President Muhammadu Buhari has charged ECOWAS security Chiefs to share their experiences, re-assess and harmonise crime control and operations in their various countries.
Buhari gave the charge at the closing of the 16 Annual General Meeting of West African Police Chiefs Committee (WAPCCO) and Meeting of the Forum of Ministers in charge of Security on Thursday in Abuja.
He was represented by the Minister of Interior, retired Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau.
He said that insecurity posed by corruption, terrorism, communal clashes, kidnap for ransom, organised crimes among others, were some vices threatening the region’s peace, progress, integration and development.
“We are aware of other threats to security such as climate change which brings with it environmental degradation, extreme poverty and poor governance.
“However, as police chiefs, your focus is on security of lives and property in relation to law and order,“he said.
He attributed the vulnerability of the region to criminal activities and other threats to peace and security to the vast borders and proximity to the Sahel.
He said that it was imperative for member-states to coordinate their security plans and activities, to enable law enforcement and other security agencies to contain and prevent these vices.
Buhari noted that the fight against crimes and criminality was vast and resource consuming transcending national, regional and global levels.
He said that WAPCCO was a forum that affords the police and security chiefs the opportunity for cooperation and collaboration proffer solutions to the security challenges confronting the region.
The president said that the fight against crime and criminality could only be achieved through the collective will and efforts of member-states.
He said that resolutions in the meeting would become the standard measure of performances of the participants.
“It is pertinent to note that, resolutions in the meeting would become the standard measure of your performances which in turn would help in safeguarding our nascent democracies.
“The knowledge they garnered here will also enhance your competences and capacities to successfully handle and resolve such incidences when they occur.
He said the meeting came when a lot of synergy was needed among ECOWAS member-states in the fight against crime and criminality in the West African Sub-region.
Buhari said the activities of the Boko Haram terrorists affecting Nigeria and the Lake Chad basin countries like Chad and Cameroun in central Africa, had created new humanitarian problems serious security threat within the region.
“Nigeria in the last four years has taken drastic measures and spared no effort in her resolve to fight corruption and her quest to defeat Boko Haram.
“We have led vigorous military campaigns against the terrorists by re-organising the multinational joint task force which had dislodged them.
“Working with our regional and international allies, we have denied them safe haven within and around the sub-region.
“We have also strengthened legislation against terrorism and corruption by equipping the ant-graft agencies in the country to be able to carry out their mandates,“ he said.
He said that the measures adopted have yielded much dividends in reducing financial crimes and acts of terrorism in the country.
On his part, the President of ECOWAS Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Brou,said that the current security challenges in the sub-region required urgent attention.
He was represented by ECOWAS Commissioner in charge of Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Gen. Francis Behanzin.
Brou said that results could be achieved in the fight against crimes and criminality if it was handled by members states with seriousness.
He noted that the security situation in the region was precarious due to terrorism, drug trafficking, arms proliferation and smuggling among others.
The president attributed insecurity in the sub-region to poverty, corruption and socio-political problems.
He called on member-states to collaborate with ECOWAS to have the WAPCCO meeting annually as against the irregular.
Also speaking, Dambazau, said that the region was faced with numerous regional and international security challenges.
Dambazau, who was represented by an official of the ministry, Mrs Georgina Ehuriah, charged the security ministers to provide lasting solutions to tackle them by providing leadership and formulating policies.
He said that all over the world, crime and criminality was assuming new and unimaginable dimensions that no country can effectively fight it without the collaboration of another.
Countries in attendance were Bukina Faso, Cape Verde, Benin Republic, Cote I’Voire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Nigeria.
The three-day meeting is aimed at addressing transnational crimes, especially terrorism, violent extremism, kidnapping, illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons, human trafficking, maritime security, herders and farmers’ conflict among others.