The 2014 Report of the West African Drug Commission (WADC) has indicated that international drug cartels are undermining the stability of West African countries in all respects.
According to the report, an estimated $1.25 billion worth of cocaine was trafficked from West African countries to other parts of the world in 2014 alone.
The figure, the report said, exceeded the national budgets of many states in the region.
It further stated that drug-related problems existed at all levels of society of West African countries, thus the independence of governance systems and security institutions was at risk of being undermined by corruption and organised crime.
A Senior Programme Management Specialist of Regional Peace and Governance Office of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Mr Guillo Cintron, made this known at the opening of a two-day drug policy workshop for Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) in West Africa last Wednesday.
In all, 40 people from West African countries, including Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Senegal, as well as the United States of America, are participating.
The workshop was expected to, among other things, strengthen the capacity of the participants to engage and advocate issues of drug policy, drug prevention and treatment, harm reduction, security and governance in West Africa.
It was organised by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), in collaboration with the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) and International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), with support from the USAID, OSIWA and the Kofi Annan Foundation (KAF).
According to Mr Cintron, USAID recognised the clear challenge that drug trafficking and consumption posed to stability, good governance, economic opportunity and development, and health in West African countries.
He said drug trafficking, like other forms of organised crime, was yet another symptom of the underlying challenges confronting West Africa.
The Executive Director of WACSI, Nana Asantewa Afadzinu, said the workshop formed part of a regional project to disseminate the recommendations of a WACD research report titled “Not Just in Transit: Drugs, the State and Society in West Africa.”
She said the workshop would also create the space to strengthen and consolidate the collaborative efforts through the setting up of a West African civil society organisations Drug Policy Network to holistically tackle the drug menace.
According to Mr Jamie Bridge, a Senior Policy and Operations Manager of IDPC, the workshop would create a space for IDPC to work very closely with civil society organisations in West Africa to raise awareness to drug- related issues.
He said the report showed that the drug menace posed a new threat to the development of West African countries and, therefore, must be tackled with much seriousness to halt its devastating impact on both the socio-economic state and health of nations.
Ms Joanne Csete, a Senior Programme Officer of the Open Society Global Drug Policy Programme, said the drug phenomenon started many years ago but it had reached an alarming rate now.
Ms Csete said the goal of “drug-free society” or population was the official policy in most countries and reflected in the law since 1909, but drug was cheap in many countries and, therefore, the prohibition did not work.
She also said prohibitions characterised by harsh laws and heavy penalties for minor offences would not help, and stressed the need to ensure that drug laws were enforced without discrimination.
source : Graphic Online