The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has urged the harmonisation of strategies as well as the engagement of collective expertise by all stakeholders in tackling the security challenges in the region.
The Commission’s Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, General Francis Béhanzin, made the call on the 14th of May, 2019 in Abuja, Nigeria at the opening of a 3-Day Annual General Assembly of the West African Police Chiefs Committee (WAPCCO).
Commissioner Béhanzin who was representing the President of the ECOWAS Commission Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, remarked that conventional approaches may be inadequate in meeting the challenges confronting the region which were highlighted to include drug trafficking, proliferation of illegal small arms and light weapons, cybercrime, money laundering and growing trend in terrorism, among others.
He called on the Police Chiefs to bring on board their “collective expertise and experiences together to further reflect on how best to overcome these challenges and ensure effective enforcement of existing policy frameworks for eliminating them”.
Commissioner Béhanzin maintained that it is only through collaborative and collective reflections that durable solutions can be found for the people’s yearning for a safer and more secure region. He observed that since the decline in conventional armed conflicts, (particularly the internal wars) the region has been experiencing new threats to peace and security, many of them transnational in nature.
Yet, he noted further, that the reduction of armed conflicts has not necessarily brought the expected peace dividends to the region, which remains precarious in the face of these new threats.
These incidences, he continued “sometimes puts to test the wisdom and decision of the founding fathers of ECOWAS, the Protocol relating to Free Movement of Goods and Persons, Right of Residence adopted in 1979 which permits the citizens of West Africa to cross borders within the region without visas, permits them to reside and establish their businesses in whichever country they desire”.
On a positive note, Commissioner Béhanzin highlighted a number of policy measures put in place at the ECOWAS level to strengthen States’ responses to these crimes and Terrorism to include: The ECOWAS Political Declaration and Common Position Against Terrorism, Drug Trafficking and Other Organised Crimes, the Sahel Strategy and the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy, among others.
Similarly, he noted that, in collaboration with the African Union, the European Union, the, United Nations and development partners, ECOWAS is leading in the implementation of diverse domains of peace and security initiatives in the region.
In his remark, the Inspector General of Police of Nigeria and Chair of WAPCCO, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, noted that the collaborative effort of the police security chiefs is informed by the realisation that regional security is a collective mandate of all law enforcement and security services such as the Police, Immigration, Services, Intelligence Services as well as other international security agencies.
Apart from the periodic review of regional security issues, he noted that the Police chiefs are to identify means of strengthening inter and intra-regional collaboration as well as partners such as the International Police Organisation (INTERPOL) and the European Union (EU) towards engendering continental and global security.
The IGP charged all participating Police Chiefs to “develop workable mechanisms hinged on robust security exchange and collaboration to further identify, neutralise and dismantle these criminal gangs and recover their illicit wealth”
The Nigerian Minister of Interior Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau noted that the meeting is an opportunity for law enforcement and criminal justice experts to pool resources together and make the region a safer community for the citizens of West Africa.
Sensible policing, places emphasis on training and retraining. He pledged that Nigeria’s Ministry of Interior will continue to provide the desired leadership required tom get the best from security agencies.
On his part, the representative of the Secretary-General of INTERPOL Mr. Alex Karl, noted that the regional Chiefs of Police are strategic partners for INTERPOL, and their interaction at the regional level is of major importance to the body.
He opined that collaborative solutions are being sought owing to the fact that the implications of the highlighted security issues go beyond national jurisdictions.
He surmised his message thus: “INTERPOL’s commitment to you and your police force remains total. The security of West Africa remains a collective responsibility. All together, we must make it a reality”.