NDLEA trains officers of other ECOWAS Member States on dismantling of clandestine drug laboratories

Abuja, April 2023- According to the 2022 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report, West Africa over the past decade has evolved from being a major transit hub for drug trafficking (only) to recording an increasingly pre-occupying number of illicit drug lab busts with Nigeria being a major player in the production of synthetic drugs. Synthetic drugs, such as methamphetamine and ecstasy (MDMA), which are highly addictive and have devastating effects on users, including psychosis, heart failure, and even death, are increasingly intercepted in the country. In the last quarter of 2021, Nigeria’s South East region was hit by an outbreak of abuse of methamphetamine, known locally as Mkpuru Mmiri. A total of twenty-one (21) clandestine laboratories have been discovered by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Nigeria since 2011, including two illicit methamphetamine laboratories in 2022. 

On 16 March, 11 days before the workshop, 59kg of Methamphetamine intercepted in the Philippines was traced to an originating point in Guinea-Conakry, which further buttressed the possibility of a widespread of undiscovered clandestine laboratories across the West African region.

This trend requires countries to equip their relevant front line law enforcement officers with the skills and logistics to be able to detect laboratories, know how to identify chemicals and equipment typically used in in the production of illicit synthetic drugs and to dismantle laboratories safely and in a way that minimizes potential damages to the environment.  

In order to help ECOWAS countries to address these challenges, UNODC partnered with NDLEA to deliver a regional Workshop on the Dismantling of Clandestine Laboratories bringing together 25 participants from various law enforcement agencies of seven countries of the region including the Republic of Benin (Organized Crime Fighting Unit, Customs and the Central Narcotics Office), Côte d’Ivoire (Narcotics Squad from Judicial Police (DPSD), Customs, National Gendarmerie, Transnational Crime Unit, Forensic Police Laboratory, Joint Airport Interdiction Task Force), Ghana (Narcotics Control Commission), Liberia (Transnational Crime Unit), Sierra Leone (Serious Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Coordination Directorate), The Gambia (Drug Law Enforcement Agency of The Gambia) and The International Criminal Police Organization -INTERPOL).

The objective was to share the best practices in the dismantling of clandestine laboratories used in the production of illicit drugs, with NDLEA officers acting as the lead facilitator of the workshop. Sharing her knowledge and experience, Mrs Margaret Ogundipe, Director, Forensic and Chemical Monitoring Directorate of the NDLEA, discussed the hazards associated with the dismantling of clandestine laboratories, impressing on the participants the importance of the correct usage of Personal Protective Equipment in such tasks. Drawing examples from experience, she illustrated how strict adherence saves the lives of frontline officers and ways in which improper use of PPE could result in serious injuries and death. Participants were also schooled on tell-tale signs that indicate the existence of a clandestine laboratory in a location. Similarly, Mr Anebi Ajilima, a forensic and crime lab expert at the NDLEA, using a case study, demonstrated the basic safety procedure for the dismantling of clandestine laboratories and the decontamination process involved.

The workshop provided hands-on training for participants as they worked in teams to dismantle a mock clandestine lab setup as a simulation of a real lab. The workshop also provided training on other aspects relevant to the discovery of clandestine laboratories, such as controlled delivery and digital intelligence that can lead to the detection and discovery of clandestine laboratories. Messrs Adebowale Abdulrahman and Felix Tagbo, respectively from the Digital Intelligence and Operations units of NDLEA, shared real cases and scenarios that could help frontline officers connect the dots.

The NDLEA Director of Prosecution, Mr. Joseph Nbona Sunday, educated the participants on the legal perspectives of clandestine laboratories, from international laws and conventions to local legislations while drawing copiously from cases prosecuted in Nigeria.

Mr Kouma Yao Ronsard, Secretary General of the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Fight against Drugs, who represented the Minister of Interior and Security for Côte d'Ivoire, General Vagondo Diomande, in his opening remarks, thanked UNODC for the continued collaboration with the Ivorian government, especially in bringing together law enforcement officers using the platform of the Organized Crime: West African Response to Trafficking (OCWART) project.  

OCWAR–T is a project to support ECOWAS and its Member States in reducing Transnational Organized Crime. For this purpose, the project is strengthening structures, capacities and improving knowledge. Specifically, it supports efforts in criminal investigation and prosecution, improving small arms control and reducing human trafficking.

The project is commissioned by the German Federal Foreign Office (AA) and co-funded by the EU. The Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) jointly implements this project with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and Mines Advisory Group (MAG), the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC). The project covers all fifteen ECOWAS Member States and Mauritania.