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Despite the efforts of cross-border security agencies like the Nigeria police, customs service, Immigration services, and Nigerian civil Defense etc, Nigeria borders have been described as porous allowing all sorts of cross border or trans-border criminal activities such as human trafficking, smuggling, drug trafficking, arm robbery, money laundry and illicit arms trafficking resulting to proliferation of SALW. Thus, West Africa’s regional superpower, Nigeria, continues to face serious security challenges due to cross border or trans-border criminal activities. We argue that; one, the spate of cross border criminal activities in West Africa undermines Nigeria’s national security; and two, frequent trans-border crimes in West African sub-region impede Nigeria’s external relations. The focus of this study is therefore is to examine cross boarder crimes and socioeconomic development among ECOWAS member state. The study is basically a historical research method relying mainly on secondary sources of data from internet sources, official documents and country websites as the method of data collection.



  • Background of the study

The Over the years various activities across the borders of ECOWAS member states have hindered sustainable economic growth and development in the Union (Orji, 2008 :?) Activities such as bunkering, terrorism, smuggling of banned items, drug trafficking, human trafficking and prostitution do not encourage socio-economic growth in developing nations such as Nigeria, Ghana, and Togo etc.

The desire to build a vibrant and sound economy is the desire of every patriotic ECOWAS member. This desire can be demonstrated through total elimination or reduction of cross border crimes, and other activities that may hamper the success of free trade policies currently formulated by the economic union.

Cross bordercrime represents a number of illegal and notorious activities carried out by individuals and groups across national and international borders, either for financial or economic benefits also socio political cum religious considerations. It is a set of criminal acts whose perpetrators and repercussions go beyond territorial borders (Owolabi, 2009: 23).

Cross border crimes include human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, arms smuggling or trafficking of weapons, international terrorism, illegal oil bunkering, illicit trafficking in diamonds, business fraud, to mention but these notable few. Organized criminal groups carry out their illicit activities using major technological tools such as information networks, the financial system and other sophisticated means, while other crude methods include concealing banned items from one country to the other, human trafficking and major oil bunkering activities with speed boats and vessels.

Some cabals involved in cross border crimes also take advantage of differences in legislation, legal systems and traditions, which often seriously hamper state efforts to respond adequately to the threat of organized or cross border crimes.

Ortuno and Wiriyachai (2009: 56) have maintained that the past few years have been characterized by a significant increase in global criminal activities such as money laundering, trafficking in human and nuclear technology and material, the trade in human organs and migrant smuggling. At the same time, emerging crimes such as modern piracy, and trafficking in toxic waste, counterfeit medicines, precious metals or natural resources have been added to the list of traditional illegal activities such as prostitution, drug trafficking and arms trafficking. Most recently, cross national crime has increased in scope and is characterized by increasingly global reach, involved in multiple forms of criminal activity, expanding criminal markets to include large-scale financial fraud and cyber-crime. And the syndicates are willing to protect their activities through violent and ruthless means, linked to international terrorist groups and devising novel and notorious organizational strategies to deter capture (Luna 2008).

In Nigeria, the dimension of these criminal activities has increased. The emergence of militancy in the Niger Delta, and the spade of kidnappings have created serious problems of insecurity. This is however done in connivance with security agencies. This situation is scaring to foreign and local investors and impinges seriously on the socio-economic development of societyDrug trafficking like its twin sister, money laundering, has economic effect on developingeconomies also. It places increasing demandson the public health services and the society atlarge. These increasing demands and strains come in different forms, these will include serious epidemic like HIV/AIDS. The United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that along the cocaine trafficking route, numbers of users and cases of HIV/AIDS is distinctly higher .It is also noted that a number of youths are involved in Drug trafficking and the implication is that these youths stay out of school. Education, especially education being made available to the poor, is key to development in the way that it empowers people. This research intends to investigate and appraise cross -border crimes and its effect on the economy of Nigeria.


Cross border crimes have slowed down growth and development rates in which most West African nations should attain globalization and free trade zones have numerous advantages to an economy-either capitalist or mixed. These benefits are enjoyed when due processes and legal activities between countries are carried out. However, in areas with some restrictions in trade, high unemployment rates, high poverty rates as often witnessed in most developing nations, the reverse is the case. Revenue realizable from most products smuggled in and out of the nation is enough to build schools, good roads and other social amenities in Nigeria.

Cross border criminal activities in West Africa straddle weak borders into specific geographical location in affected countries where state capacity to respond to the threat and challenges posed by these illegal activities is equally weak. The smuggling of goods, especially cocoa, timber, ivory and petroleum products across national borders is most prevalent along Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Burkina Faso corridors of the sub-region. Cross border crimes are increasingly becoming sophisticated by each passing day with devastating consequences on the economies of countries, particularly Third World countries. The tendency is that, these crimes affect monies available to government to provide basic amenities for the poor. These basic amenities may include medical or health facilities, education, housing, income and the provision of other infrastructural facilities like road electricity, water and others.

Ordinary business men, women and sometimes rebels and criminal gangs are involved in the smuggling of these and other products. These goods are smuggled in vehicles or on foot, using secret and illegal routes across the borders to evade special regulations, levies or taxes, thereby making more income through the cross border action of these products.

For instance Nigeria, Senegal and Ivory Coast were named and shamed for allegedly fuelling the illegal Ivory Trade. Having largely wiped out their own elephant population, the three countries were believed to be importing and selling tones of ivory which had been poached in nearby countries.


The main objective of the study is to examine cross border crimes and socio-economic development of ECOWAS member states. Specific objectives of the study are:

  1. To identify various cross border crimes perpetuated in ECOWAS member states.
  2. To examine the challenges posed by cross border crimes and how these challenges affect the socio-economic growth of Nigeria in particular and other ECOWAS member states.
  3. To appraise the effectiveness of various machineries put in ground by the government to curb cross border crimes.


In-order to achieve the objectives of the research, the following research questions was formulated:

  1. How effective are the various machineries put in place by the government to curb cross border crimes?
  2. What are the challenges posed by cross border crimes and how has these challenges affected the socio-economic growth of Nigeria and other ECOWAS member states?


The study shall analyze the nature of cross border crimes and elucidate its effect on the socio-economy of ECOWAS member states. This study would help suggest ways of building a vibrant and sound economy by reducing the increase in criminal activities. This work will investigate and appraise cross border crimes and its effect on the economy of Nigeria.

It shall provide a significant source of information for security analyst and law enforcement professionals as well as the general public.


The study covers cross border crimes in ECOWAS member states from 2004-2014, using Nigeria as a case study.


CROSS BORDER CRIME:Cross border crime represent a number of illegal and notorious activities carried out by individuals and groupsacross national and international borders, eitherfor financial or economic benefits and also socio political or religious considerations. It is a setof criminal acts whose perpetrators and repercussions go beyond territorial borders. These would include human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, arms smuggling or trafficking of weapons, cross-border terrorism, illegal oil bunkering, illicit trafficking in diamonds, corruption, business fraud, to mention but a few.

MONEY LAUNDRY: Money laundering is the practice of engaging in financial cross border actions to conceal the identity, source, or destination of illegally gained money. It could also be defined as the process of taking any action with property of any form which is either wholly or in part the proceeds of a crime that will disguise the fact that that property is the proceeds of a crime or obscure the beneficial ownership of said property

DRUG TRAFFICKING DEFINED: Drug trafficking typically refers to the possession of an illegal drug in a predetermined commercial quantity.

ECOWAS: Economic Community of West African States. This is a regional group of fifteen West African countries. Founded on 28th may 1975.

SOCIO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:  this is a process that seeks to identify both the social and the economic needs within a community and seeks to create strategies that would address those needs in a way that are practical and in the best interest of the community over the long run