Joint meeting of National Contact Points for the West and Central Africa Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs)

20 April 2009

Joint meeting of National Contact Points for the West and Central Africa Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs)

Libreville (Gabon), Monday 20 April 2009

Keynote speech by Kunio Mikuriya , WCO Secretary General

Minister, Director General of Gabonese Customs, Directors General of Customs, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a genuine pleasure to be here in Libreville to participate in the opening of this annual joint meeting of NCPs for the West and Central Africa RILOs, at the invitation of the Director General of Gabonese Customs, Mr. Onguinda Fridolin, whom I thank most sincerely for this initiative.

Before going any further, I wish to express my deepest sympathy first and foremost to the Head of State and then to all present, for the recent loss that has affected you so deeply and to share your grief.

This visit to Libreville affords me an opportunity to acquaint myself with the new building which is home to the Directorate General of Gabonese Customs. According to initial reports, this building fully reflects the State’s interest in the Customs administration’s contribution to the country’s economic and social development.

I wish to thank Mr. Armand Nanga, Vice-Chair of the West and Central Africa Region and Director General of Senegalese Customs which is host to the West African RILO, as well as Mrs. Minette Libom Li Likeng, Director General of Cameroon Customs which is host to the Central African RILO.

I am extremely happy to be here amongst you today. You are all aware of the fact that Customs administrations are working under difficult and ever-changing conditions requiring facilitation, controls and security of the international supply chain to be reconciled.

If they are to be effective, Customs services must use analysis, selection and targeting, especially by taking information sharing and intelligence as a basis and by promoting internal and external communication.

The real significance of the global RILO network becomes clear against this backdrop. Moreover, I urge the two RILOs present here today, as well as the other nine RILOs, to continue serving as regional centres for analysis and information, for circulating intelligence, regional trends and modus operandi, and to play an active role in enhancing the global RILO network.

In your capacity as Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices, your daily tasks must revolve around the CEN and its applications.

The latest operational successes achieved by CEN-COMM and the development of nCEN, which will be rolled-out in the Mauritius Customs administration during the second half of 2009, are the outcome of your wholehearted commitment to the development of this modern and effective tool which is the envy of countless international organizations.

In this respect, and at your request, the Secretariat has organized a two-day CEN training course to be held this week, on 23 and 24 April.

Training is one of the WCO’s priorities, just as it is for Gabon and the Gabonese Customs administration. This is attested by the laying of the foundation stone of the future Customs school (Centre for Advanced Vocational Customs Training) in Leconi by the Head of State, Mr. Omar Bongo Ondimba, at the beginning of this month. This advanced training facility fully meets the requirement for competent and effective human resources at local and sub-regional level. However, an island of efficiency cannot survive in an ocean of inactivity, hence the benefit of exchanging knowledge, sharing experience and of cooperation between Customs administrations.

The WCO will continue to offer its unconditional support to Gabonese Customs in the crucial training domain.

Training, a key element in the modernization of Customs administrations, is also a vital component of the mechanism for building the capacities of administrations and a driving force in the dynamism and efficiency of Customs services. This is borne out by the success of Operation “COCAIR”, the preparatory phase of which comprised a CEN training session as well as training in the investigation, detection and establishment of drug shipments based on actual cases.

Customs services from 15 West and Central Africa countries, which are all represented here today, consequently implemented a pilot Operation entitled “COCAIR” from 8 to 14 December 2008, intended to strengthen anti-drug trafficking measures in 22 international airports. The aim was to intercept shipments of cocaine and other drugs bound for Europe. This Operation, initiated by the WCO Secretariat in partnership with the European Commission, Interpol and the UNODC, was implemented thanks to the establishment of a three-phase action plan: the modification and use of CEN-COMM; the establishment of an Operational Co-ordination Unit (OCU) in Dakar (Senegal) including training for officers from participating services; and, the provision of detection kits.

The West and Central Africa RILOs were directly involved in the mechanism and played a decisive role in the implementation of this Operation.

At this juncture, I wish to thank the Directors General of the 15 countries having participated in this Operation for their contribution to the mechanism and for the motivation demonstrated by their officers.

It goes without saying that the implementation of this pilot Operation (COCAIR), largely funded by the European Commission, has to fall within the scope of a much wider-reaching sustainable capacity building project for Customs administrations and other services with competence for combating drug trafficking in this region. Such a project should take place over a minimum period of three years.

From this perspective, the use of dog and handler teams specialized in drug detection would undoubtedly be decisive for the success of future COCAIR Operations, by enhancing Customs services’ action.

Operation COCAIR 2 would provide an excellent opportunity to test, under real-life conditions, the effectiveness of dog and handler teams in detecting drugs in West and Central African airports. To that end, the WCO Secretariat will do all in its power to ensure that dog and handler teams participate in this next Operation.

The debriefing on Operation COCAIR will be held this afternoon. I trust you will all attend so that we can take full stock of the recent Operation. I welcome any constructive criticism and proposals to ensure the success of future operations to be carried out in this region of Africa.

Finally, I wish to inform you that the establishment of a Regional Centre for training dogs specialized in drug detection was mooted during my trip to Dakar in January 2009, in the course of a meeting with Mr. Armand Nanga.

This project, which is conceivable despite being ambitious, presents some obstacles which I feel can be easily overcome. It represents a genuine challenge for the West Africa region and is a giant leap forward in terms of building capacities to combat drug trafficking.

I am taking advantage of Mr. Nanga’s presence at this meeting to present him with an extremely detailed “preliminary draft” for the establishment of this regional Dog Training Centre. He will consequently be in possession of all the information required to assess the project’s feasibility.

I wish to bring this matter to a close by pointing out that the Director General of French Customs, Mr. Jérôme Fournel, wishes to lend his wholehearted support to this initiative, especially by providing experts from French Customs to help the Senegalese Customs administration, as well as Customs administrations in the region’s countries, to see this project through.

I hope you will enjoy a first-rate and productive meeting and I take this opportunity to renew my sincerest feelings of gratitude to the Gabonese Customs administration for doing all in its power to ensure optimum working conditions for those present.

Minister, Director General of Gabonese Customs, Directors General of Customs, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your attention.