Nigeria and the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), on the implementation of the West African Police Information System (WAPIS) Progamme, which is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by INTERPOL and ECOWAS. The Programme seeks to strengthen information exchange and coordination among law enforcement agencies in the ECOWAS region and Mauritania.
The Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen. (Rtd) Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau, signed the MOU for Nigeria, while INTERPOL’s Secretary General Jürgen Stock initialled the 14-page document for his organisation, at a ceremony in the Interior Ministry, Abuja, on Tuesday 16th April.
Dignitaries who witnessed the ceremony included ECOWAS officials led by the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Gen. Francis Behanzin, the EU led by its Head of Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, Nigeria’s acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, who is Chair of the West African Police Chiefs Committee (WAPCCO), Muhammed Babandede, the Comptroller General of Nigeria’s Immigration Service, Ibrahim Magu, acting Chair of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and representatives of other national law enforcement agencies..
Minister Dambazau described the signing of the MOU as an epoch event and a confirmation of the commitment by ECOWAS member States to tackle criminals and criminality in the region through the exchange of information and best practices.
He commended ECOWAS for its efforts in support of the WAPIS Programme and lauded the EU for its pivotal role in providing the grant for the implementation of the programme.
INTERPOL chief, Stock, said the signing of the MOU was a significant step and marks a new chapter in the collective fight against crimes in Nigeria, the region and beyond.
He said the WAPIS programme would provide a platform for greater collaboration by various law enforcement agencies in crime control.
The INTERPOL Secretary General expressed his optimism that Nigeria would bring its leadership quality to bear in the domain of crime control in the region. He acknowledged the steadfast commitment of ECOWAS and EU’s support towards turning the vision of the WAPIS programme into a reality.
On behalf of the ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, Commissioner Behanzin said the WAPIS Programme was key to the security of the region.
He explained that successful implementation of the programme hinged on two levels – political and technical – and assured that ECOWAS would take all necessary measures to ensure that member States signed the relevant legal framework to facilitate the implementation.
While thanking the EU for its financial support, the Commissioner reaffirmed ECOWAS’ commitment to the success of the programme.
In his remarks, Ambassador Karlsen disclosed that over the years, the EU had provided grant support of about 1.5 billion Euros to ECOWAS for various programmes, with about 210 million of this amount devoted to peace and security interventions.
The EU support for the WAPIS programme is estimated at 35 million Euros, the Head of Delegation said, adding that “regional challenges require regional solution.”
To avoid failure, he emphasized that projects should be promoted collectively so as to ensure national leadership and ownership.
While acknowledging that crime control might be a daunting task, Ambassador Karlsen, said the EU looked forward to the successful implementation of the WAPIS programme in Nigeria and across the region, using security as the point of departure for regional stability and integration.
Nigeria’s acting IGP Adamu, who had worked with INTERPOL in the past, explained that the WAPIS programme is designed to complement INTERPOL’s global operations on data/information sharing for effective tacking of criminals and criminality.
He said the programme would help ECOWAS member states in effectively combating transnational crimes such as human and drug trafficking, piracy, terrorism and vehicle theft.
Following the launch of the WAPIS Programme in 2012, ECOWAS officially opened the WAPIS Office in Abuja, in January 2014, located within the premises of the ECOWAS Commission’s Political Affairs, Peace and Security Department. The Office serves the 15 ECOWAS member States and Mauritania, with Benin, Ghana, Niger, Mali and Mauritania as the five pilot countries.
In 2016, under funding from the EU Support to ECOWAS Peace, Security and Stability Mandate (ECOWAS-EU PSS) Project, police officers from six ECOWAS member states undertook a study tour to the WAPIS facility at INTERPOL Headquarters in Lyon, France, to gain hands-on experience of the functioning of system.
And in June 2018, the third phase of the WAPIS Programme was launched in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire as part of the programme operationalization.