West African Police Information System launched

The Economic Community of West African States has opened the West African Police Information System office in Abuja, in collaboration with the European Union and the International Criminal Investigation Police Organisation to fight transnational organised crime

By Maureen Chigbo  |  Feb. 3, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

THE Economic Community of West African States is collaborating with the European Union and the International Criminal Investigation Police Organisation, INTERPOL, in the war against organised crime in the region. The institutions are to share information that will help them to fight transnational organised crime. On Wednesday, January 20, they launched the West African Police Information System, WAPIS, programme office as part of ongoing collaborative efforts by the three organisations to fight transnational organised crime in the region.  The WAPIS Office, which is located in the premises of the ECOWAS Commission’s Political Affairs, Peace and Security Department, will serve the 15 ECOWAS member states and Mauritania, with Benin, Ghana, Niger, Mali and Mauritania as the five pilot countries. Officials of ECOWAS including Pierre Reuland, the special representative of INTERPOL to the EU, Michel Arion, the head of the EU Delegation to ECOWAS, and Bredou M’Bia, director general, Cote d’Ivoire’s Police, who chairs the West African Police Chiefs Committee, WAPCCO, among others witnessed the ceremony.

Brigadier General Hassan Lai Ecowas Ag D. of DPKRS
Hassan Lai ECOWAS Ag D. of DPKRS

While declaring the office open for operations, Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, ECOWAS commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, said: “One of the main challenges in fighting transnational organised criminality is inaccurate statistics and data on reported occurrences. In an attempt to address this vacuum in the region, ECOWAS in collaboration with INTERPOL and through the funding of the European Union in 2012 launched a programme known as the West African Police Information System.” The programme “is designed to build the capacity of member states through the setting up of databases for information sharing and exchange on issues relating to criminality at national and regional levels, and the possibility of an inflow and outflow of the information at global levels through INTERPOL tools.”

[1st Left] Ecowas Comm of PADS Salamatu Suleiman, Bredou M,bia and Rep of Nigeria IGP
[1st Left] ECOWAS Comm of PADS Salamatu Suleiman, Bredou M,bia and Rep of Nigeria IGP

Suleiman said that “the dynamics of globalisation has made the fight against transnational criminality more challenging for law enforcement agents around the world, especially in our region where we have limited human and technical capacities to effectively control our large frontiers.” According to her, “inadequate regulatory capacities, weak law enforcements, high rates of corruption that create incentives for criminal actors and poor governance make the region even vulnerable,” adding that while the regional integration vision of ECOWAS “seeks to promote cooperation that would raise the living standards of its people and ensure economic growth, this can only be achieved in an environment of peace and security.”

H.E Michel Arion EU Delegation Represented by Alan Munday
H.E Michel Arion EU Delegation Represented by Alan Munday

To improve efficiency and prevent the duplication of efforts, she said “it is essential to develop more effective coordination in the field of crime prevention and the administration of justice between member states of ECOWAS and the International Community,” which led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the ECOWAS Commission and the INTERPOL in August 2004 with the aim of enhancing technical cooperation, exchange of information and joint actions.

On his part, Reuland said like every other project, WAPIS “is about vision and people. The police chiefs of the region had the vision and we, at INTERPOL, have had the luck to have found true partners at ECOWAS, the European Union and in the five pilot countries of the WAPIS Programme.”

Describing the WAPIS Programme as “one of the most visionary yet down-to-earth police cooperation projects,” he expressed optimism that “2015 will be the year when the vision of a regional information sharing system will become reality.”

Speaking M’Bia, lauded the WAPIS project, pointing out that there would be no economic development, political stability or regional integration without security. He suggested that the progromme be extended to the remaining 11 ECOWAS member states without delay.

Group Photograph of the participants
Group Photograph of the participants

In his goodwill message, Arion described transnational organised crime as “one of the major threats to human security, affecting the social, economic, political and cultural development of our societies. Today, we are inaugurating at the ECOWAS Commission what will become the regional hub of the WAPIS system in the future, where all information coming from the WAPIS National Committees in West Africa and Mauritania will be stocked and where the analysis of the information will be conducted,” the EU Head of Delegation said. He added: “Knowing that criminal information is the key element of efficient modern policing, today we are inaugurating the tool to ensure that West Africa is going to be more effective in combating threats stemming from organised crime.”

Suleiman assisted by EU and INTERPOL officials later cut the ribbon to declare the WAPIS Office officially opened.

Brig.-Gen. Hassan Lai, chief of staff, ECOWAS Standby Force and acting director of Peacekeeping and Regional Security, welcomed guests to the ceremony which was also attended by representatives of the inspector general of police, the Customs and Immigration Services of Nigeria, as well as military advisers/liaison officers of Diplomatic Missions accredited to ECOWAS and other members of the Diplomatic Corps.