The United Nations says organised crime is “plundering” West Africa, as illicit goods flood through the region.
A report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime says the smuggling of oil, arms, toxic waste, diamonds and cigarettes continues to flourish in West Africa.
Corruption is also rife among senior officials, undermining democracy and economic development, the UN says.
But the report did notice one positive trend: a reduction in the flow of cocaine through West Africa to Europe.
In recent years West African countries have been used as a transit point by Colombian drug lords. But increased international attention has smothered some trafficking activity in the past year.
Development in danger
The report identified oil theft and smuggling as the greatest threat to West Africa, as it is directly linked to insurgency and violence in the region.
In Nigeria, some 55 million barrels of oil – nearly one-tenth of the country’s annual production – are lost every year through theft and smuggling. The illicit trade often leads to pollution.
West Africa has also become a major destination for electronic waste from Europe, such as old phones, computers and batteries, which is another threat to the environment.
“Organised crime is plundering West Africa, destroying governments, the environment, human rights and health,” said UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa.
The agency warned that democracy and development would continue to falter in West Africa while crime and corruption flourish.