ABUJA – (Federal Ministry of Environment Report) – The Federal Government has initiated investigations into the seizure by the Vietnamese Customs Service of over 2,500 kilograms of Pangolin Scales and 600 kilograms of Ivory Tusks as well as seizures by the Hong Kong Custom Service of 8,200 kilograms of Pangolin scales and 2,000 kilograms of Ivory alleged to have originated from the Apapa Seaport in Lagos, Nigeria.
The Minister of Environment, Suleiman Hassan Zarma (Surv) made this known while reacting to media reports on the seized items which are said to have high market values, especially for the use of the Pangolin scales as medicinal ingredients in parts of Asia, particularly China.
“The Ministry has initiated the investigation of the reported illegal trade by communicating officially with the Vietnamese and Hong Kong CITES Management Authority with a view to furnishing us with the documents that will be forwarded to the Nigerian Customs Service and INTERPOL for further investigation,” the Minister stated.
“It was very unsettling when information was received that the Vietnamese Customs made the discovery in concealed containers declared as ‘consigning knocked wood’ by the Vietnamese company, ‘VIC Thanh Binh Import – Export Company Limited’ with office address at Lien Hong Commune in the Dan Phuong District of Hanoi. More disturbing is the fact that Nigeria was mentioned as the source in spite of our laudable conservation efforts which informed our leading the war against Illegal Wildlife Trade in the West African Region.”
He opined that the source could not have been Nigeria as Pangolin were near extinction in the country and that the Elephant population in Nigeria, besides being under strict conservation regimes would not be able to provide such high volume of Ivory. According to him, Nigeria is being used as a transit route for illegal wildlife trade and the image of the country is being tarnished globally.
In reiterating the country’s commitment to the fight against illegal wildlife trade, the Minister noted that Nigeria signed and ratified the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1974 and to give municipal credence to this Convention, Nigeria has promulgated the Endangered Species (Control of International Trade and Traffic) Decree No..11 in 1985 now enacted as Endangered Species Act 2016.
While stating that Pangolin and Elephants are highly protected and endangered species and listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as well as on Schedule I of the National Endangered Species Act 2016, the Minister observed that export of wild fauna and flora from Nigeria are covered by CITES Permit/Certificates.
According to him, CITES is the pre-eminent global legal instrument for regulating international trade in wild animals and plant and has the objective of ensuring that International trade in wild fauna and flora does not compromise the protection of endangered species, hence the illegal trade in this species and its derivatives are absolutely prohibited. He reaffirmed the Ministry’s role as focal point of CITES implementation and its commitment to conserving wild species which he observed are now almost driven into extinction due to over exploitation, habitat change and illicit trafficking.
“It is in view of the above that there has not been any case of illegal wildlife trade from Nigeria as a source country. However, globalization allows and encourages international trade which traffickers have exploited and exposed us to some of these unwholesome practices which we frown at as a nation and defender of endangered species,” Zarma intensified.