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‘Some states lack laws to address drug trafficking’-says Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament

By Ibrahim Tarawallie

Speaker of the regional Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) Parliament has stated that some West African states lack the requisite laws and legal framework to adequately address the issue of drug traffickers in the region.

According to Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, 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.

He was speaking on Tuesday December 1, 2020 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) on the theme: “The pivotal role of parliamentarians in drug control”.

The meeting was convened to discuss and explore parliamentary perspectives on how to address drug control policy in Africa.

“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 In most countries in West Africa, the narcotic laws are mostly outdated and are punitively directed at victims of abuse rather than the organized drug marketers and traffickers,” Hon. Tunis stated.

The ECOWAS Parliament Speaker noted that there is an unprecedented increase in drug abuse related crimes mainly by youths, which has brought in its trail severe social and political consequences for national governments.

“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 added.

The high level virtual town hall meeting also experienced the participation of the former president of Nigeria and chair of WACD, Olusegun Obasanjo and Ruth Dreifuss, former president of Switzerland, both members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

In his remarks, H.E Olusegun stated that the establishment of WACD is a call on political leaders to change the narrative in combating drug trafficking in the West Africa region. “There is the need for model drug law in Central and Western Africa because both regions suffer from the same effect on drug trafficking. If this is not done in the earliest possible time, drug cartels could undermine democracy and the rule of law in our countries,” he said.

According to him, it is the poor and vulnerable who suffer the most from harsh drugs laws and reckoned that harsh laws are needed to deter drug abuses.

He called for the adoption of the WACD Model Drug Law, which balances the use of drugs between the criminal justice and the health by recommending soft punishments, by member states.

The former Nigerian president also called on Members of Parliament to adopt a more progressive discussion on drug uses in their countries.

Also speaking, Martin Chungong, Secretary General of the IPU, said it is really important for parliamentarians to advocate for new drug laws. He noted that 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.

The meeting was climaxed with discussion and comments by Parliamentary leaders of the Republic of Guinea, Benin, Ivory Coast, Senegal and others who gave meaningful contributions on the strives made so far by their governments in addressing the issue of drug trafficking in the ECOWAS region.

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