The government of Nigeria represented by its Minister of Police Affairs, Mr. Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi, has inaugurated the West African Police Information System (WAPIS) Data Centre-Abuja.
This inauguration on May 26, 2021 was also attended by the ECOWAS Commissioner for Finance, Ms Halima Ahmed, the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Alexandre Borges Gomes, as well as the INTERPOL Executive Director for Partnerships and Planning, Carl Alexandre, Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, members of the diplomatic community and representatives of various law enforcement agencies.
The WAPIS Abuja Centre is a data collection and registration centre that will be responsible for the operationalization of the WAPIS System in Nigeria. This Centre will serve as a catalyst for security integration and interagency collaboration in the country, by bringing together all the security apparatus into the process of collection, storage and sharing of criminal data at national, regional and global level through INTERPOL I-24/7 channel. The WAPIS Centre will promote the sharing of criminal data in real time, enhancing, inter-alia the regional fight against organized crime and terrorism. Thereby supporting the investigation of major crimes and the frontline officers in dealing with the movement of persons and goods at the border crossing points.
Funded by the European Union and anchored at the ECOWAS Commission, the WAPIS Programme works toward the creation of national police data systems in each ECOWAS Member States, Mauritania and Chad together with the development of a regional platform for stronger police data exchange.
Opening the Inauguration ceremony, the Nigeria Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, said the operation of the WAPIS Programme “at this critical period of our National/regional security challenges will graciously enrich the Nigeria Police Force in her efforts to combat organized and transnational crimes.” According to him, the programme, which intends to boast information sharing among the West African States, “will in no small measure stimulate breakthrough and further provide a platform for coordinated approach to crime detection, prevention, persecution, rehabilitation as well as projection.”
Recognizing the political and operational involvement of the Nigerian government, the Executive Director of INTERPOL Mr. Carl Alexandre noted that without effective police information exchange within the region, as well as between the region and the rest of the world, no enforcement strategy can effectively tackle the threats of terrorism and organized crime. “So the implementation of WAPIS is a unique opportunity for West African countries to enhance their law enforcement agencies capacities to fight efficiently organized crime and terrorism by sharing criminal data at national and reginal levels and international level through Interpol secure communication channel,” he stated
The Deputy Head of the EU Delegation, Mr Alexandre Borges Gomes, described the WAPIS programme as “a clear illustration of the wish of like-minded partners like Nigeria, the EU, ECOWAS and INTERPOL, to work closely together to address transnational crime.”
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Finance underlined the importance of regionalization of crime fight, remembering that organized crime oversteps the political borders and only a regional coordinated approach, led by experts such as INTERPOL- ECOWAS and the EU staff, may succeed in the challenge of countering it.
The Minister of Police Affairs, Mr. Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi, expressed gratitude to all the key players in this project – INTERPOL, ECOWAS and indeed the European Union, whose funding has made it possible for Member countries to benefit from this remarkable programme aimed at combating crime. ”
In the framework of the WAPIS Programme, three (03) training sessions on the use of the System were already organized and 26 persons were trained from the participating agencies, these were followed by the deployment and installation of twenty (20) workstations in the capital area at the premises of the various law enforcement agencies, including Police, Immigration, Navy, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
Nigeria is one of the beneficiaries’ countries in which the WAPIS Programme is being implemented as part of its 3rd phase since November 2017. The memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Nigeria Government and INTERPOL has been signed on 16 April 2019. Nigeria WAPIS Centre is the 6th operational Data center in West Africa after Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. More inaugurations are planned in the coming months in the remaining countries.
Requested by the ECOWAS Chiefs of Police in 2010, The WAPIS Programme aims to address the security challenges faced by West African countries by enabling effective collection of police information through a centralized national system and by providing the opportunity to share information collected pursuing the following objectives:
- At the national level, the aim is to establish a centralized system of police information to facilitate the collection, processing and analysis of police data from different national law enforcement agencies.
- At the regional level, the aim of the system is to establish, under the aegis of ECOWAS, a platform for the electronic exchange of police information with a view to facilitating the sharing of data between Member States and Mauritania within the framework of regional cooperation protocols by 2022.
- At the international level, beneficiary countries will have the opportunity to exchange police data via the INTERPOL I-24/7 secure communication system.
The fifteen (15) ECOWAS countries benefiting from INTERPOL’s WAPIS Programme are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
Whilst not ECOWAS countries, Mauritania and Chad are also covered by the WAPIS Programme.