Cablegate: Niger: Counter-Narcotics Strategy

DE RUEHNM #0866/01 3100855
R 060855Z NOV 09




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Niger: Counter-Narcotics Strategy

Ref: a) State 105731 b) 08 Niamey 631

1. Summary: Niger, while not a drug producing country or a
significant consumer market for narcotics, should be characterized
as a "developing" transit point for narcotics en route to North
Africa and Europe. Mindful of the potential for increased drug
trade, the Government of Niger (GON) has taken steps to combat
illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances,
creating institutions and drafting legislation to confront this
growing problem. Niger-U.S. cooperation on combating illicit
trafficking of narcotics is lacking. Minimal law enforcement
coordination, coupled with insufficient technical expertise and
resources, contributes to Niger's place as a transit point for drugs
primarily destined to other countries. End summary.

Vast Desert Land Limits Policing
2. Niger is an inland, land-locked country located in the heart of
the Sahel and Sahara Desert with an area of which over 2/3 is
desert. Niger's borders are remote, poorly marked, and difficult to
monitor, facilitating transit of illegal goods. Neighboring
countries include: Algeria (border of 956 km) to the north, Libya
(354 km) to the northeast, Chad (1175 km) to the east, Nigeria
(1497 km) and Benin (266 km) to the south, and Burkina Faso (628 km)
and Mali (821 km) to the west.

3. Niger's poor to absent border control, vast desert, and pivotal
position between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa makes it easily
penetrable for drug traffickers. According to Nigerien law
enforcement contacts, the National Police detected major organized
drug trafficking in the northern region of Agadez in February 2007,
but it is likely this phenomenon dates back to the early 1990's when
Niger first passed legislation to address the problem.

Variety of Drugs Transit through Niger
4. Nigerien officials report that 1,449 kilograms of herbal cannabis
and 54 kilograms of cannabis resin were seized by defense and
security forces in 2008. During the same period 405,299 tablets of
psychotropic substances were seized. Seizures of cocaine and heroin
were reported as 105 kilograms and 2 kilograms, respectively. (Note:
According to the GON law enforcement officials, the majority of
cocaine and heroin come from Nigeria. End note.)

5. On June 26, 2008, in commemoration of the International Day in
the Fight Against Narcotics Abuse and Trafficking, the GON Minister
of Justice (MOJ) presided over a incineration ceremony of seized
narcotics (ref b), to which the diplomatic corps was invited. The
MOJ provided in his remarks the following figures for drug seizures
for the period November 2006 - October 2007:

-- 6831 kilograms of cannabis resin
-- 847,570 kilograms of cannabis leaves
-- 34,456 kilograms of cocaine
-- 388,193 tablets made from diverse psychotropic substances.

6. In 2008, GON authorities arrested 498 persons for the possession
of illegal drugs. Of this number, 458 were Nigeriens and, among the
40 foreigners, 39 individuals were from eight different West African
countries and one individual was from a Central America nation.

7. According to the Anti-Drug Trafficking Office, trafficking has
fueled increasing domestic drug consumption; a significant amount of
cannabis herb is consumed locally. Authorities do not believe the
size or influence of narcotics traffickers is growing in Niger.
Cannabis resin is believed to be a product that is transited through
the northern part of Niger for destination countries bordering the
North and those of Europe. Seizures of this substance typically
occur in virtually uninhabited areas of northern Niger.

Drug Flow/Transit
8. GON officials report that narcotics arrive in Niger via land or
river and rarely by air, most often hidden in a human body cavity,
in luggage, or in vehicles. Trafficking is also known to occur via
motorcycles, carts, boats, or even pack animals (usually donkeys or
camels). Most transport requires transit of vast desert areas, and
according to local authorities, trafficking of drugs is now being
conducted via powerful, all-terrain 4x4 vehicles, moving in convoys
at night without lights to avoid detection in the desert. Although
these areas virtually are unpopulated, traffickers also have a
well-organized structure for refueling.

9. There are increased reports of small, unmarked air strips

NIAMEY 00000866 002 OF 003

throughout the country. Although these air strips have been
purchased by wealthy businessmen to travel in and out of Niger, they
are remote and unregulated. Nigerien authorities are unable to
effectively police these remote air strips, consequently creating a
potential shipping hub for drug traffickers.

International Conventions, National Policy Initiatives
--------------------------------------------- ---------
10. In 1993, Niger instituted a set of goals in a five-year plan to
combat the then just developing drug trafficking problem. These
goals included: increasing attention to domestic demand reduction;
improving training and research facilities; creating regional
commissions to better coordinate counternarcotics law enforcement;
and developing the National Center for the Repression of Illicit
Drug Trafficking. Since then, Niger has taken considerable steps to
accomplish many of these goals.

11. Niger has signed and ratified the three major international
conventions against drugs. It has also ratified the UN Convention
against Transnational Organized Crime, which was introduced in 2000.
Niger passed legislation that aims to combat drug trafficking.
According to GON authorities, these steps help bring Niger into
conformity with international conventions and norms. Lastly, at an
ECOWAS summit in 2008, Niger signed a political declaration and
Regional Response Action Plan, agreeing to take steps against
illicit drug trafficking and abuse.

12. Niger has created an interdepartmental committee to develop and
implement the national drug policy. It established an agency
responsible for the suppression of consumption and trafficking of
illicit drugs and precursors, and constructed a drug analysis

13. In addition to state structures, according to GON officials,
non-governmental organizations and members of civil society have
been instrumental in efforts to curb drug trafficking. The most
active of these groups are the grassroots Nigerien Organization for
the Development of Human Potential and the Organization to Fight
against Trafficking and Consumption of Narcotics.

Police and Armed Forces Lack Capacity
14. Two thirds of Niger is un-occupied desert, which limits Nigerien
authorities' capacity to police the area effectively. There is a
serious penury of equipment and resources, including vehicles, fuel,
air surveillance, and even dedicated manpower. The office charged
with combating the growing drug phenomenon has a small budget and
staff; it has 20 officers stationed throughout the country. The
agency has three offices; one each in Niamey, Agadez, and Maradi.
The agency intends to increase its interdiction efforts through
seizures along the Nigerian border.

15. The Gendarme and the National Forces for Intervention and
Security (FNIS) have an anti-narcotics mission. While not charged
with a similar mission, the Armed Forces of Niger (FAN) have
interdicted narco-traffickers in the course of military operations.
The FAN often hands over the seized narcotics to the Gendarmes. The
lack of capacity is a problem for all three security services.

USG-GON Counternarcotics Cooperation
16. The GON has no bilateral counternarcotics treaties with the U.S.
Government; it does have several agreements with France and Nigeria.
The Director General (DG) of the National Police expressed
disappointment at the lack of cooperation between the GON and the
USG on this issue. The DG mentioned that a representative from the
DEA periodically visited Niger in the 1990s, but no such visits have
occurred since. (Note: In 1994, the USG donated a computer with
appropriate software to be used to track data and generate reports.
End note.) He did say, however, that in order to strengthen Niger's
law enforcement capacity, to improve its interdiction capabilities,
and to reduce Niger's role as a transit point for narcotics, that
more cooperation with development partners is needed.

The Way Forward
17. The increase in numbers of arrests of drug traffickers by
Nigerien authorities clearly indicates that drug trafficking is
becoming a more serious problem and that the security authorities
have begun to take necessary steps to combat the problem. Combating
illicit trafficking is a challenge for Nigerien law enforcement due
to insufficient financial and technical resources necessary to
enhance security measures and improve surveillance. Despite the GON
having passed anti-narcotics trafficking legislation, investment to

NIAMEY 00000866 003 OF 003

improve the effectiveness of the counter-narcotics office has been
lacking. Niger, ranked last in the most recent United Nations Human
Development Index, cannot afford to succumb to the social burden
imposed by the international drug trade. In Niger, over 50 percent
of the population is under the age of 15, and 70 percent is under
the age of 27. Narcotics not only threatens the socio-economic
development of Niger, but also puts at risk the most productive
element of society, its youth. Youth are vulnerable to addiction to
these illicit drugs, which would create problems of even greater


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