West Africa bagged $1.25bn drug trafficking

Mrs Marietta Appiah-Oppong(middle) in a group photograh  with the participants. Photo Seth Osabukle.WEST Africa alone, has for the past years been recording a drug traffic-flow of 18 tonnes amounting to a wholesale value of 1.25 billion United States dollars in Europe.

The sub-region also recorded between 10,000 and 20,000 firearms as a result of the Libyan armed conflict in 2011.

Mr. Pierre Lapaque, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Representative for West and Central Africa made the startling revelations in Accra yesterday at a day’s Ministerial-Level Meeting of West African Network of Central Authorities and Prosecutors (WACAP) against organised crime.

He said that about 10 per cent of pharmaceutical drugs circulating in West Africa imported from India and China were counterfeit and harmful to the health of those who patronise them.

Consequently, he urged governments in the sub-region to cooperate and pool resources to strengthen the security and other agencies to combat trans-national organised crime which has scuttled the real economic growth of West African States.

“Today, the threat of jihadists in Northern Mali and Boko Haram in Nigeria and surrounding countries is not the only worst scourge with its procession of civilian casualties, but it is also the biggest challenge that the region faces,” he stated.

Mr. Lapaque said that criminals had been creating conducive atmosphere in the sub-region for their businesses to thrive by offering bribes (corruption) and also through the use of arms noting that all those negative acts threatened both national and international security which must be resisted by a stronger and a legitimate force.

The West African Central Authorities and Prosecutors against Organised Crime (WACAP), among its objectives, is to strengthen the capacity of Central authorities and prosecutors to fight all forms of organised crime and impunity, and to facilitate regional and international Co-operation.

It further allows members to better prepare themselves and respond to requests for mutual legal assistance and extradition, as well as seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of crime.

Mr. Lapaque said the fight against organised crime needed the efforts of governments to show commitment to the criminal justice system by confiscating the assets of such criminals as money launderers, arms, drugs and human traffickers, hijackers among other high profile crimes and selling them (assets) and putting the proceeds in state coffers.

Opening the workshop, Mrs. Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, pointed out that no nation could single-handedly combat transnational organised crime and urged West African states to establish stronger bond among themselves and deal with these sophisticated crimes that were threatening the security of the sub-region.

“Perpetrators of these crimes, however, take advantage of the differences among legal systems clash of bureaucracies, the protection of sovereignty and in some cases, the incapacity of nations to work together, to engage in their criminal activities,” she stated.

The Justice Minister asked that security at the sea and airports, borders and other entry points be strengthened, so as to break the criminal network.

Participants were from Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, The Gambia, Cape Verde, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Sierra-Leone, (all West African states).

Others were from the United States Department of Justice, International Co-operation Unit of Brazil, European Union, Canada, Portugal, Chad, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and France.

By Castro Zangina-Tong

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