INTERPOL’s recent border operations in West Africa as a reminder of Africa’s porous borders
Drugs, Guns, Criminals, and Gold: the bloodline of terrorist groups.
An operation to strengthen border controls along the Abidjan-Lagos corridor has resulted in major seizures of drugs, stolen cars, currency, firearms and fake travel documents, in addition to arrests for migrant smuggling.The 10-day (26 January – 4 February) Operation Adwenpa saw more than 100 officers deployed to ten air and land border control points across five countries ‒ Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo – to conduct additional security checks against INTERPOL’s databases.
Two men who were the subject of INTERPOL Red Notices were identified – a Ghanaian national wanted by Brazil for drug trafficking was taken into custody at the Ghana/Cote d’Ivoire border, and a French national wanted for fraud and embezzlement by Benin was arrested at Abidjan’s Félix-Houphouët-Boigny International Airport.
A Ghanaian man attempting to smuggle two migrants into Togo using counterfeit travel documents was arrested, and at the Nigeria/Benin border six child victims aged between 13 and 17 who were suspected of being trafficked for labour exploitation were handed into the care of national authorities. Nearly 900 kg of narcotics were seized including cocaine, cannabis, methamphetamine and khat. Searches against INTERPOL’s database of stolen motor vehicles led to the recovery of seven vehicles which had been stolen in Canada, France, Germany and Italy.
Smuggled bulk cash, gold ingots and jewellery worth more than USD 1million were also seized, as well as nearly 80 kg of trafficked ivory and a number of counterfeit passports.
Director General of Benin National Police Didier Atchou said the operation clearly showed the links between different types of crime and the need for a coordinated transnational response.
“With the increased freedom of movement of goods and people also comes increased opportunities for criminals,” said Director General Atchou. “The results from Operation Adwenpa demonstrate what can be achieved when officers on the ground have the training and access to policing capabilities they need, such as those provided by INTERPOL. “Police in the involved countries have gained new knowledge in combating people smuggling, drug trafficking, terrorism and other transnational crimes which will significantly enhance national and regional security in the future,” concluded the Director General.
Operation Adwenpa marks the final activity of the two-year Capacity Building Programme to Strengthen Border Management in West Africa, supported by the Government of Canada’s Anti-Crime Capacity Building Programme. “What makes Operation Adwenpa especially effective is that local officers involved in the operation took part in an INTERPOL Train-the-Trainer course beforehand,” said Julia Viedma, INTERPOL’s Director of Capacity Building and Training. These officers were given the skillsets and tools to train their own colleagues, meaning police across West Africa will also benefit from this programme in the future. “Operation Adwenpa clearly shows the range of activities in which organized crime is involved, and law enforcement cannot look at different crime types in isolation,” said Michael O’Connell INTERPOL’s Director of Operational Support and Analysis. This exercise also demonstrates the importance of using INTERPOL’s global policing capabilities, to share information and cooperate across borders.
Over the course of the programme, more than 50 officers from National Central Bureaus (NCBs), immigration, customs and other law enforcement units underwent specialized training.
A practical handbook specifically designed for West African border officers, providing tips, guidelines and advice in detecting the most predominant forms of transnational crime affecting the region has also been produced.