It is no longer a secret that drug trafficking through West Africa is a
billion-dollar trade. Many of the 15 ECOWAS Member States are cited in
various international reports relating to the sharp increase, not only in
cannabis cultivation but also in the trafficking of cocaine from Latin America
and heroin from Asia destined for more lucrative markets outside the region.
The dangerous dimension is that this illicit trade has become more
sophisticated and, if unchecked, could hasten West Africa into a drug
For a region with a fast growing young population - almost 70 per cent of the
estimated 280-million population is under the age of 35 years - the drug
problem should be of serious and priority concern to all.
A huge number of the youth who are outside of the economic mainstream, and
therefore with no opportunity to make a living for themselves, resort to drug
abuse as an escape. The results are not only an exponential rise in violence,
AIDS infections and other health risks, but also a serious threat to the
economic progress, peace and stability in the region.
It is in a realization of these potentially dangerous consequences, especially
on its integration process, that ECOWAS had in the late 1990s developed a
Regional Plan of Action, aimed at providing the necessary framework for
national efforts and actions against the drug problem.
The Authority of Heads of State and Government, at its 21st Summit in October
1998 in Abuja, issued a declaration titled: “Community Flame Ceremony – the
Fight against Drugs.” This has been followed by other Decisions of the
Authority on drug control including a Resolution on Prevention and Control of
Drug Abuse in West Africa; a Recommendation on the establishment of a Regional
Fund for Financing of Drug Control activities in West Africa and the Decisions
on the Establishment of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money
Laundering in West Africa (GIABA).
As a fillip to its anti-drug war efforts, ECOWAS in 2008 adopted a Regional
Action Plan against Drug Abuse, Trafficking and Organized Crime, which aims at
addressing the drug problem in an integrated manner.
In collaboration with its partners in the UN system, regional and bi-lateral
groups, ECOWAS is canvassing regional anti-drug interventions, such as support
for the up-scaling of human resources in drug demand reduction and prevention
activities, support for the conduct of national and regional training,
mentoring and treatment interventions in Member States.
It is therefore heartening to the ECOWAS Commission that the 2011 World Drug
Day is devoted to “Global action for healthy communities without drugs.”
The Commission calls on all Member States to assume their responsibilities by
putting in place effective mechanisms and providing adequate resources to
complement the regional anti-drug initiatives and programmes.
We cannot afford to remain indifferent to the sufferings of the youth, their
families and the communities they live in. The well-being and good health of
our communities are central to the Commission’s goal of an ECOWAS of people.
All hands must be on deck to provide drug abusers and others affected by the
drug problem unfettered access to treatment and rehabilitation and the
opportunity to rebuild their lives.
Working together, the ECOWAS Commission, Member States, citizens and partners
can make West Africa a drug-free, healthy, peaceful, prosperous and united