Using the Organized Crime Convention to adopt laws on crimes that affect the environment in West Africa

Lagos, 25 November 2022 - In September of this year, the conviction by the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos of a foreign national in relation to the trafficking of 200 kilograms of pangolins scales by a Nigerian court made the headlines in national media. Illegal pangolin trade in Nigeria appears to have grown significantly in recent years and according to UNODC 2020 World Wildlife Crime Report, the country was the reported provenance of at least 51 tons of pangolin scales seized in 2019 (compared to 2 tons in 2015). Nigeria continues to regularly seize shipments of pangolin scales, including 7.5 metric tons of scales from March to November 2021

While this decision constitutes a significant milestone for Nigeria and the region, it also highlighted some of the limitations of the legal framework. While progress is being made, crimes that affect the environment continue to have devastating impacts on West Africa’s natural resources, socio-economic development, human health and security. Addressing these crimes requires a holistic approach, starting with strong and adequate legislative frameworks, which constitute a prerequisite to any effective criminal justice response.

In order to support States in reviewing and amending their legislations on crimes that affect the environment, UNODC has developed a series of legislative guides on waste trafficking, wildlife crime, crimes in the minerals sector and crimes in the fisheries sector. The guides focus on implementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) to prevent and combat these crimes, providing national lawmakers with concrete model provisions, national examples and legislative guidance. These guides seek to support States parties to the UNTOC to adopt balanced, proportionate, and efficient legislation, and were developed with the financial support of France, Norway, the European Union and the United States of America.

From 14 to 16 November 2022, UNODC convened experts from anglophone countries in West Africa (Cameroon, the Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone) in Lagos, presenting UNODC legislative guides and how these could be used in practice through organized crime case-based sessions. Participants also exchanged on their existing legislation, identifying legislative loopholes as well as opportunities in updating legislation related to natural resources.

Ms. Abena Ayensu, Director of the Legal Department at the Environmental Protection Agency in Ghana reiterated that “crimes that affect the environment are constantly evolving and there is a need for countries such as Ghana to ensure that our legislation can keep up with the challenges posed to our natural resources. This workshop helped me to better understand how legislation can be strengthened to serve as a deterrent to those crimes and how we can make use of instruments such as the UNTOC.”

Ms. Nwamaka Odili, Legal Director at the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, expressed her appreciation to learn more about UNODC’s support programme to help countries address gaps in legislation and regulatory frameworks. She said that “Nigeria is plagued with the menace of illegal mining and trafficking in minerals and metals. Any UNODC support is highly welcome to address this problem and its consequences which includes terrorism, child labour and loss of revenue.”


The activity was organized thanks to the generous funding of the Government of Germany. “It is so important to cooperate internationally, across national boundaries on these issues. Both, the West African countries and UNODC, deserve Germany’s full support”, stated Mr. Weert Börner, German Consul General in Lagos.

Following this workshop, UNODC organized a two-day joint workshop with the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions on legislative frameworks, trade and trafficking of hazardous chemicals and waste, with funding from Germany and the European Union.

UNODC Guide on Drafting Legislation to Combat Wildlife Crime

UNODC Guide to Good Legislative Practices on Combating Waste Trafficking

UNODC Guide to Good Legislative Practices on Responding to Illegal Mining and Trafficking in Metals and Minerals