Nigeria was among the first countries to ratify the CITES in 1976.
The Federal Ministry of Environment has established wildlife rescue centres to preserve endangered species of wild fauna and flora across the country, an official, has said.
Salisu Dahiru, the acting Director of Forestry Department of the Ministry, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Wednesday.
Mr. Dahiru said that the establishment of the centres was part of the efforts to implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Nigeria was among the first countries to ratify the CITES in 1976, and it domesticated it by promulgating the Endangered Species (Control of Trade and Traffic) Act in 1985.
He said that wildlife personnel were posted to the nation’s international airports and seaports after the act was promulgated to ensure proper implementation of the convention.
“The good thing about CITES is that the convention is domiciled in the ministry but the enforcement is not done by the ministry or by the Department of Forestry alone.
“We have a wildlife division, they do it in conjunction with NESREA (National Environmental Standards Regulations and Enforcement Agency); we also have the Customs, the Police, the National Plant Quarantine Services; they are all in the airports.
“We have intensified our enforcement efforts, instead of relying on only one agency undertaking the enforcement, we go as a team.
“As I am talking to you, we have established, together with the Ecological Fund Office, what we know as Wildlife Rescue Centres so that when some of the endangered species have been confiscated, we put them there and rehabilitate them, before you can introduce them to the wild,” he said.
In early 1990, the re-organisation and the streamlining of regulatory personnel at the ports resulted in the exit of CITES enforcement officers.
The weakened enforcement of CITES and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), culminated in the series of wildlife crimes involving illegal trade, smuggling and forgery within and across Nigeria’s borders.
Mr. Dahiru said that Nigeria had made a lot of progress in curbing those practices by reviewing its national CITES legislation and taking appropriate steps to enhance its enforcement.
The Nigeria Legislation, National Environmental (Protection of Endangered Species in International Trade) Regulation, was also upgraded in 2011.
According to Mr. Dahiru, Nigeria has been carrying out all the activities on CITES list before any trading or moving of wildlife in and out of the country.
“The ministry ensures that all the guidelines concerning that are fully adhered to. If they are on the prohibited list, then nobody can issue you any certificate; if they are allowed, then you pay the necessary approved regulatory fees for processing of some of those permits.
“Where there are violations, you are taken to court; the necessary penalties are imposed on you; I do remember, there was a case of a chimpanzee that was illegally being held.
“There was public information and it had to be confiscated and the person was charged to court and the Chimpanzee was then taken to Cross River, they call it Afi Mountain Wild life Sanctuary.
“There is a globally acclaimed programme on the conservation and preservation of primates, particularly some of the threatened species known as Cross River Gorrilla and the Chimpanzee, and the drilled monkeys are also there. It was taken there and it was rehabilitated and joined its colleagues,’’ he said.
Mr. Dahiru, however, said that the government had placed surveillance to block the national borders and to prevent the use of the seaports and airports as transit points for illicit wildlife trade.
He said that the government had intensified public education and awareness on wildlife conservation and the negative effects of illegal trade in endangered wildlife and their products.
“We also collaborate with some local and international organisations, aimed at controlling trade in endangered species of flora and fauna, to reverse the trend of some species’ extinction,’’ he said.