The European Union (EU) and the German Federal Foreign Office have provided €24.4 million support to ECOWAS Commission, ECOWAS member states and Mauritania to reduce Transnational Organised Crime in West Africa.
This was disclosed at a one-day Multi Stakeholder Dialogue on addressing Transnational Organised Crime in West Africa, held on Thursday in Abuja.
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Declaring the Dialogue open, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, General Francis Behanzin, said the dialogue is part of the regional and coherent approach to combating organized crime and trafficking in West Africa.
Behanzin, who was represented by Dr Sintiki Tarfa, said the dialogue would enable the ECOWAS member states and non-state actors to explore new opportunities to tackle organised crime, both at regional and national levels.
Behanzin said, over the last decades, the member states have made significant strides in the response to TOC, which became an international concern in the region in the mid-2000.
“The ECOWAS Political Declaration on the Prevention of Drug Abuse, Illicit Drug Trafficking and Organised Crimes in West Africa of 2008 along with its action plans provide regional guidance on prevention and management of organised crime challenges.
“Nevertheless, the region faces a substantial threat from criminal networks exploiting socio-economic and political fragilities.
“Since the first quarter of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the vulnerabilities that enable organised crime to fester, and further weakened community resilience to organised crime.
“Further, the 2021 Index shows how organised crime in Africa evolved by filling the gaps left by states ‘by both adapting its illicit activities in order to circumvent COVID restrictions and providing new sources of livelihoods and parallel services.’
“The first Regional Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue provides a platform for multidimensional understanding of emerging TOC threats in the ECOWAS region, evolving risks and vulnerabilities relating to TOC, and the nature of responses by state and non-state actors to organised crime.
“The dialogue will also enable participants to examine the opportunities for enhanced state and non-state response”.
Speaking at the event, the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, Birgitt Ory, said that organised crime has posed so much a threat to the socio-economic development of countries in the region.
He, therefore, called for an urgent need to address the crimes not only in the region but in Africa as a continent.
“Crucially, this includes decision making to excessively address the organised crime and to amplify responses to crimes in the West African region,” said Berneth Michael, who represented the envoy.
Also, Clement Boutilier, Head of Democracy, Governance and Migration Section of European Union Delegation in Nigeria, said that organised crime is the major source of insecurity that is retarding socio-economic development in Africa.