|01ABUJA2710||2001-10-24 21:21:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Abuja|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002710
1. Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter for reasons
1.5(b) and (d).
2.(C) Summary: In two recent meetings with the
Ambassador, NDLEA Chairman Bello Lafiaji extolled
the drug enforcement agency's more energetic efforts.
Drug seizures made thus far already surpass last
year's totals and the NDLEA stands to receive increased
resources - both from the Federal government and INL -
to further fuel the Nigerian war on drugs. The NDLEA is
also eager to improve its role in fighting money
laundering, but is learning its limits in attempting to
take on crimes beyond the realm of narcotics. End Summary.
3.(U) Ambassador Jeter, accompanied by POLCOUNS, RNLEO
and DEA Attache, called on NDLEA Chairman Bello Lafiaji
at NDLEA Headquarters in Lagos October 4. Also
participating from the NDLEA were: Special Assistant
Usman Almali; Coordinator for International Affairs
Vicent Ossai; Director for Money Laundering Tony Ray;
Director for Legal Affairs Femi Oloruntoba; and Director
for Investigations Aminu Shehu.
4.(C) Lafiaji expressed condolences over September 11.
He he had just returned from an INTERPOL conference in Hungary
where delegates spent two days discussing ways the
international law enforcement community can better respond to
the threat of global terrorism.
5.(C) The Ambassador raised USG concerns over Nigeria's
porous money laundering controls, concerns highlighted by
Washignton's effort to freeze the assets of
suspected terrorists around the world. The FATF had
"decertified" Nigeria in June, not only for the GON's
failure to answer a questionnaire on Nigeria's money
laundering control regime, but for serious deficiencies
identified by the FATF review committee in Nigeria's
anti-money laundering performance. (Comment: Post learned
October 16 that the GON responded to the FATF belatedly,
through an August 31 letter from the President's office.
6.(C) Lafiaji acknowledged the FATF's assessment of
Nigeria's shortcomings in this area. He pointed to the
existing anti-drug money laundering law, a 1995 decree,
and agreed its scope should be expanded to include the many
other avenues of money laundering in Nigeria (e.g.
corruption, trafficking in persons, fraud, and arms
trafficking). To address this deficiency, the NDLEA has
drafted revisions to the law, he claimed. Lafiaji asserted
the NDLEA should be the lead agency in coordinating
anti-money laundering activities. Lafiaji did not agree with
our suggestion os a centralized agency specifically mandated
to coordinate and command this effort.
NDLEA Operations at Air and Sea Ports
7.(C) Applauding the NDLEA for its record seizure of
cocaine (60 kilograms) from a Brazilian freighter at the
Lagos sea port August 27, the Ambassador asked if the
NDLEA had obtained unrestricted port access. Lafiaji
confirmed that, shortly after the large cocaine seizure,
President Obasanjo issued an executive order granting
the NDLEA unrestricted access to the Lagos ports.
Lafiaji has already chaired an interagency meeting with the
Nigerian Port Authority, Customs, Immigration and the State
Security Service (SSS) to work out the modalities for the
NDLEA's full operational role at the sea ports.
Airports at Abuja, Kano Vulnerable?
8.(C) The Chairman stated that traffickers appear to
targeting airports where drug enforcement efforts are
less vigorous. The thrice-weekly British Airways flight
to London from Abuja and the thrice-weekly KLM flight to
Amsterdam from Kano appear to have become more attractive
to traffickers dues to the heightened NDLEA scutiny in
Lagos. Neither airport has body x-ray or Itemiser
equipment to screen passengers and baggage for drugs.
The first drug seizure in over a year at the Kano
airport was made on September 26 - 450 grams of cocaine
injested by a passenger arriving on KLM from Curacao
(via Amsterdam). This serves as a warning to the NDLEA,
stated the Chairman, expressing his desire to place
one of the two new INL-funded Itemisers with the NDLEA
unit stationed at the Kano Airport.
9.(C) The NDLEA has only a "skeletal staff" in Abuja and no
drug seizures have been made at the capital's airport, which
is cause for concern, implied Lafiaji. He plans to bolster
staffing and would like to install the second new
DEA Operational Concerns
10.(C) Ambassador Jeter cited his concern that the NDLEA
is not sharing enough information on its operations with the
DEA Lagos office. As an example, the DEA Attache produced a
recent letter from the NDLEA reporting on significant drug
enforcement activity but neglecting some crucial details.
The DEA Attache also noted that he had not received monthly
reports of drug seizures and arrests since June. Defensive
at first, Chairman Lafiaji instructe his staff to improve its
information-sharing with DEA.
October 10: Lafiaji's Tenure at One Year
11.(C) Lafiaji sought a meeting with the Ambassador in
Abuja October 10; RNLEO sat in. Noting that
he had completed a full year as NDLEA Chairman that very
day, Lafiaji highlighted several additional drug seizures
over last week. He also sought our support for his idea that
NDLEA should coordinate GON anti-money laundering efforts.
The news he reported included the first drug seizure made in
Lagos in connection with the South African Airways/Nigerian
Airways flight to New York -- almost one kilogram of cocaine
concealed in the clothing of a female Nigerian passenger
attempting to board the October 5 flight.
12.(C) The NDLEA chief also reported another cocaine
seizure made at the Kano airport on October 8 -- 710 grams
carried internally by a male passenger also arriving from
Curacao on KLM via Amsterdam. The Ambassador congratulated
Lafiaji on the interdictions but reiterated USG
concerns over the lack of evenly applied and well coordinated
anti-money laundering efforts in Nigeria. A central
body with the authority (e.g. the Presidency) to command
disparate GON security agencies is essential to improve
this situation, Jeter noted. RNLEO outlined the U.S. system
which has a central coordinating body and information
clearhouse (FINCEN) while the various agencies (e.g. DEA,
FBI, USSS) run their own money laundering and financial
crimes investigation units. Discussion of this topic
concluded with Lafiaji agreeing that the NDLEA need lose its
current focus on drug money laundering with the creation of a
national centralized authority.
13.(C) When first confronted with our serious money
laundering concerns following the tragic September 11
bombings, Lafiaji seemed determined in our October 5 meeting
to expand the NDLEA's jurisdiction, howver impractical, by
it in the lead of all GON efforts to fight money laundering.
By October 18, however, his positions seems to have evolved to
an acceptance that a new federal entity - a la Financial
Crimes Commission - is needed to coordinate the GON's
anti-money laundering efforts.
14.(C) The NDLEA seems to have improved its interdiction
efforts considerably, as shown by the increase level of
heroin and cocaine seized over last year. All seizures
made to date seem authentic and we have been able to
keep closer watch on the statistical reporting. This is
particularly noteworthy since we suspect, but have no
proff, that the NDLEA may have "padded" its CY2000 seizure
statistics during the last two months of the year. With new
sea port access and greater federal resources employed, we
expect to see additional successes on the drug enforcement
front in the coming months.