By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
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 Apapa, Seaport, Lagos, Nigeria.
A statement issued yesterday by Saghir el Mohammed, Director Press in the Ministry of Enviroment said Minister of Environment, Surv. Suleiman Hassan Zarma, made the revelation 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, especially 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 of furnishing us with the documents that will be forwarded to the Nigerian Customs Service and INTERPOL for further investigation”, stated the Minister.
According to Surv. Zarma, 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, Dan Phuong District, 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. Nigeria is being used as a transit route for illegal wildlife trade and the image of our nation is being tarnished globally’’
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 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 however observed that 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 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 said.