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CROSS BORDER CRIMES AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF ECOWAS MEMBER STATES: THE NIGERIA EXPERIENCE
1.1 Background of the Study
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 groupsacross national and international borders, eitherfor financial or economic benefits also socio political cum religious considerations. It is a setof 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 mentionbut these notable few.Organized criminal groups carry out their illicit activities using major technological tools such as information networks, the financial system and other sophisticatedmeans, 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 differencesin legislation, legal systems and traditions,which often seriously hamper state efforts torespond adequately to the threat of organizedor 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 andmaterial, the trade in human organs and migrant smuggling. At the same time, emergingcrimes such as modern piracy, and traffickingin toxic waste, counterfeit medicines, preciousmetals or natural resources have been added tothe list of traditional illegal activities such asprostitution, drug trafficking and arms trafficking.Most recently,cross national crime has increased in scope and is characterized by increasinglyglobal reach, involved in multiple forms of criminal activity, expanding criminal markets toinclude large-scale financial fraud and cyber-crime. And the syndicates are willing to protect their activities through violent and ruthlessmeans, linked to international terrorist groupsand devising novel and notorious organizationalstrategies to deter capture (Luna 2008).
In Nigeria, the dimension of these criminal activities has increased. The emergence of militancy in the NigerDelta, 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 localinvestors 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 strainscome 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 areinvolved 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 theway that it empowers people. This research intends to investigate and appraise cross -border crimes andits effect on the economy of Nigeria.
1.2. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
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 tonnes of ivory which had been poached in nearby countries.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
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:
To identify various cross border crimes perpetuated in ECOWAS member states.
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.
To appraise the effectiveness of various machineries put in ground by the government to curb cross border crimes.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
In-order to achieve the objectives of the research, the following research questions was formulated:
How effective are the various machineries put in place by the government to curb cross border crimes?
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?
1.5. HYPOTHESES OF THE STUDY
H0: There is no significant relationship between cross border crimes and the economic development of Nigeria.
H1: There is significant relationship between cross border crimes and the economic development of Nigeria.
H0 The level of cross border crimes in Nigeria is high
H1: The level of cross border crime in Nigeria is low
H0 The role of government in combating cross border crime in Nigeria is low
H1 The role of government in combating cross border crime in Nigeria is high
1.6. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
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.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The study covers cross border crimes in ECOWAS member states from 2004-2014, using Nigeria as a case study.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
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 financialcross borderactions to conceal the identity, source, or destination of illegally gained money. It could also be defined as the process oftaking any action with property of any formwhich is either wholly or in part the proceeds ofa crime that will disguise the fact that that property is the proceeds of a crime or obscure thebeneficial ownership of said property
DRUG TRAFFICKING DEFINED:Drug trafficking typicallyrefers to the possession of an illegal drug in apredetermined 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.
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