Accra, Feb. 29, GNA - International Narcotics Control Board 2011 Report has been launched in Accra with a call on Sub-Regional governments to seriously tackle the growing scale of the threat illicit drug trafficking posed to governance, security and democracy.
The smuggling of cocaine and heroin from South America to Europe through West Africa has increased with the total seizures of cocaine rising from less than 100 kilos a decade ago to nearly 6,500 kilos in 2009.
The World Bank even estimated that cocaine with a street value of 6.8 billion dollars was trafficked through the Sub-Region in 2011.
Mr Kobby Acheampong, Deputy Minister of the Interior, who launched the report in Accra, said organisations such as the United Nations and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had already sounded the alarm and governments were taking actions to stem and disrupt the flow of drugs.
He explained that a meeting of experts from within the Sub-Region and the international community would be convened later this year to provide new impetus and solutions to the threat.
The meeting will assess the dangers that drug trafficking poses to governance, security and democracy in the Sub-Region and propose concrete measures to combat this insidious menace.
“It will be a terrible tragedy if drugs were again used to plunge West Africa into conflict and destroy the progress and hard won democratic gains of recent years,” he added.
The report, which is released annually, is on theme, “Youth have a Right to be protected from Drug Abuse and Dependence”.
Mr Acheampong noted that the Government was committed in tackling the drug menace both supply, control and demand reduction but admitted that more needed to be done in the area of engaging the NGOs to play a leading role and protecting people from drug abuse.
He called on the private sector to support the NGOs to establish a drug abuse fund which could be managed by the NGOs with subversion from the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB).
Mr Acheampong expressed concern about the increase in drug abuse related cases in the psychiatric hospitals where out of the 19,254 cases recorded, about 2,909 were drug related forming 15 per cent “a percentage government is determined to reduce to the minimum”.
The Deputy Minister said government had given NACOB the clearance to recruit more qualified personnel to augment its current staff strength and fight the menace.
Dr Joseph B. Asare, a Consultant Psychiatrist and Former Member of the International Narcotics Control Board, who gave the overview and highlights of the report, said the annual report was dedicated to the centenary of the First International Drug Treaty-International Opium Convention of The Hague of 1912.
He said the signing of the 1912 Treaty demonstrated the usefulness of international cooperation and the principle of shared responsibility between law enforcement agencies, health personnel, teachers, parents, religious bodies and everyone in the country.
Dr Asare explained that the Youth featured high on the drug abuse scene and therefore needed to be protected from the menace, guided to attain an optimum level of existence and protected from being used as agents of violence through the provision of substances that affected their judgment and behaviour.
Giving highlights of the 2011 Report, he said the smuggling of drugs into the Sub-Region had led to the increase of drug abuse in Southern Africa leading to the INCB calling for vigilance and coordinated multidisciplinary action and political will to combat the efforts of traffickers.
Dr Asare said smuggling of Amphetamine type of stimulants from Africa into other regions was a new threat with West Africa becoming one of the sources of Methamphetamine found in illicit markets in centres in East Asia citing Nigeria as potential hub for the smuggling of the drug.
“Africa continues to be used as an area for the diversion of precursor chemicals. East and West Africa are vulnerable for the trafficking of precursor chemicals used in the manufacturing of Amphetamine type stimulants,” he added.
The Board acknowledged the efforts of countries with meagre resources in combating drug abuse and urged them to step up their activities and cooperate fully with INCB at all levels.
Naval Captain Baffuor Assasie-Gyimah (Rtd), Chairman of the Governing Board of Ghana's Narcotics Control Board, said drug abuse continued to be a challenge and called for the need for governments, political parties and civil society to be committed and allocate a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product to anti-narcotic education and law enforcement.
“If we have the political will, the community will, religious bodies will as well as the traditional authority will, we will win the fight against illicit drug trafficking and abuse in Ghana,” he added.
Mr Samuel Ofori-Adjei, President of Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) said some youths were drawn into antisocial activities through the use and peddling of drugs and called for the need to protect the Youth from further destruction.