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ECOWAS Ministers adopt Action Plan to Address Illicit Drug Trafficking, Organized Crimes and Drug Abuse in West Africa

The ECOWAS Ministers of Justice and Interior have on the 5th of September 2016, adopted the ECOWAS Drug Action Plan to Address Illicit Drug Trafficking and Organized Crimes in the West Africa.

The 15-Member State’ Ministers including the Minister of Justice of Mauritania, have by this action at the end of their ministerial meeting, given more Philip to the resolve to chart a holistic course that is consistent with the collective wish of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, stakeholders and the people of West Africa to rid the region of the menace of drug trafficking and all forms of organised crimes.

By adopting the Action Plan, ECOWAS Commission, Member States, and all her partners will also now have a common strategic framework to guide their work in countering illicit drug trafficking, organized crimes and drug abuse in the region.

The Ministerial meeting was preceded by the meeting of Drug Demand Reduction, Law Enforcement and Legal/Judicial Cooperation from ECOWAS Member States and Mauritania who reviewed, validated and recommended for approval by the Ministers, of  the ECOWAS Drug Action Plan 2016-2020. The recommendation was contained in the 9-page Final Report submitted to Minsters for their consideration.

Delivering a key note address at the opening of the ministerial meeting, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Marcel De Souza who was represented by the Vice President of the Commission His Excellency Edward Singhatey, outlined some of the efforts being made by the Commission to mediate in conflicts, restore democratic governance and peace in the region.

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He also informed the Ministers that ECOWAS has developed the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy (EIMS) and the ECOWAS Counter-Terrorism Strategy (2013) to address emerging crimes of piracy and terrorism in region. In addition to the ECOWAS Sahel Strategy which aims to support the implementation of post-conflict recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation initiatives in selected Member states.

The President noted that although West African Member States have made important achievements in the implementation of parts of the 2008-2014 Action Plan (such as taking intelligence-based actions and improving border security, smashing organized crimes such as money laundering), drug use continues to claim the lives of the productive segment of our citizens. This situation clearly calls for more commitment to prevent the region from its vulnerability to all forms of trans-national organized crimes.

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According to the ECOWAS Commission President, there is the need to redouble efforts towards ensuring effective response to evolving and emerging drug trafficking and related organised crimes not only by increasing arrests, seizures and incarcerations but ensuring that prevention and treatment interventions are strengthened. In West Africa “drug abuse prevention, treatment and rehabilitation are the most cost-effective means of reducing drug-related crimes” the President emphasized.

In the President’s concluding remarks, he expressed appreciation to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Honourable Minister of Justice, Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Mr. Abubakar Malami, the host country for the meeting, the UNODC, for their technical support, and to the European Union for their commitment and financial support.  He reiterated on behalf of the ECOWAS Commission, appreciation to all our development partners for their unwavering interest in the development of West Africa.

In his welcome address, the Attorney-General of the Federation and  Minister of Justice of Nigeria, His Excellency Mr. Abubakar Malami urged stakeholders to pay particular attention to crucial reasons for the adoption of the ECOWAS Drug Action Plan 2016-2020.

Minister Malami stated that the combat of illicit drug trafficking, abuse and related crimes remains a global problem which demands urgent attention of all stakeholders. He said Nigeria has made significant progress in tackling the problem through the vigorous implementation of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and all related legislations.

The statement of the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), read by the Regional Representative of UNODC in Nigeria, Ms. Cristina Albertin, stressed among others that the ECOWAS regional action plan had become necessary because the identified scourge of drug abuse and attendant vices could exacerbate a very fragile situation with serious consequences at national, regional and international spheres.

The meeting was attended by ECOWAS Ministers and/or representatives of ministers of Justice and Interior from ECOWAS Member States an Mauritania, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), European Union (EU), International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL), United Nations Office for West Africa and Sahel (UNOWAS) and the West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF).

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Following the adoption, the Drug Action Plan will be submitted to the ECOWAS Council of Ministers for their consideration for onward endorsement by the Heads of State and Government.

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