The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA), has conducted a regional training for six West African countries on how to dismantle secret laboratories to strengthen regional action against drug cartels.
The Director, Media and Advocacy, NDLEA, Mr Femi Babafemi, said this in a statement on Thursday in Abuja.
He said the training, which took place in Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire, from March 27 to 29, involved six other West African countries: Republic of Benin, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Gambia, Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria.
Babafemi said the training was part of an ECOWAS project known as “Organised Crime: West African Response to Trafficking” (OCWART), co-funded by the European Union (EU) and German Federal Foreign Office.
He said the project was executed primarily by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
He also said as the lead agency at the workshop, NDLEA drew from its experiential knowledge acquired from the dismantling of 21 secret laboratories found in Nigeria since 2011.
This he said was, however, used to teach other West African countries the practical know-how of handling illicit laboratories.
According to him, a total of eight topical lectures, practicals and question and answer sessions were delivered in two days by a team of NDLEA facilitators.
“They include: Joseph Nbona (Director, Prosecutions and Legal Services), Margaret Ogundipe (Director, Forensic and Chemical Monitoring); Adebowale Rahman (Digital Intelligence specialist), Anebi Ajilima (Forensic and crime lab expert) and Felix Tagbo (Operation specialist).
“The first two days of the workshop dwelt on various perspectives on the subject matter, including the anatomy of a clandestine laboratory, basic clandestine lab investigation techniques and intelligence gathering, operations safety.
“Also included were guidelines for dismantling clandestine laboratories, clean-up and decontamination of illicit labs and sites, basics of controlled delivery and prosecuting cases of clandestine laboratories,” he said.
Babafemi said the workshop was wrapped up on the third day with a practical exercise on the dismantling of a mock clandestine laboratory at the Abidjan Police Academy.
This he said was set up by the Nigerian contingent, and the participants, divided into teams, took turns to dismantle and decontaminate.
He added that the workshop’s seven participating countries sent in representatives from relevant organisations, including Ghana’s Narcotics Control Commission.
“Also included were Sierra Leone’ Serious Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Coordination Directorate, Drug Law Enforcement Agency of the Gambia (DLEAG), Transnational Crime Unit of Liberia and the INTERPOL.
“The Republic of Benin was represented by the Organised Crime Fighting Unit (CELCO), Customs and Narcotics Office (OCERTID),
“The host, Côte D’Ivoire, had representatives from Narcotics Squad from Judicial Police (DPSD), Customs, National Gendarmerie, Transnational Crime Unit (TCU), Forensic Police Laboratory and Joint Airport Interdiction Task Force (JAITF),” he said.
Mr Suman Toure, Country Representative of the United Nations on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) and its Senior Adviser, Law Enforcement, West and East Africa, described the latitude of the workshop thus: “It is both enforcement and judicial capacity building.
Toure said the project offered technical and equipment support, and facilitated discussion of joint operations among member countries.
“We need regional cooperation to disrupt the transnational criminal organisations’ network,” he said.
Toure said the South-South cooperation that existed among ECOWAS member states since 2014 had helped to disrupt transnational criminal activities over the years.
Similarly, the Minister of Interior and Security for Côte d’Ivoire, Gen. Vagondo Diomande, said the workshop would ensure that law enforcement agencies across the region were equipped with the modern knowledge and equipment to fight transnational organised crime.
Diomande was represented by Mr Kouma Ronsard, Secretary General of the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Fight against Drugs.
He underscored the need for cooperation among law enforcement agencies in West Africa, saying that there was need for cooperation, especially bilateral cooperation.
“The new law in Cote D’Ivoire gave it the power to cooperate with states in the fight against drug and human trafficking.
“We need cooperation to break this chain. Cote D’Ivoire has cooperation with Nigeria. No one country can say, ‘there is no drug in my country,’ the reality is, we haven’t seen them and or don’t know yet of the techniques of the criminals,” he said.
Also, Dr. Amado de Andrés, UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa, in his speech before presenting certificates to the participants, said: “All countries in the West Africa region need to cooperate.”
He added that the other countries needed Nigeria more in the participation of conventions against organised crime.
He said the purpose of bringing all the countries together was to break the language barrier.
“In the next five years, we will have to work together, so that your combined expertise can be used to train other regions of the world.
“We are trying to foster South-South cooperation in a way to make it effective as to strengthen security and entrench stability in the region,” he told the participants.