ABUJA – (ECOWAS Secretariat Report) – A 2-day Technical Sub-Committee Meeting on the Training and Operations of the West African Police Chiefs Committee (WAPCCO) has commenced in Abuja, Nigeria on Tuesday September 11, 2018 to deliberate on the effective coordination of operational police activities in the region with a view to reinforcing regional capacities for effective combat transnational organized crime.
While welcoming participants to the meeting, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Francis Behanzin (Gen) noted that crime and criminality have continued to pose a big threat to lives and property, thereby creating a non-conducive environment for meaningful development.
This he said is being made worse by the fast evolution of information technology, which has further sophisticated the platforms and tactics used by criminal networks against their targets and victims. He noted that the proceeds from transnational organized crimes are increasingly being used to perpetuate acts of terrorism and destabilization of governance structures through corrupt officials, law enforcement agents and Judicial Officers at all levels.
Speaking through the Head of ECOWAS Peace Support Operations, Ollo Alain Pale (Col), the ECOWAS Commissioner – Francis Behanzin pointed out that security and law enforcement agents have for so many years focused on terrestrial, aerial and maritime borders as key points for close surveillance against transnational crime.
He stressed that even though reasonable progress has been made in tightening security, the dynamic availability and capacity of cyberspace which transcends geographical borders gives a somewhat more efficient, faster and safer leverage for criminals to operate. The scenario according to the Commissioner, mandates member – states to increase their capacities on the fight against transnational border crimes in all forms, including training and operational tactics.
Francis Behanzin inferred that criminal intelligence and information sharing is key to effective fight against transnational organized networks and activities. He later submitted that efforts employed at the national levels are not sufficient to contain transnational criminality, except such efforts are strengthened by increased regional and global exertions.
In his address to participants during the opening ceremony, Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police (IGP) Idris Ibrahim represented by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Salem Vincent Amachree disclosed that in tandem with best practices, community and intelligence-led policing have been brought to the fore under his watch. The IGP emphasized that the Nigerian Police Force has made breakthroughs in crime detection as a result of robust collaboration, information sharing and intelligence cooperation between the International Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the Police Services in West Africa.
The Nigerian police boss noted that the security challenges of farmer-herders conflict, stolen vehicles, illicit drug peddling / human trafficking together with terrorism and armed robbery have cross border colouration underscoring the need for persistent cooperation and collaboration among ECOWAS Member States.
Presenting his remarks at the occasion, the Head of the INTERPOL Regional Bureau for West Africa, Kedji Marcellin Abbe lamented that nowadays trans-national criminal groups are constantly adapting flexible networks. He added that the structure which is easy to set up requires change in the type of traffic to deplore in terms of detection risks. He later informed that to reap the maximum profits, trans-national criminal groups usually supplant the traditional hierarchical structure in the security systems.
He also disclosed that in view of this INTERPOL is devising strategies to constantly be on top of the situation.
“We believe that in each of our countries, we now have to deepen reflections so as to have trainings and police operations for our officers, in order to combat trans-national crimes,” he stated.
Participants at the Abuja meeting were drawn from the pool of Police Officers from Member States, ECOWAS personnel, INTERPOL representatives and other relevant law enforcement agencies who are expected to adopt a reporting format and timeline for Crime Statistics Reporting to the WAPCCO Secretariat.
It may be recalled that in 2001 ECOWAS Heads of State and Government created the West African Police Chiefs Committee (WAPCCO) as a consultative body for regional police cooperation with the principal objective of creating a forum that would strengthen the fight against trans – national crime; facilitate the development of a regional strategy against crime trends through proper coordination and encourage joint activities of Member State Police Forces in the fight against criminality.