Is Europe’s coke habit funding terrorism?

By Daniel Wheeler

Europe’s cocaine may have a far more sinister journey than most users like to imagine.

The rising European cocaine market has led to South American traffickers using West Africa as a direct transit line into the region. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, $2 billion of Europe’s cocaine is passing through West Africa. Nigeria is seen as the path of least resistance into Europe due to high levels of corruption, low-governance, and the regions extreme wealth inequality.

Boko Haram is said to be one of the main beneficiary parties of the cocaine trafficking in the region. The African Union’s new police cooperation body against transnational crime, the African Mechanism for Police Cooperation (AFRIPOL), claim trafficking is one of the main sources of revenue for the group and helps fund the violent terrorist attacks on civilians.

According to a recent UN report, smugglers use Boko Haram for logistical, security and political protection. Boko Haram also offers the ability to intimidate government and law enforcement officials who threaten the trafficking activities.

The smugglers who are capitalising on Nigeria’s strategic location in West Africa would have faced little choice but to form an allegiance with Boko Haram. In 2009, the militant extremist Islamic group Boko Haram whose official name is the Islamic State West Africa Province, controlled an estimated 903930 miles of territory. Boko Harams’ ability to operate across the borders into Chad, Niger and Cameroon, make the group a powerful ally to the drug traffickers.

When compared to the underfunded West African law enforcement and military units, Boko Haram are well equipped, well financed and armed with advanced weaponry.

Drug trafficking has been said to destabilise regional electoral politics, governance, corruption and security.

In 2013, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told the UN Security Council that drug trafficking in West Africa poses “an enormous challenge to peace, stability, economic and social development in West Africa”.

Daniel Wheeler is a British Journalist who specialises in human and environmental conflict. or follow him @MrDanielWheeler