President Muhammadu Buhari, Thursday, said for countries in the West African sub region to successfully tackle criminalities confronting them, security heads of member states must not only begin to share their experiences but also re-assess as well as harmonise crime control and operations in their respective countries.
This was as he said the vulnerability of the region to criminal activities and other threats to peace and security was as a result of its large borders and proximity to the Sahel.
Speaking in Abuja, through the Minister of Interior, Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau, rtd, who represented him 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, he insisted that the battle against crimes can only be won by the collective will of member nations.
To this end, he tasked member nations not only to coordinate their security plans and activities, but also enable law enforcement and other security agencies to contain the trends, regretting that the battle was consuming resources that would have been channeled to other developmental areas..
He said insecurity was being caused by corruption, terrorism, communal clash, kidnap for ransom, organised crimes and others threatening the region`s peace, progress, integration and development.
He spoke further: ”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.”
The president, while noting that WAPCCO was a forum that gave the police and other security heads the opportunity for cooperation and collaboration to find answers to the security challenges confronting the region, expressed happiness that the meeting came at the right time.
The meeting, he said, 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.
According to him, ”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 added.
“The challenges of insecurity posed by corruption, terrorism, communal clashes, herders-farmers conflict, trafficking in drugs and humans, kidnapping for ransom, armed banditry, proliferation of arms and light weapons, money laundering and other transnational organised crimes, are some of the vices threatening regional peace, progress, and development.
“Of course, we are aware of other threats to security, such as climate change – which brings with it environmental degradation – extreme poverty.
“However, as police chiefs, your focus is on security of lives and properties, in relation to law and order.
“The porosity of our territorial borders, and proximity to the…, also makes us vulnerable to all sorts of illegal criminal activities, and other threats to peace and security in the Sub-region.
“The fight against crime and criminality is vast and resource-consuming, transcending national, regional and global levels.”
He regretted that the activities of Boko Haram, had created humanitarian crisis for countries within the Lake Chad axis, with the displacement of people from their locations.
“The activities of the Boko Haram Terrorists affecting Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin countries such as Chad and Cameroon in Central Africa, have created new humanitarian problems, with the displacement of people from their communities, posing serious security threats within the region”, he further said.
Speaking further, he said that in the last four years of his administration, concerted effort had been made in degrading the potency of Boko Haram.
Also within the period, the President maintained that corruption had been fought with drastic measures.
One of such measures, the President disclosed, was through the strengthening of legislation.
His words: “Nigeria, in the last four years, has taken drastic measures and spared no efforts in our resolve to fight corruption, and our quest to defeat Boko Haram.
“We have led vigorous military campaigns against the terrorists, by reorganising the Multinational Joint Task Force, which has dislodged them.
“Working with our regional and international partners, we have denied them safe haven within and around the Sub-region.
“We have also strengthened legislation against terrorism and corruption, while (empowering) the anti-graft agencies to be able to carry out their mandates.
“These measures have yielded much dividend in reducing financial Crimes and acts of terrorism in such issues involving the rate by which they occur.”
On the meeting, Buhari said: “WAPCCO is, therefore, a forum that affords our police and security chiefs the opportunity for cooperation and collaboration, with the aim of proffering solutions to the security challenges confronting the region.
“I, therefore, urge you to share your experiences, reassess and harmonise crime control strategies and operations in our various countries, such that with the established, strong and virile institutions, there will ensure that the fight against crime and criminality is more effective and efficient, and provides security of lives and properties to our people, while striking a balance with ECOWAS protocol of free movement of goods, persons and services.
“This can only be achieved through the collective will and efforts of all member-states”.
He went further to state thus: “”It’s pertinent to note that, resolutions in this meeting will become a standard measure of your performances, which in turn, will help in safeguarding our various nascent democracies.
“I also have no doubt that the knowledge you gathered here, will not only help reduce incidences of crime and criminality, but enhance your competences and capacities to successfully handle and resolve such incidences, when they occur”.