Terrorism is West Africa’s biggest challenge – UNODC
Mr Pierre Lapaque, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Regional Representative for West and Central Africa, has said.
He noted that due to the special modus operandi and resourcefulness of the authors of terrorism, organized crimes were able to cross borders easily, thereby disturbing the stability of hitherto peaceful countries.
Mr Lapaque said this, on Monday, at a meeting organized by the UNODC and ECOWAS for members of the West African Network of Central Authorities and Prosecutors Against Organised Crime (WACAP), in Accra.
He said transnational organized crime and illicit drug trafficking continued to threaten the security, the rule of law, and the democracy and the development of the region.
Mr Lapaque also mentioned drug trafficking, trafficking of firearms, human trafficking, migrant smuggling, contraband, poaching, trafficking of counterfeit pharmaceuticals drugs, and stolen vehicles as some examples of organized crimes.
The meeting would, therefore, give an institutional character to WACAP and provide it with an official status as an institution on regional cooperation in criminal matters.
The meeting would also serve as an important milestone in the existence of the WACAP as it would afford Ministers of Justice in the sub- region the opportunity to sign a Charter for the Network and also endorse a set of regulations to guide its activities.
Mr Lapaque said the limitless and porosity of sub-regional borders, the slowness and complexity of prosecution, the absence or difficulties of police and judicial cooperation among states, were some of the factors, which had made organized crime conducive in the region.
“Working through cross-border relays, criminal network are trying to create their own areas of operation, using corruption as a weapon of persuasion, and threats as weapon of deterrence and destabilization of the state security institutions,” he said.
He pointed out that no country could effectively combat organized crime by itself due to its complexity and its international ramifications.
He also advocated the establishment of a coherent and effective cross border network of police and judicial cooperation, which would work in accordance with the law, and respect for human rights and the sovereignty of each state.
He recounted that WACAP was established in 2012 in Dakar, Senegal with the aim of ensuring regional network of judicial corporation for the prosecution of organized crime.
Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah Oppong, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, said the establishment of WACAP would also be used to build the capacity of persons responsible for fighting organized crime in the sub-region.
She pointed out that cross criminal activities did nothing, but hampered good governance, development, and peace of countries affected.
She, consequently, appealed to WACAP members to endeavour to exchange information on suspected criminals in order to effectively combat crime.
She expressed her appreciation to the Governments of the US, France and Norway, for their assistance in the establishment of WACAP.