Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Country Report



            Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa with approximately 102 million inhabitants, also has the largest land mass in West Africa, with a total area of 923,700 kilometres.  It shares borders with Niger, Benin, Chad and Cameroon.  Open to the South Atlantic Ocean on one side, Nigeria has many busy ports which remain vulnerable to illicit drug shipments.   Drug trafficking groups in Nigeria tend to take advantage of  Nigeria’s ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity and organize their operations along ethnic lines (EIU 1995; NDIC 1994).

            Since the late 1960s, the Nigerian economy has been dependent on petroleum: in 1990 it accounted for 87% of the export receipts and 77% of the federal government’s current revenue.  The fall in oil prices in the 1980s led to a decline in per capita real gross national product  that was so severe that in 1989 the World Bank classified Nigeria as a low-income country for the first time.  At the same time, economic mismanagement contributed to a quadrupling of external debt and a foreign exchange crisis. The decline in the Nigerian economy led to widespread discontent and conflict among ethnic communities and drove many Nigerians into the drug trade. (EIU 1994; UNDCP 1995)
            Agriculture still remains the predominant activity of the majority of Nigerians, accounting for around 35% of the GDP.  The rural areas, where most Nigerians live, remain the most disadvantaged in terms of access to health facilities, water, sanitation and education.(EIU 1994; UNDCP 1995)


Extent of Illicit Drug Supply


            There is cannabis cultivation in several areas in Nigeria, but it is mostly concentrated in Ondo, Edo and Delta States.  The Government of Nigeria reported increased cannabis cultivation, while giving no estimates of output (U.N. Part III, 1994).  The frequency of large seizures in Europe of marijuana originating from Nigeria also indicates substantial cultivation. (UNDCP 1995)


            No refining or manufacturing of illicit drugs has been recorded in Nigeria, although there are unsubstantiated accounts of the manufacture of psychotropic substances (UNDCP 1995).


Patterns and Trends in Illicit Drug Supply


            Nigeria is a major transit point for Southeast and Southwest Asian heroin destined for the United States and Europe.  Nigerian trafficking groups are among the largest trafficking organizations involved in heroin trafficking to the United States.  Nigeria is also becoming an increasingly important transit country for the smuggling of cocaine into Europe.  Large amounts of cannabis from Nigeria are also smuggled to Europe (U.N. Part III, various years). 

            Official government reports indicate that 10% of the annual total harvest of cannabis is consumed in the area of cultivation or wild growth; 50% is introduced to the illicit traffic within the country; and 40% is exported (either as raw material or after conversion) (U.N. Part III 1994).

            Nigerian criminal organizations began to diversify into drug smuggling from the early 1980s.  In 1984, the first Nigerians were arrested for international heroin trafficking.(NDIC 1994)

            Nigerian trafficking groups are loosely structured, based on family and tribal ties.  Connections between different organizations, however, do exist as different tribes supply each other in wholesale deals.  These drug trafficking groups use multiple identities, communicate through pay phones, and use tribal languages native only to Nigeria, which make their organizations difficult for law enforcement officials to penetrate.  Moreover, many training schools are run by Nigerian drug traffickers which teach individuals how to avoid detection when acting as couriers (DEA 1995)

            The typical organization has a chief in Nigeria with enough financial resources to make an initial investment and usually retains some type of loose control overseas.  The chief controls a small clique of Nigerians who operate in concert.  For the most part, individual traffickers operate independently from other traffickers, using at least two to three regular couriers ( NDIC 1994).

            In recent years, however, this organizational structure appears to be changing - Nigerian drug trafficking groups are increasingly employing non- Nigerian couriers, including other African nationals (particularly South Africans), Europeans, Asians, and U.S. citizens.  A continuous decrease in the number of Nigerians arrested in the United States between 1991 and 1994 has been attributed to the use of non-Nigerian couriers (DEA 1995).

            In the United States, members of Nigerian trafficking groups tend to operate in cell structures, usually headed by a lieutenant, supported by a recruiter, a cell leader and various soldiers.  The cell leader exchanges information and interacts with cell leaders in other parts of the United States.  There is some evidence that controlling cells are operational in various parts of the United States, which may point toward centralized leadership in Nigerian organized crime.(NDIC 1994)

            There is also some evidence of collaboration with other drug trafficking groups.  Nigerian traffickers are known to sell their heroin at the wholesale level to Spanish speaking street trafficking organizations (such as Jamaican groups and South American cartels) and in turn receive protection from them (NDIC 1994).

            Another recent development has been the use of the same couriers to smuggle heroin from Thailand to the United States and cocaine from Brazil to Europe (the United Kingdom).  Some Nigerian traffickers have been arrested with both drugs in their possession (DEA 1995).

            Nigerian couriers resort to a number of methods to minimize risk of detection, such as fraudulent passports and visas, multiple passports, travel with family members, use of multiple couriers, use of pregnant women as couriers (NDIC 1994, Interpol 1995).

            Heroin is the illicit drug most frequently trafficked by Nigerian criminal groups.  Initially they bought Southwest Asian heroin at the source and imported it wholesale into Europe and the United States.  However, from the late 1980s, they began to buy much of their heroin from Southeast Asian sources in Thailand.  For the Nigerians, the lower prices, higher purity, quantity available and ease of movement into and out of Thailand made Southeast Asia an ideal heroin supply centre.  Nigerians do not require a visa to enter Thailand if they do not stay longer than a week.  Most of the heroin is concealed on the person of the couriers or in legitimate merchandise and smuggled in commercial air and sea cargos ( DEA 1995). 

            The return route from the source countries to Nigeria are varied, with the  couriers traveling through many countries in Africa - such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Benin and Togo, - and Asia -  such as Indonesia, and the Phillippines,.  Latest reports indicate the use of other, additional countries as transit points such as South Africa, Cameroon and Zaire in Africa, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar in Asia  (U.N.s, various years; Honlea 1995).

            The heroin is then brought back to Nigeria for distribution and onward shipment.  Nigerian government sources reported that in 1994, the wholesale price of one kg of heroin costs N60,000 (US$2,782) (U.N. Part III, 1994).  U.S. government sources report a considerably higher price in Lagos at US$ 30,000 per kilogram of heroin (DEA 1995).
            Nigerian drug trafficking groups are estimated to be responsible for between 35%-40% of heroin imported to the United States.  Nigerian traffickers are the most active in the U.S. cities with well-established Nigerian populations (Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York and the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area). Nigerian heroin couriers usually take commercial airliners to India, Pakistan, and Thailand to obtain heroin.  In the past, the Don Muang International Airport in Bangkok was the most often used by Nigerian couriers to smuggle heroin to Africa, Europe and the United States.  However, recent reports indicate that other airports in Thailand at Phuket and Chiang Mai are increasingly being used as a result of greater law enforcement at Don Muang Airport (DEA 1995). 
            Since the suspension of direct flights between New York ( JFK International Airport), and Lagos, Nigeria, from the middle of 1993, Nigerian couriers are smuggling heroin into the U.S. from other West African countries, such as Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Senegal. In addition, beginning from 1991, several Nigerian couriers were arrested crossing the U.S. Southwest border.  They have also transited Canada en route to the U. S. (Honlea 1995; DEA 1994).

            Much of the heroin is also trafficked through Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and Germany.  Moreover, Nigerian trafficking organizations often bypass Nigeria by using sea routes from the source countries to send the heroin directly to the United States or through European ports (U.N. Part III, 1994; Honlea 1995).  Airports in the Commonwealth of Independent States, and East Europe (Bulgaria and Poland) have been utilized as transit points. The combination of weak legislation and law enforcement, unsophisticated controls, cheap flights from the source countries in Eastern Europe and the CIS has made that region very attractive to Nigerian drug trafficking organizations (NDIC 1994). But their access to European heroin markets remain limited since Turkish drug trafficking organizations control the main wholesale heroin markets there ( DEA 1995, NDIC 1994). 

            Nigerian drug trafficking groups have increasingly been involved in cocaine smuggling mostly destined for European markets, also to the United States.  Nigerian government sources indicate that an estimated 90% of the total traffic through Nigeria in cocaine is destined for other countries, for which Nigeria is only a transit country(U.N. Part III, 1994). 

            Nigerian groups buy cocaine in Bolivia and Columbia paying US$8,000-$10,000 per kilogram.  Brazilian sources of supply are also being increasingly used to buy cocaine wholesale (DEA 1995).  Nigerian government sources reported that in 1994, the wholesale price in Nigeria of one kg of cocaine with 70% purity was N280,000-N80,000 (US$12,844-3,669), which represented a strong increase from the previous year (U.N. Part III, 1994).

            In many cases, the drug has been transported to Brazil (Rio de Janeiro or San Paolo) for shipment to Lagos, Nigeria.  Lagos is the principal distribution centre for cocaine in Africa (NDIC 1994).  From Lagos, the drug trafficking organizations hire couriers to carry the cocaine to European destinations.  After Brazilian authorities canceled direct flights from Brazil ( Rio de Janeiro) to Nigeria (Lagos) in mid 1994, Nigerian drug trafficking organizations have resorted to alternative routes.  The use of sea routes, in particular the use of  containerized vessels have been frequently used for shipping large amounts of cocaine from Brazil to Nigeria.  Another recent trend is the use of the airport in Recife, Brazil to smuggle cocaine to Nigeria (ICPO 1995; DEA 1995). 

            Nigerian drug traffickers smuggle cocaine to Europe most commonly on direct commercial air flights from Nigeria and also through other West African countries such as Cape Verde, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, and Senegal (U.N. Part III 1994; ICPO 1995). 

            South Africa is also being increasingly used by Nigerian traffickers as a transit point to send cocaine to Europe.   In 1993, Nigerian couriers were responsible for more than half the cocaine seized in that country.  The large Nigerian  community in South Africa provides a base for the redistribution of cocaine and allows couriers, on their way to Nigeria, to avoid the more time-consuming and therefore more risky smuggling route in East Africa.  Nigerian cocaine couriers have also transited Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Swaziland on their way to South Africa.  Nigerian drug trafficking groups also sell some cocaine to middlemen in South Africa and dealers for distribution in South Africa (DEA 1995).

            From South Africa, Nigerian couriers travel to Europe, mainly to the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland.  As with heroin trafficking, Eastern Europe and the CIS are being increasingly used as transit points for cocaine destined for West European markets (ICPO 1995).  

            Nigerian drug trafficking groups are also involved in the smuggling of cannabis from Nigeria to other West African countries, particularly Liberia, and to Europe, particularly Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.  Marijuana has been transported from Nigeria to Europe concealed in commercial shipping containers, many of which enter Europe through ports in the Netherlands.    Nigerian traffickers also smuggle marijuana to Eastern Europe (U.N. Part III, 1994). 

            The average price per kg of cannabis paid to the farmer as raw material was N1,000 in 1994 (U.N. Part III).  In Nigeria, marijuana is often used as a source of hard currency in illicit cross-border trade in food or consumer products (DEA 1995).

            Illicit trafficking in psychotropic substances, particularly pemoline, in Nigeria has grown in recent years.  There are also unsubstantiated accounts of methaqualone smuggling in and through Nigeria (UNDCP 1995).



            In spite of reports of increased involvement of Nigerian criminal groups in international drug trafficking, annual total seizures of both heroin and cocaine in Nigeria fell in 1994 from their relatively high levels in the 1990s.  Annual heroin seizures went from 223 kg in 1991, 179 kg in 1992 and 288 kg in 1993 to 91 kg in 1994.  Annual cocaine seizures were 261 kg in 1991, 617 kg in 1992, 1,309 kg in 1993 to 90 kg in 1994 (U.N. Part III, various years; U.S. Department of State, various years).

            Nigerian authorities reported a rise in their annual seizures of cannabis and stimulants (amphetamine and methamphetamine type of substances) in 1994.  Annual total seizures of cannabis rose from 1 ton in 1991, 2.5 tons in 1992, 7.4 tons in 1993 to 19.7 tons in 1994.  Annual total seizures of amphetamine and methamphetamine-type of psychotropic substances rose from 1 kg in 1992 and 2 kg in 1993 to 94 kg in 1994 (U.N. Part III, various years; U.S. Department of State, various years).  Please see Table 1 for Annual Drug Seizures in Nigeria.

                                                                                                                Table 1
                                                                                                Drug Seizures, 1991-1994 (kilograms)

Drug Type

























                                                *Amphetamine and methamphetamine-type drugs
                                                Source: UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaires, various years; U.S. State Department:
                                                Drug Trafficking in Africa, Drug Enforcement Agency, Washington D.C., 1994.

                In spite of the 1994 decline in domestic seizures of heroin and cocaine, Nigerian drug trafficking groups remain active in many parts of the world.  A few reported international incidents of seizures of narcotic drugs involving Nigerian drug trafficking organizations illustrate this point.  Between December 1993 and August 1994, U.S. Customs Service officials at JFK, Miami and Honolulu International Airports seized approximately 60 kg of heroin from several couriers recruited by Nigerian traffickers.  In three separate incidents in Pakistan between May and August 1993 Nigerian couriers were arrested as they attempted to smuggle a total of 360 kg of heroin to Nigeria.  Pakistani Customs officials report that in 1994, Nigerian heroin couriers accounted for 77 of the 106 drug-related arrests at the Karachi Airport in Pakistan.  In 1994 and 1995, authorities in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar have also reported to Interpol the arrests of heroin couriers recruited by Nigerian trafficking groups (Interpol 1994, 1995; DEA 1995).

            The amount of cocaine seized from Nigerian traffickers in Europe rose from 24.7 kg in 1990 to approximately 83 kg in 1991 and 1992 to 134 kg in 1993; preliminary figures indicate that 95 kg of cocaine were seized from couriers recruited by Nigerian drug trafficking organizations in 1994 (DEA 1994).  ICPO sources indicate that in 1992, Nigerian couriers accounted for one-third of the cocaine seized in Austria, the second highest total of cocaine-related arrests in the U.K., and the third-highest total of cocaine-related arrests in Italy (ICPO 1995).              


            Official government reports indicate that a total of 693 drug traffickers were arrested in 1994 in Nigeria, where some of them were arrested with more than one type of drugs.  Most (73%) of these arrests were for cannabis trafficking, while heroin and cocaine traffickers accounted for approximately 11% of the drug-related arrests made that year.  This represents a substantial increase of the total number of persons arrested for drug trafficking in 1993 (120) and 1992 (403).  As in 1994, cannabis traffickers accounted for the majority of the drug-related arrests in both 1993 and 1992, with heroin traffickers accounting for 35% and cocaine traffickers for 43% of the total drug-related arrests in 1993 (U.N. Part III, various years). 

             No figures were given in 1994 and 1992 on the number of persons arrested for possession or abuse.  In 1993, a total of 320 persons were arrested for possession/abuse, out of which 87% (280 persons)were arrested for cannabis possession. (U.N. Part III, various years).

            In 1994, a total of 8 persons were convicted for possession of drugs for abuse and 66 for trafficking in drugs.  Out of these, 75% (6 persons)of those convicted for possession, and 90% (66 persons) of those convicted for trafficking, were male.  Out of the 8 persons convicted for possession, the majority (6 persons) were in their late teens and early 20s.  Out of the 66 persons convicted for trafficking, 42% (28 persons)  were aged 30 and over, and 67% (44 persons) were unskilled workers (U.N. Part III, various years).   

            Comparing the official governmment reports over the recent years (1992-94), there does not seem to be an established pattern of the age range of the persons convicted for possession or trafficking.  There is, however, a well-established pattern that the majority of those convicted for both possession and trafficking are male and most of them are unskilled workers (U.N. Part III, various years).



            *          While no official estimates are available for the amount of cannabis cultivation, the numerous reports of widespread marijuana trafficking from Nigeria to other West African countries, to the Asia and Pacific Region, and Europe, indicates significant cultivation of the crop (U.N. Part III).
            *          The suspension of direct flights from Nigeria to the U.S. and from Brazil to Nigeria has resulted in greater diversification of both heroin and cocaine trafficking routes and patterns.  There are indications that Nigerian trafficking groups are increasingly using other African countries, particularly in Western and Southern Africa as distribution points for heroin and cocaine trafficking.  While heroin and cocaine will continue to enter Nigeria by air and sea, in larger but less frequent illicit consignments, it is likely that these narcotic drugs will continue to be trafficked in smaller quanties through the land border to other neighbouring countries en route to Europe and North America (UNDCP 1995).       

            *          Due to the greater control of Turkish drug trafficking organizations of heroin trafficking in Europe, it is likely that the Nigerian traffickers will not be able to expand their markets much further for that drug there.  This will lead to a stabilization or even decrease of the involvement of Nigerian heroin trafficking in Europe (ICPO 1995).

            *          Analysis of the pattern of cocaine trafficking by Nigerian organization indicate the use of a wide variety of European countries to smuggle small consignments of cocaine by air.  Nigerian groups involved in cocaine trafficking in Europe might perceive the emergence of a single European Common Market and the ensuing free movement of goods, services and capital within Europe, as a means to smuggle cocaine to Europe (UNDCP 1995; ICPO 1995).

            *          East Europe’s weak law enforcement and control mechanisms and the establishment of direct flights with Western Europe and other parts of the world will result in greater use of that sub-region by Nigerian drug traffickers to smuggle more cocaine to Western Europe.  It is also likely that as East Europeans start to enjoy a higher disposable income, that this region becomes a limited consumer market for cocaine (DEA 1994).

            *          Cocaine trafficking by Nigerian organizations is likely to increase because of the strengthening of links between Nigerian drug trafficking groups and Russian criminal syndicates.   The opening up of air routes between West Africa and Eastern Europe (Sao Paolo-Cape Verde; Cape Verde-Moscow; Moscow-West European destinations) will further enhance this phenomenon (UNDCP 1995).  

            *          As South Africa expands its international commercial links, Nigerian traffickers will make greater use of direct flights from South America to South Africa to transport  cocaine.  They will transit other southern African countries, such as Namibia and Zimbabwe, on their way to South Africa, and then travel from South Africa to Europe (ICPO 1995).

            *          As Nigerian drug trafficking organizations recruit more couriers from other nationalities, fewer ethnic Nigerians will be arrested on charges of international drug smuggling (DEA 1995).

            *          It is likely that Nigerian drug trafficking organizations may increasingly use the same couriers to carry both cocaine from the U.S. to Europe, and heroin from Europe to the U.S. (DEA 1995).



Extent of Drug Abuse

            According to a 1992 survey conducted in Lagos City (S=100), among those aged 18 through 49, the most commonly abused drugs are cannabis, heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and alcohol.  Out of 66 persons who reported to have abused psychoactive substances,  about 80 per cent were males (or 55 cases). Eighty per cent of the drug consumers were between 18 and 30 years of age (U.N. 1994:22).

            According to a 1992 survey conducted among 2,439 secondary school students, 9 to 25 years of age, in predominantly Moslem Northern Nigeria, the prevalence of cocaine abuse is 1.1 per cent, heroin 1.3 per cent, volatile solvents 1.5 per cent and benzodiazepines ("Valium") 3.5 per cent (U.N. 1994:23).

            Findings on drug abuse among secondary school student based on  a 1991 survey in Lagos State (S= 2,660) are reported in table 2. The findings are consistent with those of other studies among Nigerian students.  Experimentation with socially accepted drugs such as alcohol and cigarettes, as well as “Valium” and “Reactivan” began before the age of 11 among half  of the students. Experimentation with illicit drugs began at the age of 16. Peer influence was the primary reason to drug experimentation (Odejide 19??:5; Nigeria 1991:23).

Table 2  Drug abuse among secondary school students in Lagos State, Nigeria, in 1991

                                Ever                        Sometimes                            Always
Valium                    9.5                           7.8                                           1.8          
Reactivan              6.1                           4.6                                           1.5
Cannabis               2.1                           1.2                                           0.9
Heroin                    2.1                           1.2                                           1.0
Cocaine                  2.2                           1.4                                           0.8          
other                       .7                             5.9                                           1.7

Source: Nigeria 1991(p.24)

            Drug abuse among undergraduate university students (table 3) is significantly higher than among secondary school students. The majority of the “current abusers” could be regarded as “occasional abusers” (p.257) (Adelekan et.al., 1992).

Table 3: Prevalence of drug abuse among undergraduate university students, Nigeria, 1988(N=636)

Drug                                       N             %Current               %Lifetime
Stimulants                             629          35.3                         69.2
Sedatives                               631          17.9                         49.4
Cannabis                               619          1.3                           7.3
Opiates                                  622          0.6                           2.3
Cocaine                                  622          0.6                           1.6
Hallucinogens                      621          0.3                           1.1
Solvents                                627          1.0                           3.7

Source: Adelekan et.al., 1992:257.

            According to 1992 registry records of 14 out of the 30 psychiatric institutions, 616 drug abusers were found among 5,133 patients (or 12 per cent) (p.18,21). Cannabis is the most abused drug (409 annual abusers or 66.4 per cent), followed by multiple drug abuse (280 annual abusers or 33.8 per cent), alcohol (137 annual abusers), cocaine (113 annual abusers or 18.3 per cent) and heroin (85 annual abusers or 13.8 per cent). Data on daily abusers are not available (p.9) (U.N. 1994).

            According to a 1991/1992 pilot study in four prisons, out of 4584 inmates, almost 11 per cent (or 526) were jailed for drug related offenses (p.6) (NDLEA and UNDCP 1994).

Abuser Characteristics

             A 1992 secondary school survey found the male to female ratio to be 3:1 (p.23); a study on drug abuse in Lagos city found that 80.4 per cent of psychoactive substances abusers are males (p.22); and according to 1992 registry data, most drug abusers tend to be males (p.19) (U.N. 1994). Among 526 inmates jailed for drug related offences, about 65 per cent were males (p.6) (NDLEA and UNDCP 1994). Drug abuse is more widespread among  patients in mental health institutions also (table 4) (U.N. 1994:21).

Table 4: Drug abuse among patients in mental health institutions in 1989, by gender, in percentages

Gender                   opiates   cocaine  cannabis                amphetamines
Men                        12.0         16.4         64.1                         7.5
Women                  1.8           1.9           2.3                           0.6

Sources: U.N. 1994:21 (based on a 1992 national study in 14 mental health institutions, where 616 drug abusers were found among 5133 patients aged 11 to 61 years, in the year 1989 (or 12 per cent)).

            Although drug abuse is more common among males, research findings suggest that as from the seventies, there has been an increasing trend of female involvement in the abuse of drugs such as "Valium", "Librium", "Activan", cannabis, heroin and cocaine (Ibe and Ogunleye 1994:3).

            In terms of age, drug abuse tend to be pronounced among those who are 25 to 34 years old in mental health institutions (p.21) (U.N. 1994).

            A study carried out in Lagos (1980) reported that cannabis is abused by youths from both privileged and less privileged socio-economic backgrounds, as early as the age of 10 (p.5) (NDLEA and UNDCP 1994).

            Drug consumption is reported found in all strata of the society: among the affluent, top professionals, high executives, musicians, long distance truck drivers, as well as, sportsmen and women (p.5)(Nigeria 1991).

            Hospital records revealed that drug abusers were mostly (58 per cent) within the 21-30 years of age bracket; the majority of them were males (91 per cent) and single (58 per cent).  With respect to occupation, 32 per cent were traders, 21 per cent were unemployed, 17 per cent were students, 16 per cent unskilled workers, 10 per cent civil servants and 4 per cent skilled workers (p.x) (Nigeria 1991).

                                                                       Regional Variations

            The abuse of cocaine and heroin is more prevalent in the large cities of the country (U.N. 1992, 1993, 1994:15). In general, the prevalence of drug abuse tend to be higher among urban respondents (p. 17,71)(ICAA 1988).

            The degree of variation in the pattern of drug abuse in the different parts of the country is not very significant, except for alcohol use, which is more prevalent in the South and cigarette smoking, which is more predominant in the North. Drug abusers from the North tend to be from less educated background when compared to drug abusers from the South  (U.N. 1993; 1994:15). Alcohol and drug related problems are more prevalent in the North (11.7 per cent of 4,436 admissions) compared to the South (9.6 per cent of 5,960 admissions) (Odejide and Ohaeri 1991:iv).


            Cannabis abuse by soldiers and sailors began during Second World War. Nowadays, it is cultivated in many parts of Nigeria and is reported to be widely abused. More recently, cannabis abuse in association with heroin and cocaine has been reported. The abuse of sedatives and hypnotics has been increasingly reported. First indications of abuse of psychoactive substances such as benzodiazepines, “Valium” and “Reactivan” were observed by the early 70's. Some of the abuse is attributed to self medication. Prescription drugs may be obtained easily from chemists shops. Some of the drugs are considered fake (NDLEA and UNDCP 1994:1;U.N. 1994:17; Odejide and Ohaeri 1991).

            Amphetamines are abused by adolescents, youth, students, farmers and long distance runners and drivers. Cocaine and heroin are the latest addition to the list of drugs abused in Nigeria. Heroin, formerly abused mainly by higly educated male students, especially from the upper middle class, has been spreading to marginalized young male unemployed. Similar observations apply to cocaine (NDLEA and UNDCP 1994:2;Odejide and Ohaeri 1991).

            Drug abuse appear to have increased in Nigeria in 1994. Large increases in the abuse of  opiates, cocaine and cannabis and some increases  in the abuse of amphetamines and benzodiazepines were reported, although abuse of multiple drugs remained stable (U.N. 1994:13). Similar increases in drug abuse have been reported in 1992 and 1993, particularly with respect to heroin, cocaine, cannabis and, to a lesser extent, amphetamines and benzodiazepines (U.N. 1992, 1993). 

            Increases in illicit drug consumption have been attributed to the depressed economic situation and relating unemployment, stress and parental deprivation,  rural-urban migration, increased availability of drugs (U.N. 1992, 1993, 1994:14).

            Interdiction at land, air and sea ports are reported to have resulted in a decrease in the supply of illicit drugs, leading to increased illicit cannabis cultivation.  The establishment of clandestine laboratories has been reported for 1992 (U.N. 1992; Nigeria 1993).  Increase in the rate of establishment of clandestine laboratories is reported to have resulted in an increase in the appreciation of precursor drugs (U.N. 1993; 1994:14).

Mode of Intake

            Opiates are injected, inhaled and sniffed. Cocaine is inhaled and sniffed.  Cannabis is smoked; sedatives, benzodiazepines and multiple drugs are ingested (p.11).  Opiates are taken in combination with cocaine, cannabis, alcohol, cigarette and benzodiazepines.  Cocaine is taken with cannabis, heroin, alcohol and benzodiazepines.  Cannabis and amphetamines are taken with alcohol and benzodiazepines (p.12) (U.N. 1994).

            The estimated proportion of IDU among drug abusers is 0.65 per cent, based on a 1992 study in 14 mental health institutions (p.54) (U.N. 1994).

            The most common methods of cannabis consumption is smoking.  Other methods include mixing cannabis with alcoholic beverages, pepper soup, porridge or tea.  Recently, an increase in the abuse of cannabis smoked in association with other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, has been reported (p.1)( NDLEA and UNDCP 1994).

            Injection of heroin (0.9 per cent), cocaine (1.1 per cent) and valium (2.0 per cent) were reported among high school students (p.25). Based on hospital records, the most common method of drug administration was smoking (41.9 per cent), followed by “combined methods” (32.4), injection (5.8), sniffing (5.8), “chasing the dragon” (5.8), “free basing”(3.7) and other (4.5) (p.39) (Nigeria 1991).


            Costs and consequences attributed to drug abuse include criminal behaviour, road accidents, disruption in school, violence, drug prevention programmes, medical treatment and social welfare (U.N. 1994:25). Delinquent youth, who abuse drugs, tend to be violent and appear to be involved in extortion activities  (U.N. 1993; 1994:16).
Nigeria records one of the highest rates of road accidents worldwide.  It is believed that the abuse of alcohol and other drugs is contributing to the rate of fatal road accidents (U.N. 1992, 1993, 1994:16).

            A high percentage of money allocated to health services, is spent on treatment and rehabilitation of drug abusers. The equipment in two new rehabilitation centre for drug abusers cost 1 million dollars (U.N. 1993, 1994:16).

            No other drug related morbidity and mortality information was reported. International assistance relating to cost and consequences information development has not been provided and it has been reported that it is needed  (U.N. 1994:54-58).


National Strategy

            The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), established in 1990, is the governmental drug related policy making body. It coordinates all activities in the field of drug supply and demand reduction.  The NDLEA is composed of four directorates, of which three deal with supply reduction and one with demand reduction (Nigeria 1991).   Drug-related information is officially provided by NDLEA.

            Nigeria reported that in 1994 it maintained a registry and conducted surveys of drug abuse, qualitative studies, studies on attitudes towards drug abuse and social and economic costs associated with drug abuse. It had no drug related data base in 1994, due to lack of adequate resources such as computers and trained personnel. Nigeria indicated that financial and technical help are needed (U.N. 1994:4-5). Drug abuse related research in Nigeria between 1962 and 1992 has centered on small and treatment populations. As of 1991, selected studies made an attempt to cover larger populations at the state level as a prelude to surveys at the national level. Around the same time, the development of a Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), evaluation research  and other basic drug related research have been recommended (Odejide 19??:3,4,11; Odejide and Ohaeri 1991).


                                                    Structure of National Drug Control Organs

            NDLEA was restructured in 1994 with the intention to discharge corrupt or incompetent officers and establish a lean and efficient agency.  A military official was appointed as Director-General of the NDLEA.

            The Nigerian Customs Service, Police (particularly the Criminal Investigation Department), and Army Military Police also conducts drug investigations.  The NDLEA also receives support from the National Central Intelligence Unit.

            There are 31 regional Drug Abuse Control Committees within Nigeria.  Membership of the Committees includes representatives from the Ministries of Health, Education, Information, Youth and Sport, as well as from non-governmental organization.  The Drug Abuse Control Committees offer a key coordinating agency for State action on drug abuse. All relevant local government departments are usually represented, with the Ministry of Health normally taking the lead (p.5) (Nigeria 1992).

            Since 1993, responsibility for the control of licit narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances in Nigeria lies with the autonomous National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).  The agency controls, inter alia, the import, export and distribution of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes, fake and counterfeit medicines, and the production, importation, distribution and use of industrial chemicals.


                                           TAKEN TO IMPLEMENT THE INTERNATIONAL
                                                           DRUG CONTROL TREATIES**

                                                                         Treaty Adherence

            Nigeria is party to the 1961 Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971 Convention and the 1988 Convention.

Measures Taken with Respect to Drug Control

Recently enacted laws and regulations

            Under   Decree 10 of 1990, the Nigerian Government can charge a person with illegal exportation of drugs if, having avoided detection departing Nigeria, the traveler is found in possession of drugs upon arrival at his/her destination.  This offence of “bringing the name of Nigeria into disrepute” may be levied against a Nigerian convicted of a drug-related crime in another country.  This decree carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment upon the citizen’s return to Nigeria.

            In 1992, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (Amendment) Decree No 15 was enacted, granting wider powers to the Agency and authorizing officers to bear arms.

Licensing system for manufacture, trade and distribution

            There is a government-controlled licensing system. However, despite its existence, unauthorized people occasionally engage in trade in and distribution of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Drugs are either smuggled into the country or imported with forged import authorizations. Inadequate technical aids to enforce laws on smuggling hamper effective monitoring of drug movements. In particular, amphetamine and pemoline tablets continue to be exported to Nigeria using fictitious descriptions such as "chloroquine tablets " or "multivitamins". No manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances was reported.

Control system
 Prescription requirement: There is a prescription requirement for supply or dispensation of preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
Warnings on packages:  Both narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances are usually classified as "poisons" under national regulations. The law requires that all drugs classified as "poisons" bear a warning label indicating the instance.
Control of non-treaty substances, if any:  None reported.
Other administrative measures:  In 1989, an Inter-Ministerial Committee was established under the auspices of the Ministry of External Affairs to examine the involvement of Nigerian citizens as couriers of narcotic drugs. Members of the Committee came from the Ministries of Health, Justice, External Affairs, Information, Internal Affairs as well as from security agencies such as police, customs, immigration, sea and airport authorities. The recommendations of that committee led to the creation of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency-NDLEA.


Social Measures

Penal Sanctions related to social measures

            In 1991, courts applied measures of treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation or social reintegration for a drug-related offence neither as an alternative nor in addition to conviction or punishment.

Other social measures

             More funds were provided in 1991 for campaigns against drug abuse. Several volunteer organizations received financial support in order to intensify their efforts aimed at counseling drug addicts. In 1992, two drug abuse rehabilitation centres were set up. Awareness was increased by organizing seminars, workshops, public enlightenment programmes. Prevention and drug education activities were carried out in schools and communities.


                                                        SUPPLY REDUCTION ACTIVITIES

Crop Eradication

            Nigerian government sources indicate that foot and motorized patrols were the main methods used to detect illicit cultivation or wild growth of cannabis.  These methods, however, were not very effective since they are labour-intensive and time-consuming and therefore costly to operate, particularly in view of the fact that most of the illicit cultivation tends to be in remote jungle areas (U.N. part III 1994).

            Burning and up-rooting the plants at initial stages of growth were the main methods used to destroy illicit cultivation or wild growth.  No estimates were provided of the actual hectares destroyed. (U.N. Part III 1994).

Alternative Development

            No official government policy on alternative development currently exists.



            Drug Law enforcement countermeasures remain the responsibility of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).  In 1994, the NDLEA reported the arrest of eight major organizers of the illicit traffic trade.  Their personal assets were taken into custody and investigation was initiated of their financial accounts( UNDCP 1995).  However, lack of cooperation between the NDLEA, police, and Customs limits drug enforcement at Nigeria’s airports and sea ports (DEA 1995). 

Money Laundering

            Although Nigeria is neither a significant regional or international financial centre, it has the potential to become a centre for money laundering.  There are indications that the proceeds from Nigerian drug trafficking operations are being infused into the Nigerian economy.  Nigerian drug trafficking organizations use various methods to bring in large sums of proceeds into Nigeria; for example, huge sums of US currency are smuggled into Nigeria in imported refrigerators, televisions, and vehicles, and carried by couriers with false sided suitcases or taped to their bodies (DEA 1994).

            A Special Adviser on Drugs and Financial Crime was appointed in 1994 to ensure proper coordination of drug control policies.

            Following concerted pressure from the international community, the Federal Government of Nigeria enacted Decree 3 of 1995 to provide comprehensive legislation on drug money laundering which closely follows the provisions of the UNDCP model law.  It is too early to comment of  the effectiveness of the law yet. (UNDCP 1995)     

                                                       DEMAND REDUCTION ACTIVITIES

                                                                        Primary Prevention

            The adult literacy rate is 52.5 per cent and the gross enrollment ratio is 51 per cent (HDR 1995:157).
Drug prevention activities target the following groups: parents, youth groups and workers in the work place. Drug prevention activities targetting street children and drop outs are in planning (p.29). Assistance has been provided by an American organization. Financial, technical and training assistance is needed to fulfill drug prevention objectives (p.30) (U.N. 1994). Limited access to education in general and drug prevention programmes specifically narrow the Potential impact in the general population.
            The percentage of the population with newspapers is 2 and television is 3 (HDR 1995:159). The following  media have been active in promoting drug prevention messages: TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, videos, drama and other audio and graphic means. The campaigns target youth, families, the general public, health and social  worker and teachers. Special programmes target the illiterate, i.e., campaigns in open markets, on TV and radio in local dialects. Guidelines are issues to the media concerning the protrayal of drug abuse but there are no legal restrictions on what may be published (p.39). Formal and informal collaboration mechanisms exists for exchange of drug-related information between the media and health professionals, law enforcement agencies, private companies and Ministries (p.40). International assistance to involve the media has been provided by UNDCP. Constraints include inadequate funding and limited collaboration from the media due to commercial considerations. Assistance is needed (financial and training) (p.41) (U.N. 1994).

            Prevention through education activities has been taking place in secondary and higher education institutions as of 1992. Drug education is not part of the curricula. Some of the drug prevention activities are informal programmes, drug free clubs, workshops and seminars and counseling (U.N. 1994:28).

            For every doctor there are 5,882 people to service and for every nurse 1,639 (1988-91 estimates) and 66 per cent of the population has access to health services (1985-93 estimates). Expenditures on health as percentage of GDP in 1990 were 1.2 (HDR 1995:171). Drug education programmes are part of the education of the following: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, other health workers, social workers and law enforcement personnel (p29). Post training programmes have been provided to psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, counsellors and some psychologists. International assistance has been provided by USIS, ICAA and Humphrey Fellowship. Constraints in providing training is due to lack of funds and trained resources. More assistance is needed (p.53) (U.N. 1994). A study on the knowledge of secondary school teachers in Ogun State in Nigeria, suggests that they favor drug prevention education, their concept of drug dependence is inadequate and that they need training (Adelekan et. al., 1990).

            The work force consists of 31 per cent of the population (HDR 1995:177). No assessment studies have been undertaken in the workplace (p.32) (U.N. 1994). Extrapolation from existing research suggests that drug abuse in the workplace is associated to self medication. High prevalence of tranquilizers abuse without prescription has been reported among civil servants, for example (p.7). Drug abuse is prevalent among a variety of occupational groups, including mechanics, drivers, labourers, the unemployed, students, business people, bankers, pilots and accountants (p.8) (NDLEA and UNDCP 1994).  Selected groups are particularly at risk: commercial vehicle drivers, entertainers, farmers and touts (p.32) (U.N. 1994). Guidelines are not made available to employers and workers organizations for the development of policies on drug abuse in the workplace. Information is distributed to people at their work place in the areas of prevention, treatment, rehabilitation among other material (p.31). Education training workshops are organized for businesses or organizations. Drug abuse assistance programmes are not available in the workplace.There is no legislation relating to testing occupational groups for illicit drug abuse (p.33). International assistance on the prevention of drug abuse in the workplace has not been provided. Assistance would be welcomed to enable to fulfill the following activities: produce training manuals, train relevant parties and prepare preventive education material. The activities above could not be fulfilled due to lack of funds, lack of resources, lack of trained human resources and unfavorable public attitudes to drug abusers (p.34) (U.N. 1994).

            Among the groups involved in the formulation and implementation of prevention programmes are civic groups, professional organizations, trade unions, voluntary agencies, religious groups, parent teachers associations, drug dependent abusers self help groups, sport clubs, law enforcement agencies among others. Among the target groups identified are community groups such as youth, parents and workers, lawyers, health professionals, customs staff, police, transport workers, students, drug abusers, sportsmen and their coaches. The coordinating bodies are the National drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) at the national level, NDLEA committees at the regional and local  levels (p.35). International assistance has been provided to incorporate civic groups in drug prevention programmes. The technical and financial assistance has been provided by UNDCP. Lack of funds and training constrain accomplishments in this area. To accomplish more, financial and training assistance are needed (p.36) (U.N. 1994).

            Leisure activities in the services of the campaign against drug abuse include indoor games, drama, debates, music, TV shows which target youth in educational institutions, unemployed youth and adults, drug dependent persons in treatment and convicted drug abusers in penal institutions. The objectives of the leisure activities are to promote a drug free life style. Governmental and non governmental organizations organize the activities above (p.37). International assistance has been provided in the use of leisure activities (i.e., UNDCP). Lack of funds constrain accomplishments in this area. To accomplish more, project development assistance is needed (p.38) (U.N. 1994).

                                                               Treatment and Rehabilitation

            The national bodies responsible for coordinating drug treatment programmes are the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Services and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (U.N. 1994:44).Treatment and rehabilitation policies include voluntary and involuntary admission  to treatment, detoxification, abstinence, treatment of illnesses associated with drug abuse, after care and rehabilitation.  Medical doctors are responsible for the notification (U.N. 1993). International assistance has been provided in formulating a national policy by UNDCP and WHO. Lack of funds, adequate facilities and trained resources constrain accomplishments in this area. To accomplish more, evaluation of existing programmes, increased effectiveness and training are needed (p.45) (U.N. 1994).

            An inventory of available treatment programmes is available. There is no standardized record keeping system in treatment facilities. Treatment facilities include 16 psychiatric hospitals, 901 general hospitals, 4 self-help facilities, 4,578 primary care facilities, 3 specialized detoxification facilities and 3 facilities within prison.  Drug related admissions into 28 mental health institutions, accounted for 1,275  or 12.3 per cent of 10,396 admissions in 1989 (p.46). Treatment outcome studies indicate that relapse is high (p.48). International assistance to assess programme effectiveness has not been provided. Lack of funds and trained resources constrain accomplishments in this area. To accomplish more, financial, technical assistance are needed (p.49)(U.N. 1994).

            An inventory of rehabilitation programmes is not available and there is no standardized record keeping system for rehabilitation programmes (p.47) (U.N. 1994).

            The following treatment programmes are available to drug abusers: detoxification, maintenance, drug free counseling, outreach, self help groups. Among the programmes not available are support to families of drug abusers, emergency aid centres, acupuncture and syringe exchange programmes. Detoxification programmes last from 2 to 4 weeks (p.50). Some changes were introduced in the treatment of drug abusers. Separate drug treatment unit have been established in psychiatric hospitals. Health insurance does not cover drug treatment and rehabilitation costs. All adults pay for their own treatment (p.51) (U.N. 1994).

            Approximately 5 per cent of the total prison population consist of drug abusers, based on a 1991 survey in 3 states, 5 per cent of these are females.  The following services have been provided in prisons general medical care, vocational training, general education, social reintegration, after care and spiritual counseling. Services are not available in all prisons (p.59). International assistance for care of drug abusers in prisons has not been provided and both financial and technical assistance are needed (p.60). Social reintegration services include special assistance in finding employment, accommodation, training, counseling services for ex-abusers and families of ex-abusers. There are no half way houses (p.61). International assistance in social reintegration of treated drug abusers has been provided by UNDCP. More assistance is needed (p.62) (U.N. 1994).

Sources of Information

Supply Reduction

U.N. 1992, 1993, 1994. Replies to the UNDCP "Annual Reports Questionnaire", Part III on Illicit Traffic, for the year 1992, 1993, and 1994.

UNDCP 1995.  Annual Field Report on Nigeria 1994-95; periodic reports from the Field Office in Nigeria.

DEA 1995.  Nigeria. Drug Enforcement Administration, U. S. Department of Justice, May 1995.

DEA 1994.  Drug Trafficking in Africa. Drug Enforcement Administration, U. S. Department of Justice, September 1994.

ICPO 1995.  Trends and Patterns of Illicit Drug Traffic 1994, Interpol/ICPO General Secretariat, March 1995

NDIC 1994.  Nigeria: A Country Overview. National Drug Intelligence Centre Johnstown, Pennsylvania, March 1994.

CND 1995.  “Illicit Drug Traffic and Supply, including Reports from Subsidiary Bodies and Evaluation of their Activities”, Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Thirty-Eighth Session, Vienna, 14-23 March 1995, E/CN.7/1995/7.

INCSR 1993.  International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.  April 1993.
United States Department of State.  Bureau of International Narcotics Matters.

Honlea 1994.  “Curent Situation and Most Recent Trends in Illicit Drug Traffic in the African Region”, Seventh Meeting of Heads of National Law Enforcement Agencies (HONLEA), Addis Ababa, 10-14 October 1994. UNDCP/HONLAF/1994/4.

EIU 1995.  The Economist Intelligence Unit Country Profile: Nigeria,.  1994-95.


                                                                        Demand Reduction

Adelekan M.L., Ogunlesi, G.O., Akindele O.M. 1990 “Secondary School Teachers’Knowledge and Views about Drug Abuse in Ogun State, Nigeria - A Pilot Survey” in the Journal of Drug Education, Vol. 20(2) 163-174

Adelekan M.L., et. al., 1992 “Prevalence and Patterns of Substance Use among Undergraduates in a Nigerian University” in Drugs and Alcohol Dependence, 29 (1992) 255-261, Elsevier Scientific Publishers Ireland Ltd.

U.N. 1992, 1993, 1994. Replies to the UNDCP "Annual Reports Questionnaire" for the year 1992, 1993, 1994.

Ibe N., Ogunleye D.A. 1994.  "Alcohol and Drug Problem in Nigeria: The Involvement of Womenfolk".  Paper presented at 1994 Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria.

ICAA 1988 “Report of a Research Project on the Substance Abuse in some Urban and Rural Areas of Nigeria” a research project funded by UNDCP and implemented by ICAA with the help of a Nigerian multidiciplinary research team

Nigeria 1991. 1991 Drug Abuse Data Collection, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nigeria.

Nigeria 1992.  "Report on Preventive Education Services".  Nigeria, 23-30 September, 1992.

Nigeria 9/1993 “Nigeria’s Health Sector: Team Work for Progress” Federal Ministry of Health and Social Services, September 1993.

NDLEA and UNDCP 1994. "Nigeria 1994: Preliminary Analysis on the Country Drug Abuse Situation". National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and United Nations International Drug Control Programme.



* The general background information is taken from:
Human Development Report 1995, published for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), New York, Oxford University Press, 1995.


** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section is based on the Annual Reports Questionnaire, Part I for the years 1988-89, 1992-93, Anthony Buckingham, Director, UNDCP Country Office, Nigeria, Statement made at 37th session, Commission on Narcotic Drugs.