The federal government has initiated investigations into the alleged trafficking of over 2,500 kilograms of Pangolin Scales and 600 kilograms of Ivory Tusks seized by the Vietnamese Customs Service.
The Minister of Environment, Suleiman Zarma, disclosed this in a statement issued in Abuja on Wednesday by Mr Saghir el-Mohammed, Director of Press, Federal Ministry of Environment.
Mr Zarma also ordered investigations into the alleged trafficking of 8,200 kilograms of Pangolin Scales and 2,000 kilograms of Ivory Tusks seized by the Hong Kong Custom Service.
The minister said that the investigation was necessary because illegal wildlife trafficking was alleged to have originated from the Apapa, Seaport, Lagos, Nigeria.
Mr Zarma was reacting to media reports on the seized items, which were said to have high market values, especially for the use of the Pangolin scales as medicinal ingredients in parts of Asia, especially China.
“The ministry has initiated investigations 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 investigations.
“It is very unsettling when information is 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, Dan Phuong District, Hanoi.
“More disturbing is the fact that Nigeria is 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 said.
According to him, the source cannot have been Nigeria as pangolins are near extinction in the country.
He added that the elephant population in Nigeria, besides being under strict conservation regimes, would not be able to provide such high volume of Ivory.
“Nigeria is being used as a transit route for illegal wildlife trade and the image of our nation is being tarnished globally,’’ the minister said.
He restated the federal government’s commitment to the fight against illegal wildlife trade, saying that Nigeria signed and ratified the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1974.
According to him, Nigeria promulgated the Endangered Species (Control of International Trade and Traffic) Decree No.11 in 1985 now enacted as Endangered Species Act 2016 to give municipal credence to this Convention.
“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.
“Export of wild fauna and flora from Nigeria are covered by CITES Permit/Certificates.
“CITES is the pre-eminent global legal instrument for regulating international trade in wild animals and plant,’’ Mr Zarma said.
According to him, it has the objective of ensuring that International trade in wild fauna and flora do not compromise the protection of endangered species, hence the illegal trade in this species and its derivatives are absolutely prohibited.
Mr Zarma, therefore, re-affirmed his ministry’s role as a focal point of CITES implementation and its commitment to conserving wild species, which he observed were 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, globalisation 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,’’ the minister said. (NAN)