakarta International Airport in 2001 with 5.5 pounds of heroin which he tried to smuggle in Indonesia.
- Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise was convicted in 2002 with a 2.6 pounds of heroin.
- Jamiu Owolabi Abashin; arrested in Surabaya airport with 5.5 grams of heroin.
List of Nigerians executed in Malaysia for drug trafficking
In 2017, two Nigerian students, Mustafa Azmir and Jude Nnamdi Achonye, who were students of a private college in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, were arrested for being in possession of 3.5 kilograms of methamphetamine. They later faced a death sentence by hanging. Also, another Alex Zogbelemov was executed for drug trafficking in Malaysia.
List of Nigerians executed in Saudi Arabia for drug trafficking
Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country with one of the most severe drug trafficking penalties. Violation equals death sentence on offenders. So far, Saudi Arabia has executed a total of 53 people, among which are 8 Nigerians. Just few weeks ago, precisely on the 1st day of April 2019, a Nigerian woman was reported to have been executed alongside 2 Pakistani men and 1 Yemen man. Presently, 20 other Nigerians are awaiting execution.
Other Nigerians have also been executed as a result of drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia, their names are;
- Yusuf Yekini Ajiboye.
- Adebayo Adeniyi.
- Mohammed Abubakar.
- Mohammed Issa.
- Ibrahim Ciroma.
- Biola Ologunro.