Ghana Determined To Fight Drug Trafficking

President Mahama receiving the report from Gen Olusengu Obasanjo  Photo Vincent DzatseFORMER Nigerian President, General Olusegun Obasanjo, who chairs the West Africa sub-region, Commission on Drugs (WACD), yesterday presented a report on drug trafficking in West Africa to President John Mahama at the Flagstaff House.

Receiving the report, President Mahama vowed that Ghana would continue to maintain vigilance and be on the high alert to battle drug traffickers and drug lords who use the country as haven and transit point in the illicit drug trade.

As ECOWAS Chairman, he stressed that he would ensure that sub-regional countries worked in tandem, especially, in the area of intelligence sharing, so as to better confront the drug menace.

The report, titled, ‘Not just in transit: Drugs, society and the state in West Africa,’ was developed in collaboration with the Kofi Annan Foundation headed by Mr. Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General.

Among other things, the report calls on governments and other stakeholders in the sub-region to treat drug use as a public health issue with socio-economic causes and consequences, rather than as a criminal justice matter.

It also enjoins them to actively confront the political and governance challenges that incite corruption within governments, the security services and the judiciary, which traffickers exploit; and decriminalize drug use and low-level non-violent drug offences.

President Mahama stressed that in fighting the drug menace in the West African sub-region, “We need to continue to think globally and act locally in order to achieve rapid success”.

In that vein, he thanked the United Kingdom and the United States of America, who had been supporting and collaborating with Ghana in busting drug barons.

President Mahama indicated that Ghana had put in an agenda to battle drug traffickers and drug lords, noting that in recent times, the Narcotics Control Board had stopped many drug barons with huge quantities of drugs in their tracks.

“The justice system has been fast,” he said, stressing that “We will continue to be alert to stop this issue of drug trafficking.”

Following the end of several conflicts and the return of peace and stability to most countries in the West African sub-region, President Mahama observed that unfortunately the region was still faced with challenges including drug trafficking, piracy, terrorism and now Ebola Viral Disease.

He noted that the region used to be a transit point but was now increasingly becoming a destination for the activities of drug traffickers, resulting in more West Africans getting addicted to drugs.

The ECOWAS Chairman said that Ghana had invested more in imprisoning petty drug users but not enough had been done in the area of rehabilitating facilities.

“I think that is inappropriate, we should be more sympathetic to the plight of petty users,” he said and gave the assurance that the ECOWAS would consider and adopt the report at its next meeting in order to address the drug issue holistically.

On his part, former President Obasanjo said “ECOWAS is uniquely placed to urge West African governments to collaborate and make common cause against the threat posed by drugs”.

He said “Only a concerted regional response has a realistic chance of curbing the pernicious effects of this well-organised trade”.

Mr. Annan, for his part, stated that “We must look pragmatically at what works and what does not when it comes to dealing with drugs.”

He said “the report makes a frank assessment of the situation and puts forward recommendations which I hope will be heeded across the region and beyond.”

The WACD was created in January 2013 to make face to the ever-growing threats posed by drugs in West Africa.

Kofi Annan, in consultation with international and regional partners, national governments and civil society organisations convened the commission, which in June 2014, presented its landmark report titled, “Not just in transit: Drugs, society and the state in West Africa.”

By Samuel Nuamah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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