UNODC trains 15 trainers to step up the fight against international drug trafficking in Niger

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2 June 2016, Niamey- Since the early 2000s, the West African region has become one of the main hubs for cocaine trafficking from Latin America to Europe. This could be explained by the war on drugs in Europe and USA which altered the traditional drug routes. Moreover, the unregulated profits generated by the organized crime engaged in drug trafficking have created a macroeconomic instability in affected countries. Another serious concern induced by drug trafficking is the significant public health problems it creates.

The frequent recurrence of drug seizure in the region is a testament to the intensity and evolution of the illegal activities in the region. Furthermore, terrorist groups have involved themselves in the transnational drug trafficking in West Africa as a mean to raise funds to finance their activities.

To fight against these threats, UNODC has launched, in collaboration with the ECOWAS, the project Support to ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse in West Africa. This project is entirely funded by the European Union (Abuja Office) through the 10th European Development Fund. In this context, and in partnership with its Sahel Programme, the UNODC Regional Office conducted a training for trainers from 30 May to 2 June 2016 in Niamey, Niger, to strengthen field units mandated to fight against international drug trafficking. This training was made possible through the contributions of the government of Denmark and the European Union.

Group photo of the participants, the GIZ Official and Mr. Emile Jeannee of the European Union Bureau in Niamey ©UNODC/2016
Group photo of the participants, the GIZ Official and Mr. Emile Jeannee of the European Union Bureau in Niamey ©UNODC/2016

The training, which is the first of its kind as part of the support project plan, was held in the premises of the Niamey Police Academy and was attended by fifteen professionals from different departments of the Niger Police. This training was overseen for four days by three experienced specialists. Representatives of GIZ (German Technical Cooperation) and European Union as well as the Director of the National Police Academy of Niger have welcomed the participants.

The use of West Africa as a new platform for cocaine to Europe has posed many new challenges. The financial and economic power of South American cartels, using corruption in the States of the Sahel-Saharan region, weakened some politico-judicial powers and traditional societies are destabilized in their social homogeneity. In Mauritania, Northern Mali, Niger and Chad, criminal groups use old caravan routes to carry out various forms of illicit activities, ranging from trafficking of cannabis resin, cocaine, methamphetamine and firearms, to smuggling of migrants and even trafficking in persons.

Due to insurgents and the Salafist terrorism phenomenon, investigations in this volatile area are even more complicated. Interconnections between traditional terrorist groups and criminal networks makes seriously complicate investigators' work.

According to Cheikh Toure, Project Coordinator for UNODC, "This training intends to be technical and specialized in investigations and also in the fight against organized crime, especially against international drug trafficking, which now finances most criminal networks. It includes a theoretical and educational component, a security aspect to ensure the physical integrity of trainees, while also allowing participants to provide training to other professionals."

The training is adapted to the specificities of the Sahel-Saharan region by taking into account local and cultural norms. The trainers will be deployed to regions affected by criminal activities where they will receive the specialized investigators training.

Police Officers during a training session at the National Police Academy of Niamey© UNODC/2016
Police Officers during a training session at the National Police Academy of Niamey© UNODC/2016

According to Mr. Emile Jeannee, Head of Cooperation of the European Union Office in Niamey who opened the training: "We are delighted that this training will improve efficacy and the efficiency of the personnel in the fight against drugs in the ECOWAS region and that our partnership with the very experienced and capable UNODC will properly support Member States in the implementation of the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on illicit drug trafficking. We are hopeful that the subsequent training sessions will generate positive results in the field very soon."

Other Member States of ECOWAS are targeted to receive similar operational training to further strengthen their human capacity to fight against drug trafficking and organized crime.

UNODC has provided technical assistance to West African States for 20 years, through its Regional Office for West and Central Africa (ROSEN) based in Dakar, Senegal, along with the 10 other local offices in different countries of the region. Custodian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its Protocols, as well as the three conventions on International drug control, UNODC is mandated to assist all Member States to strengthen their national responses in conformity with international norms and standards.