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FG, UN, others plan strategy to combat illegal wildlife trade, forest crimes

By Cornelius Essen, Abuja
18 April 2022   |   2:11 am
The Federal Government, United States and United Nations Office on Drug and Crime have put in place National Strategy Policy to combat illegal wildlife trade and forest crimes for five years.

Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mohammed Abdullahi

The Federal Government, United States and United Nations Office on Drug and Crime have put in place National Strategy Policy to combat illegal wildlife trade and forest crimes for five years.

Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdullahi, who spoke at the launch of the policy in Abuja, explained that the crime syndicates are well established and organised, adding that what is required is innovative, well connected networks across African countries to block their movement.

Abdullahi also stated that the goal is to free Nigeria of wildlife and forest crimes. He stressed that it requires institutional capacity, strengthening legal frameworks, increasing partnership and removing crime enablers as well as raising awareness in local community.

He added that traffickers have been found to stockpile pangolin scales in countries with less enforcement and weak legislation. “We have identified legislative loopholes and weak security architecture.

“When Federal Executive Council approved the policy recently, the government also solicited buy-in and adoption by the Council of State. The national strategy will analyse political, economic, socio-cultural, technological and environmental issues at all levels.”

The minister further explained that efforts are being made to explore diplomatic channel by engaging embassies of key European and Asian countries, which are destinations for trafficked products to assuage the demand pressure.

“Nigeria has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Vietnamese government, a major stakeholder in the fight against wildlife and forest crimes. We equally signed Cooperation Framework Agreement on Transboundary Ecosystems Conservation,” he added.

Also, Minister of State, Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor, said Nigeria is blessed with cornucopia of natural resources and rich biodiversity, ranging from aquatic to terrestrial fauna and flora, adding that over 1, 800 species of fauna and about 4,600 species of flora are on the verge of extinction.

She said in 2019, Inter-Governmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), reported that about one million species were threatened with extinction.

On his part, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Hassan Musa, appealed to relevant sectors, especially, those that have direct interest in protecting national assets, saying, wildlife crimes has become a hydra-headed challenge in Nigeria.

“The gradual loss of important ecosystems and their resultant services, which are extremely, difficult to replace has detrimental effect on the planet and can result in large scale environmental crises if not properly curtailed,” Musa stressed.

Head of Wildlife and CITES Management, Mr. Timothy John, who reviewed the policy, said Nigeria is already on the path to fight against illegal wildlife and forest crime, noting, they are now tackling transnational and domestic forest products.

While promising to enhance institutional capabilities in the country, John urged government to track transport and financial flows; carry out surveillance on marine, freshwater and terrestrial crime.

In his message, Mr. Oliver Stolpe of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, regretted that the country’s wildlife and forest are under severe threat,with immense amounts of rare tropical woods being illegally extracted and smuggled out of the country.

Stolpe said UNODC’s 2020 Report indicated that despite Nigeria being home to less than 0.1 per cent of Africa’s elephant population, 23 per cent of all elephant tusks seized globally between 2015 and 2019 were exported through nation’s seaports.

He urged the ministry to formalise implementation plan, which cost is determined ahead of 2023 budget.  He further called on governments of United States and United Kingdom to extend support to the Federal Government in this critical area of Agenda 2030, to protect life on land and under water.

“Similarly, we have seen Nigeria evolving into a major export hub for pangolin scales, with close to 60 per cent of all seizures had, either originated or been trafficked through Nigerian routes to Europe and Asia,” Stolpe remarked.

US Embassy Economic Chief Ian Sheridan, said the strategy will guide their financial and technical support. Sheridan explained that the Federal Government must conserve the diversity of life on the planet, which is critical for supporting healthy ecosystems.