The Ministers in charge of security in Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are inclined to having greater collaboration with Nigeria in order to engender a safer and more stable region.
This emerged at the 12th annual forum of the Ministers, holding within the ambit of the General Assembly of West African Police Chiefs Committee (WAPCCO), on the 16th of May 2019 in Abuja, Nigeria.
Addressing participants at the meeting, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government Muhammadu Buhari stated that the ministers were gathered at the time a lot of synergy between and among ECOWAS member states, is needed in the fight against crime and criminality in the region.
President Buhari who was represented at the occasion by the country’s Minister of Interior Gen Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau (Rtd) said the challenges of insecurity posed by corruption, terrorism, communal clashes, herders/farmers conflicts, trafficking in drugs, arms and humans, kidnapping for ransom, armed banditry, proliferation of arms and light weapons, money laundering and other transnational organized crimes are some of the vices threatening the regional peace, progress, integration and development in the region. This is in addition to the other threats such as climate change and environmental degradation, extreme poverty and poor governance which also need urgent attention.
Besides the porousness of the territorial borders and proximity to the Sahel which makes the region vulnerable to all sorts of illegal criminal activities, he noted that the activities of Boko Haram terrorists, affecting Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin countries like Chad and Cameroun in Central Africa, have created new humanitarian problems with the displacement of people from their communities posing serious security threat within the region.
Maintaining that the resolutions of the meeting will become the standard measure of performances, which would in turn help in safe-guarding the democracies in the region, president Buhari called for the right balance to be struck with the ECOWAS Protocol on free movements of goods, persons and services.
He urged the chiefs to “share your (their) experiences, re-assess and harmonize crime control strategies and operations in our various countries, such that we can establish strong and virile institutions that will ensure that the fight against crime and criminality is more effective and efficient and provide security of lives and property of our people”
Also speaking, the President of the ECOWAS Commission Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, represented by the Commission’s Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Gen Francis Behanzin, said the forum plays a pivotal role in determining the direction of policies on the fundamental issues of peace and security in West Africa.
Stressing that the state of security remains precarious with emerging transnational threats including terrorism, maritime piracy, drug trafficking, arms proliferation, human trafficking and smuggling, money laundering, cyber criminality, money laundering and various counterfeiting practices, he noted that his has led to a situation where peace and security issues have continued to dominate the agenda of the Commission.
President Brou made bold to say thereafter: “Our endeavours, whether collectively or individually will not yield desired outcomes if we treat questions of insecurity in an ad hoc or lackadaisical manner. You will agree with me that security is the foundation of life, the foundation of development, without which human potentials cannot be fully exploited”
He posited further that the main drivers of insecurity in West Africa are diverse and remain unchanged while the prevalence of corruption, poor governance, structural inequalities, high rate of illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, ethnic and religious tensions in some Member States among others have not helped matters. The ECOWAS Commission, he maintained, will continue to provide timely assistance to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the affected communities in Nigeria and other parts of the region.
Congratulating the government of President Muhammadu Buhari for the gallant efforts taken towards defeating Boko Haram, he urged Member States to “strengthen their collaboration with Nigeria and to show greater commitment and resolve to fight the group” by being more proactive on intelligence and information sharing. He also thanked the United Nations, the European Union, INTERPOL, the Institute for Security Studies, and others, who provided a wide range of support to ECOWAS enabling it to strengthen its reach and ability to deal with the various security challenges in the region.
Nigeria’s Minister of Interior represented by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Mrs Georgina Ekeoma Ehuriah held that it is within the purview of ministers to find lasting solutions to the security problems of the region by providing leadership and formulating policies, infrastructure and funding to ensure effective and efficient service delivery. The Ministers in charge of security will also consider the reports of the Assembly of the West African Police Chiefs Committee (WAPCCO) and of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs Security Services (CCSS) which met on the 14th and 15th of May 2019.