‘Nigerians aiding foreign cartel to transport illegal wildlife trade’
• Customs seizes N1.7b pangolin scales, claws in Lagos
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has revealed that some international cartels are conniving with few Nigerians to use the country as a transit route for illegal wildlife trade.
This is as the NCS, for the second time in two months, intercepted a huge cache of pangolin scales and claws worth N1.7billion in Lagos.
Addressing journalists in Lagos, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, stated that investigations are ongoing to reveal the country where the pangolin scales are being brought from into Nigeria.
Ali, who was represented by the NCS spokesman, Joseph Attah, disclosed that the seizures were made in two phases with two suspects arrested.
Giving a breakdown of the seizures, Attah revealed that one of the seizures packed in 15 sacks of pangolin scales weighed 1,009.5kg with a Duty Paid Value of N1,686,874,500.
He added that the second seizure of one sack of pangolin claws weighing 5kg is valued at N41,914,250.
The customs spokesperson said the spate of seizures, arrests and prosecution of offenders involved in the smuggling of the prohibited items is the journey towards making Nigeria a no go area for such illicit trades.
He said illegal wildlife trade contravenes Section 63 “e” and “g” of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap 45 LFN 2004, with Nigeria being a signatory to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
“As a responsible member of the global community, we cannot allow our nation to be used as a conduit pipe for illegal trade on wildlife”.
We remain committed to the quarterly meeting with embassies of the United States of America, United Kingdom and Germany and welcome on board other International organisations that are joining the fray.
“We commend Wildlife Justice Commission for their continued strong commitment to this course through the provision of credible and actionable intelligence, including technical aids. NCS appreciates this working synergy and looks forward to more,” he said.
Representing the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Coordinator, National Focal Point for Elephant Protection Initiative and Convention on International Trade and Illegal Wildlife Trade (CITES), Oluyemi Babajide, said at the completion of the prosecution processes, the seizures will be handed over to the Nigeria Environmental Enforcement Agency (NESREA).
The Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos had earlier ordered the remand in the custody of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), five persons, who were accused of trying to export N22.3 billion worth of pangolin scale and elephant tusk seized by the same Strike Force Team A.
The five accused persons include four Guinea nationals and a Nigerian. Three of the accused who were present in court were arrested in Lagos in August 2021 by officials of the Nigeria Customs Service.