Liberia’s Porous Border Controls Contribute To ‘Massive’ Drug Trafficking – Says U.S. State Department Report

article-doc-1j15w-6XVY9gjQE-HSK1-715_634x421A U.S. State Department 2016 report has disclosed that Liberia’s porous border controls has massively contributed to drug trafficking due to the country’s nascent law enforcement capacity and proximity to major drug transit routes throughout Liberia.

The report further noted that while Liberia is not a significant producer of  illicit narcotics, local drug use, particularly of marijuana, is very common.  Other drug usage includes heroin (mostly smoked) and cocaine (snorted).  Local authorities have reported increasing prevalence of amphetamine.

The report said there is no reliable data on drug consumption or overall trends in the country.  Other than marijuana, locally consumed drugs enter Liberia via commercial aircraft, maritime vessels, and across land borders by foot and vehicle traffic.  With U.S. training and support, the Government of Liberia passed its first drug law in October 2014.

This latest report by the U.S. State Department in its report also said Nigerian criminal networks are operating within Liberia, some of which are involved in narcotics trafficking.

The report said local authorities are aware of the threat and are working with the United States to prevent illicit criminal networks from gaining a stronger foothold.  Several local law enforcement agencies work in concert to fight narcotics trafficking in Liberia, including the Liberia National Police (LNP), Coast Guard, National Security Agency, Liberian Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA), and the Transnational Crime Unit.

In 2010, Liberia signed the “West Africa Coast Initiative Freetown Commitment,” a UN initiative to address the growing problem of illicit drug trafficking, organized crime, and drug abuse throughout the sub-region.

In October 2014, the LDEA Act and a Controlled Drugs and Substances Act came into effect.

The legislation conforms to the UN drug conventions, and provides a strong foundation for more effective law enforcement activities.  Under previous legislation defendants could only be charged under the public health law.  In 2014, before the drug law was passed, the Solicitor General successfully used the public health law to prosecute six defendants and 28 more are pending trial.  In 2015, 107 individuals were arrested under the new Anti -Drug Law and there are seven standing indictments, but no prosecutions.

The report also said the LDEA continues to improve its operational capacity and professionalism, including using confidential sources, working with business entities, initiating controlled deliveries, investigating international smuggling groups, and effectively working across the Liberian interagency.  In recognition of its growing effectiveness, LDEA now receives limited international donor assistance from the United States and the UN.  Other donors have expressed interest, but have not yet provided assistance.

INCSR 2016 Volume 1 Country Reports 217, said the U.S.- Liberia extradition treaty dates to 1939 and is in effect.  There is no mutual legal assistance treaty in force between Liberia and the United States, though Liberia is a party to ultilateral conventions that enable such cooperation.

Supply Reduction Local production of marijuana is not prioritized as a major concern by most of the public; however, local law enforcement authorities sporadically conduct eradication operations.  LDEA reports that in 2015, it eradicated 13 marijuana farms with over 15,000 marijuana plants.

Little information exists regarding the extent of local cannabis cultivation, or the networks responsible for local sales, but marijuana is clearly the most widely available drug in the country.  LDEA is mapping the extent of internal cultivation and networks; however, progress on these efforts stalled in 2014 and early 2015 due to LDEA’s assistance with Ebola security related matters.

In 2015, Liberian authorities seized approximately 18.8 metric tons (MT) of marijuana, 1.87 kilograms (kg) of cocaine, and 6.2 kg of heroin.  In 2014, 2.5 kilograms of cocaine and 1.9 kilograms of heroin were seized.

Throughout 2014 and 2015, LDEA made several successful interdictions, including two air freight interdictions of heroin originating in East Africa.  On LDEA’s first day stationed at Roberts International Airport, the LDEA interdicted a Ugandan female courier with one kg of heroin hidden in a sewn compartment in the bottom of a suitcase.  The Ugandan female eventually stood trial, was convicted, and received a five year sentence.  She was the first foreign national sentenced to prison for drug trafficking in Liberia.

In October 2015, LDEA deployed to the Port of Monrovia, suspected of being a key transit point for drug trafficking.  Despite initial challenges in accessing all areas of the port, within a month of deployment LDEA had conducted its first operation, resulting in the arrest of two Nigerian traffickers.

The report said public Information, Prevention, and Treatment Consumption of cannabis is high within Liberia, including cannabis combined with cocaine, heroin, or pharmaceutical products.  Psychotropic drugs are not common in Liberia, since the local population lacks the disposable income to buy them.  Nevertheless, drugs are still easily accessible; cannabis is very inexpensive and the price of cocaine is decreasing.

In its 2016 report, United States Department of State Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs International Narcotics Control Strategy Report on Liberia concluded.

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About Cholo Brooks 17519 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.