UNODC hosts training on Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism and the International Legal Framework against Organized Crime

Abuja, 1 March, 2021-Although terrorism and organized crime are distinct phenomena that can greatly undermine the stability, development of states when they come together that damage is magnified. Terrorist groups benefit materially from illegal activity, and criminal gangs exploit the opportunities created by overstretched law enforcement and general instability. Nigeria currently faces both these challenges.

In recent years, United Nations member states have focused increasingly on the relationship between terrorism and organized crime, passing several Security Council Resolutions focused on the linkages between terrorism and organized crime, most notably Resolution 2482 (2019).

As Kate Fitzpatrick of UNODC’s Terrorism Prevention Branch notes “while criminal and terrorist groups have distinct objectives, countries globally have reported a number of linkages between the two groups, most notably related to financing of terrorist groups. Unfortunately, too often the issues of organized crime and terrorism are addressed in isolation.”

To support the Nigerian government’s efforts to take a holistic approach to these twin threats, UNODC recently delivered an online training course on Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism and the International Legal Framework against Organized Crime for a range of Nigerian partners from the policy, security, legal and financial sectors. This training was made possible with the generous support of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria.

This course drew on knowledge and experiences from a number of international experts from UNODC’s Terrorism Prevention Branch, Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section, and Global Firearms Programme, as well as the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), and local Nigerian experts from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), and National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

Despite the necessary public health restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, UNODC has pioneered several successful methods of conducting its capacity building activities remotely over online meeting sites and social media tools such as Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp. For this training the UNODC Country Team was also able to take advantage of the UNODC Counter-Terrorism Learning Platform (CTLP), which offers an invaluable resource through which professionals can continue to exchange, learn and build stronger ties with criminal justice and counter-terrorism practitioners, notwithstanding the restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The online training course elicited energetic deliberations from participants, while prompting practical discussions on the relevance of criminal justice strategies and measures adopted against organized crime in the counter-terrorism context; the human rights and gender dimensions common to organized crime and terrorism; terrorist financing and money laundering; prosecuting and investigating terrorism and organized crime offences; the similarities and differences of terrorism and organized crime offences; and linkages between trafficking of persons and terrorism.

In appreciating the objectives of the online training course, Mr. James Neville Onu, Head of Legal Drafting at the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the central Nigerian agency responsible for protecting the Nigerian financial sector against terrorism financing and associated crimes, commented that “the UNODC online training for Nigeria on Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism and the International Legal Framework Against Organized Crime, was timely. The training programme emphasized on identifying and responding to the linkages between terrorism and organized crime.”

Mr. Onu added: “Perhaps some law enforcement agencies have always known that these linkages exist. However, the training underlined the imperative to always consider a proactive, and more nuanced approach in countering the organized crime-terrorism nexus. Consequently, cooperation and collaboration, both at international and local (inter-agency) levels, the use of special investigative techniques and intelligence gathering, and above all updating local laws and strategic plans to meet the challenges of organized crime and terrorism, cannot be overemphasized.”

UNODC’s Country Representative, Oliver Stolpe, also emphasized the importance of looking to the future: “While the online training course provided an opportunity to engage over a wide range of topics, it is important to continue to enhance institutional and collective contributions to meeting the challenges brought on by terrorism and organized crime, beyond the online training course. We look forward to continuing to work with the Nigerian criminal justice sector and other stakeholders to continue to address the nexus between terrorism and organized crime and proffer functional and context-relevant solutions to the compounded challenge posed by these two dangerous phenomena.”