Friday, authorities in Nigeria seized a cocaine shipment with an estimated worth of $7 million in the port city Lagos.
According to the Associated Press, the cocaine was hidden in floor tiles and was smuggled into Lagos on a ship from Bolivia. The chairman of Nigeria's main anti-narcotics division, Ahmadu Giade, thanked the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for providing the intelligence that led to the successful raid.
The seizure is the latest indication of the importance of West Africa as a smuggling route, especially as South American Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) look to the European market for new profits. Cocaine from South America is trafficked to countries like Guinea-Buissea, Ghana and Nigeria, where it is then repackaged and smuggled in boats and aircrafts to Europe. Up to 50 percent of the cocaine that is not trafficked to the U.S. may now be traveling through West Africa, where seizures have more than doubled in the past five years.
The cocaine trade may be relatively new to West Africa but drug trafficking is not. Authorities have previously observed smuggling routes for narcotics like marijuana, qat or precursor chemicals for methaphetamines. Since the 1970s, Nigeria has been used by traffickers as a route for heroin from Asia. But facing increased pressure in Central America and the Caribbean, South American cocaine barons like the Colombian Daniel Barrera, alias "El Loco Barrera," are now adopting West Africa as their new transit region of choice. Weak governments in states like Nigeria and Guinea-Buissea also make them ideal transit countries.
In June 2010, Colombian police arrested members of a drug-trafficking ring headed by Barrera, which included a Nigerian man, Barrera's alleged contact with West Africa. However, there have not yet been any arrests of major Colombian or Mexican operatives based in the West Africa region.