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The politics of law enforcement in Nigeria: lessons from the war on drugs*

  • Gernot Klantschnig (a1)


This article examines the institutional politics of law enforcement in Nigeria by focusing on illegal drug control since the mid 1980s. It assesses the available academic research on law enforcement governance, and contrasts it with an in-depth case study of drug law enforcement. The case study confirms views of the politicised nature of law enforcement. However, it goes beyond the patron–client centred approach to politics prevalent in the literature on African policing. The article adds an institutional dimension to the study of law enforcement governance, highlighting processes of centralisation, exclusion and shifting bureaucratic interests that have been central to the development of Nigerian drug law enforcement. It is based on previously inaccessible data from inside Nigerian drug law enforcement.


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An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Oxford workshop on ‘New Research on Nigeria’ in May 2008. I am grateful for comments from workshop participants and two anonymous reviewers. Financially, this research was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council of the United Kingdom.



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Former heroin and cocaine smuggler, Lagos, 11.10.2005.

Former NDLEA assistant director, Ibadan, 14.9.2007.

NDLEA assistant director 1, Lagos, 25.9.2005.

NDLEA assistant director 2, Lagos, 16.9.2005.

NDLEA assistant director 3, Lagos, 26.9.2005.

NDLEA assistant director 4, Lagos, 26.7.2005.

NDLEA chairman, Lagos 16.9.2005.

NDLEA director 1, Abuja, 18.8.2005.

NDLEA director 2, Lagos, 9.8.2005.

NDLEA director 3, Lagos, 27.7.2005.

NDLEA director 4, Lagos, 27.7.2005.

NDLEA director general, Lagos, 9.8.2005.

NDLEA mid-ranking officer, Jos, 8.9.2005.

Nigerian senator and vice chairman, Committee on drugs, narcotics and financial crimes, Senate of the Republic of Nigeria, Abuja, 30.8.2005.

Daily Trust, Abuja; Drugforce, NDLEA; Drug Salvation Force, NDLEA; Newswatch; Vanguard.

The politics of law enforcement in Nigeria: lessons from the war on drugs*

  • Gernot Klantschnig (a1)


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