Speaker of the regional Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) Parliament, Sidie Mohamed Tunis, on Tuesday said some West Africa states lack the requisite laws and legal framework to adequately address the issue of drug traffickers in the region.
Tunis spoke whilst delivering his keynote statement during a virtual town hall high level meeting co-hosted by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
The meeting, which has as theme: “The pivotal role of parliamentarians in drug control,” was organized to discuss and explore parliamentary perspectives on how to address drug control policy in Africa.
The ECOWAS Parliament Speaker said that the concentration of most laws and legal framework in the region has been on punishing drug abusers who are themselves one way or the other victims.
According to him, “there were several youths that had already been convicted and serving jail terms for possessing drugs, mostly cannabis. In most countries in West Africa, the narcotic laws are mostly outdated and are punitively directed at victims of abuse rather than the organized drug marketers and traffickers.”
Nonetheless, the ECOWAS Parliament Speaker said that “there is an unprecedented increase in drug abuse related crimes mainly by youths and this has brought in its trail severe social and political consequences for national Governments hence the increase in awareness of the danger it poses to national security and development in recent times.”
Consequently, the ECOWAS Parliament Speaker said that there is indeed no better time than now to address the problem of drugs and its abuse in the ECOWAS region.
“This problem is rampant and if not quickly addressed, it may pose a greater threat to the survival of our future generation and our promising political and social systems,” he said.
Meanwhile, the high level virtual town hall meeting also experienced the participation of Olusegun Obasanjo former president of Nigeria and chair of WACD and Ruth Dreifuss, former president of Switzerland, both members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Also present was Martin Chungong, Secretary General of the IPU.
In his remarks, Olusegun Obasanjo said that the establishment of WACD is a call on political leaders to change the narrative in combating drug trafficking in the West Africa region.
He said, “there is the need for model drug law in Central and West Africa because both regions suffer from the same effect on drug trafficking.”
He also said if this is not done in the earliest possible time, drug cartels could undermine democracy and the rule of law in our countries.
“It is the poor and vulnerable who suffer the most from harsh drugs laws. The rich have the means to defend themselves”.
In addition, Obasanjo called for the adoption of the WACD Model Drug Law by member states. He said, the Model Drug Law balances the use of drugs between the criminal justice and the health by recommending soft punishments.
Hence, he called on Members of Parliaments to adopt a more progressive discussion on drug uses in their countries.
On his side, Martin Chungong, Secretary General of the IPU said it is really important for parliamentarians to advocate for new drug laws. He said parliamentarians must advance policies to address the issue of drug trafficking.
“I will encourage African Parliaments to embrace wholeheartedly the proposal to review drug laws and propose legislations that effectively address the issue of drugs,” he said.
Ruth Dreifuss, former president of Switzerland and members of the Global Commission on Drug spoke on the successes of her institution in domesticating the three (3) UN Conventions relating to drugs use.
The meeting was climaxed by discussion and comments by Parliamentary leaders of the Republic of Guinea, the Republic of Benin, the Republic of Ivory Coast, the Republic of Senegal and others who all gave meaningful contributions on the strives made so far by their governments so far in addressing the issue of drug trafficking in the ECOWAS region.