A former Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai (retd.), on Tuesday, said Nigeria currently ranked fifth globally in countries affected by organised crime behind the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Myanmar, and Mexico.
According to him, Nigeria also ranked second among 54 countries in Africa and first among 15 countries in West Africa.
While quoting the Global Organised Crime Index, Buratai, who spoke during a one-day international conference on organised crime in Abuja also revealed that other affected countries included Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
The conference themed, “Organised crime network as emergent threats to national security,” was organised by Igbinedion University in collaboration with the Buratai Centre for Contemporary Security Affairs.
He said, “Nigeria has a criminality score of 7.15 out of 1 to 10 and it is ranked 5th out of 193 countries. It is 2nd of 54 countries in Africa and 1st of 15 countries in West Africa according to the Global Organised Crime Index.
“As the index results show, the countries with the highest criminality levels are those experiencing conflict or fragility. The Democratic Republic of Congo was identified as the country most affected by organised crime, followed by Colombia, Myanmar, Mexico and Nigeria.
“Other high-scoring countries include Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, where conflict countries have decimated the formal economies, led to mass displacement and an influx of weapons.”
Buratai said of the 54 African countries, 30 were assessed as having a human trafficking market whose influence was either significant or severe, demonstrating the immense reach of this illicit economy, not least amid the pandemic when economic devastation across the continent made people increasingly vulnerable to trafficking.
“In this context, arms trafficking was found to be the second-most pervasive criminal market across Africa as a whole (5.56), followed by nonrenewable resource crimes (5.44) and fauna crimes (5.39),” he said.
Crime prevention measures
Buratai blamed Nigeria’s porous border, prolonged conflicts in countries like Somalia, DR Congo, Libya, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Sudan, and poverty as primary contributors to organised crime.
According to him, the influence of jihadist groups in the Sahel, who exploit vulnerable populations and use violence to achieve their agendas, including greed and the pursuit of personal gain also contribute to the proliferation of criminal networks in the country.
Buratai added that the absence of effective law enforcement, weak deterrence mechanisms, and weak governance structures further enabled criminal organisations to operate with impunity.
He said, “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 led to a significant transformation in organised crime. One notable consequence was the exponential growth of cybercriminal activities, taking advantage of the large number of individuals compelled to operate online for work, leisure, and commerce.
“Exploiting this situation, drug traffickers resorted to innovative methods of smuggling their illicit merchandise, discreetly hiding them within shipments of essential pandemic supplies that passed through understaffed ports.
“Furthermore, the economic hardships resulting from the implementation of anti-contagion measures made some of the world’s most vulnerable populations more susceptible to human trafficking and various forms of exploitation. Later in the year, the oil market experienced a dramatic collapse primarily caused by a decrease in demand. As a result, vessels transporting oil cargo became exposed to the risk of piracy.”
The former army chief observed that the alarming reality of ongoing criminal activities, ranging from the illicit theft of about 500 barrels of crude oil daily to the calculated displacement of communities for mining minerals could not be ignored.
He said the multifaceted crimes not only undermined the stability and well-being of affected regions but also perpetuated a cycle of violence and exploitation.
“It is imperative that governments, international organisations, and law enforcement agencies collaborate to address these issues comprehensively. By implementing stringent measures, conducting thorough investigations, and promoting sustainable development initiatives, we can strive towards creating a safer and more equitable world for all,” he said.