ECOWAS, African Union, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), European Union and INTERPOL have pledged to collaborate in the fight against illicit drug abuse and trafficking in West Africa.
The call was made at the opening an experts’ meeting on Illicit Drug Trafficking, Organised Crime and Drug Abuse in West Africa on Friday.
The Representative of the INTERPOL Regional Office, Abidjan, Mr Koivogui Niouma said that despite the successes achieved, member states needed to harmonise efforts in information sharing among relevant institutions.
“These criminals are always changing their pattern of activities and use the weaknesses our forces to operate and have developed more ingenious means of bypassing surveillance.
Our best response is exchange of information and this is why we welcome the approach for us to work to get rid of nefarious activities in our sub-region.”
In his address, Mr. Cheikh Toure, the UNODC Representative urged member states to strengthen legal and penal systems, improve preventive services and enhance cooperation.
Mr. Toure said enhanced cooperation among member states would ensure the success of the new ECOWAS plan of action for the fight against drug trafficking and abuse and organised crime.
In her remarks, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Human Development and Gender, Dr Fatimata Sow said the experts’ meeting would develop a draft for the new ECOWAS plan of action to tackle drug trafficking and abuse.
Dr. Sow said that significant progress was made in the first ECOWAS seven-year plan of action for the fight against drug trafficking and abuse and organised crime in West Africa which ended in 2015.
She said the first plan of action was adopted by the Heads of State and Government in 2008 and added that the new action plan would cover the period of 2016 to 2018.
The commissioner also noted that some member states had developed good drug control initiatives and strengthened their criminal justice systems.
She, however, expressed concern that the plan had yet to be fully implemented by some member states due challenges of funding, limited technical support provided by partners and lack of technical expertise to the commission.
She added that the trend in drug abuse and trafficking and organised crime continued to grow and had become “increasingly sophisticated and dangerous”.
According to her the new draft plan would address the concerns raised in drug trafficking and abuse and organised in the sub-region.
“The new draft Plan focuses on the best policy measures to adopt in order to achieve significantly reduce drug trafficking, organised crime and drug abuse in the region, she explained.”
Also speaking, the African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Mr Mustapha Kaloko said the scourge had become a threat to peace, security, public health and social development.
In his remarks, the EU Attaché, Regional Programmes, Peace and Security, Mr Philipé Peyredieu du Charlat expressed the commitment of the EU to provide its support to ECOWAS.
Mr. Peyredieu du Charlat called on African countries to be more vigilant and have the political resolve to implement policies that would address the menace of drug abuse and trafficking in the region.
He said situation is worsening by the day; we call on member countries to put up a number of mechanisms to ensure the support of this action plan.