Abdulrahman Dambazau, the Minister of Interior, has blamed the easy movement of firearms and other criminal activities in West African on the instability in Libya, a country in North Africa.
The minister said this at the 16th annual General Assembly of West African Police Chiefs Committee (WAPCCO), held in Abuja, on Tuesday.
He urged police chiefs in West Africa to collaborate more in order to tackle transnational crimes within the sub-region, noting that a single country cannot successfully combat trans-border crimes.
He said: “The proliferation of firearms is a big challenge in this sub-region, particularly because of the flow of firearms from unstable countries, like Libya. After Muamar Gaddafi, Libya went into conflict and it is still in conflict. Some of the weapons used in the country were trickling down through Mali, Niger and others.
“We are here because it is a regional issue. It is an issue that has to do either trans-border criminal activities, smuggling and terrorism. A country or a security agency cannot deal with these crimes on its own. This is the reason we have come together as a sub-region to assess the situation and deal with it accordingly.”
The minister also said there is need for collaboration and information sharing among security agencies in the sub-region.
Police chiefs in the sub-region have also asked the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) to upgrade it to a directorate.
The security chiefs, under the aegis of WAPCCO, regretted that its current structure makes it difficult for it to perform its roles optimally.
WAPCCO Chairman and acting Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu said constant meetings would avail the security chiefs the opportunity to tackle proliferation of firearms, terrorism, kidnapping and other crime within the sub-region.
Adamu noted that the inability of the committee to meet in the last five years restrained it from tackling some security challenges witnessed in the sub-region.
On some of the challenges confronting ECOWAS, he said: “We are having security challenges in the whole of West African sub-region and there is need for police chiefs and other heads of other security agencies to come together to see how we can bring down the level of crime within the sub-region.
“If you look at the 15 countries in the West African sub-region, you will see that they have one challenge or the other. We know that in Nigeria, we have challenges that involve kidnapping and we know that arms and ammunition are coming from outside the country but within the region. There is need to stop the influx of arms and ammunition within the country.”
Adamu said security agencies at the meeting would see how to fortify the borders to prevent infiltration by criminals.
On the need to upgrade WAPCCO to directorate position, the IGP said: “I respectfully submit without pre-empting your minds that it will not be difficult to come to the inevitable conclusion that the WAPCCO as currently situated within the border structure of ECOWAS is inhibiting the ability of the body to optimally attain its mandate.
“It is my humble suggestion that a review of the status of WAPCCO within the ECOWAS secretariat has become evidently necessary. Consequently, it is suggested that WAPCCO be upgraded to a directorate in ECOWAS.
“This will guarantee the regularity of WAPCCO’s thereby enhancing the dynamism and effectiveness of the Committee.”