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Nigerian Police Chief addresses ECOWAS drug law enforcement officials

Sep 30, 2010, 1:10 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

The Inspector General of Police of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Hafiz Ringim, Tuesday addressed ECOWAS drug law enforcement officials who are currently in Banjul for a three-day retreat on the development of a framework for regional cooperation in the fight against illicit drugs and organised crime.

In a paper presented on his behalf on the topic "Join Operation in West Africa: Challenges and Opportunities", Ringim noted that on 19th December 2008, ECOWAS heads of state and government at their 35th ordinary session held in Abuja, Nigeria, signed a political declaration and a regional plan of action with the aim of addressing the growing problem of illicit drug trafficking, organised crime and drug abuse in West Africa.

The Nigerian police boss noted that the declaration marked a milestone in the efforts towards fighting drug trafficking and other forms of organised crime in West Africa.

The problem of crime, especially trans-national organised crime, he went on, is a major issue in the development of the region.

While regional integration through free movement of goods is being encouraged by ECOWAS, law enforcement agencies across the region have remained largely country focused, despite regional mutual assistance policies in existence, he said.

IGP Ringim stressed that drug trafficking and other organised criminal groups have taken advantage of this situation, and are establishing at locations with weak law enforcement structures.

"The United Nations office on drugs and crime in its report of June 2009 on "Crime and Development in Africa," noted that income inequality, a youthful population, poorly resourced criminal justice systems, and the proliferation of fire arms due to numerous conflicts, predispose the region to high levels of crime," police chief Ringim added.

In the face of globalisation, he noted, the growth in international commerce and transport has made Africa (and especially West Africa), with its weak enforcement capacity and underpaid officials, an ideal conduit through which criminals extract and tranship in illicit commodities.

However, he highlighted the fact that many West African states, ECOWAS and the AU in creating the legislative and organisational framework for combating and preventing crime have made remarkable progress.

Dilating on the legal basis for organising joint operations in West Africa, IGP Ringim said "one thorny area in law enforcement in most regions of Africa is the issue of legislation and legal justification for actions. In organising joint operations, there should be a clear legal basis for law enforcement officials from different countries to operate in the participating countries either as observers or actors."

According to him, granted that most countries of the West African region are signatories to various protocols and conventions against organised crime, national legislation domesticating these instruments by different interpretation are given to these instruments by different countries. This, he added, poses a serious challenge to law enforcement agencies.