By Ovave Mercy Maria
The Federal Government has reiterated its commitment to curb environmental crimes in Nigeria and prevent the country from being used as a transit route for the trafficking of wild life specimens.
This commitment was made when top-ranking officials from the Geneva based Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) secretariat paid a visit to the headquarters of the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), in Abuja.
Speaking during the visit, the Minister of State, Environment, Jibril informed the delegation that the Nigerian government was working hard to ensure that the country was no longer used as a transit route for traffickers of endangered species.
Ibrahim revealed that all the relevant agencies of government were working together to achieve this purpose and end the illegal trade. “We are also working on having a special arm of the Nigeria Police dedicated to achieving this goal “, he added.
He further disclosed that eliminating organized and financial crimes in the country was also high on government lists of priorities as banks and financial Institutions are required to report suspicious dealings.
The Minister dismissed as mere allegation the insinuation that a link exist between terrorism and smuggling in combating environmental crimes explaining that government was not leaving any stone unturned to protect the air, sea and border entry points.
He also pointed out that the training of park rangers would go a long way of sustaining wild life in the seven National Parks in Nigeria that are under the supervision of the Conservator-General of the National Park Services.
In his remarks, the Director General of NESREA, Dr. Lawrence Anukam affirmed the cooperation between government agencies in the country in addressing wildlife crimes.
Dr Anukam said part of the strategy by the Agency was regular training of stakeholders including the police, the customs and the judiciary, who play different roles in the enforcement of the regulations on wildlife.
“The stakeholders need to understand what is going on. We have developed a curriculum for the Nigeria Police for them to understand what constitute environmental crimes. The customs and judges are also regularly trained.”
The Director-General emphasized that as part of measures to combat environmental crimes the Agency is opening up new field offices and is increasingly involved in collaborations. “There is a committee in place to monitor wildlife crimes; we are also serving with Interpol to track any suspicious acts”, he stated.
Dr. Anukam said some unscrupulous persons of some Asian countries who had attempted to use Nigeria as a transit route in the past for which several arrests were made and the culprits prosecuted and convicted.
“We have an MOU with the police and in any state where there is trafficking, the police moves in to make arrests. We have been very much involved in prosecution too. We also work with state governments and create awareness on the dangers of illegal trade.”
A statement signed by Deputy Director (Information) for: Director-General/CEO, Oyofo Sule said Dr. Anukam, called for more support from the CITES secretariat as well as better cooperation and communication.
‘’ We need to arrest, prosecute, convict and communicate “the CITES Team Leader also reminded the audience that proper disposal of confiscated items to prevent re-entry into the market was key to a successful campaign”, he stated