22 January 2018

West Africa: NCF, Asiodu, Others Urge Collective Action Against Illegal Wildlife Trade in West Africa

The NCF is determined to build on more than three decades of conservation leadership in Nigeria and will be part of the Pan- African strategy to combat illegal exploitation and trade in wildlife in the continent

To halt over exploitation of wildlife resource and its threat to biodiversity, stakeholders in conservation have called for collective action against the trade in West Africa. According to them, collective actions are crucial to nature conservation, to ensure that humanity bequeath a sustainable planet to posterity.

The call was reinforced at the 16th Chief Shafi Lawal Edu memorial lecture titled " Combating Illegal Wildlife Trade in West Africa: The Role of Environmental Law and Governance", organised by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) and sponsored by Chevron Nigeria Limited.

Director General of NCF, Adeniyi Karunwi, said the lecture was dedicated to examine issues associated with combating illegal wildlife trade in West Africa from an environmental law and governance perspective to address the continuing and rising scale of illegal trade demands across the globe. He noted that wild life trade is diverse and involves millions of plants, animal products and people all over the world.

"Over exploitation of wildlife resource to feed the growing illegal wildlife global markets is the greatest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss. The World Wide Fund for nature (WWF)' s Living Planet report published in 2016, he said, warned that species population could decline by an estimated annual average of two per cent and there is no sign yet that the rate will decrease. This portends great danger for humanity when viewed against the devastating impacts and menace of climate change on a global scale thereby reversing the laudable conversation achievements at a faster rate and making it difficult to measure and consolidate on success", he said.

Karunwi said the foundation was committed to partnership and collaborations with wildlife trade monitoring networks, governments and international organisations to combat illegal trade in wildlife. He expressed appreciation to the Federal Ministry of Environment for the review and adoption of the Endangered Species Act of 2016 authorised by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES), which prohibits any form of trade in endangered species.

The NCF, he said, encourages every stakeholder to be part of the global alliances against illegal trade in wildlife. He expressed gratitude to Chevron Nigeria Limited for being the sole sponsor of the Chief S.L Edu Research Awardees whose proposals not only align with the vision and mission statement of NCF but will potentially contribute to the fulfillment of NCF's mandate to nature the people and Nigeria.

Also speaking, the chairman of NCF national Executive Council, Chief Ede Dafinone explained that trade in wildlife is global in nature and combating it requires local, national, regional and continental cooperation and actions. According to him, West Africa has in the recent years become an active hub and route for wildlife trafficking.

He stressed that NCF offers a platform to mobilise and foster cooperation of governments, corporate organisations, wildlife trade network monitoring agencies and partners to develop and implement regional action plans in line with global strategies aimed at tackling illegal wildlife trade from its different sources.

Dafinone stated that the organisation would engage the Federal Ministry of Environment, the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and other regulatory and enforcement agencies and relevant stakeholders to reduce, discourage and halt illegal trade in wildlife in Nigeria. He urged all to take up the challenge to preserve wildlife and their habitats.

For the president of NCF board of trustees, Chief Philip Asiodu, the WWF to which the NCF is affiliated, in its 2014 Living Planet Report dealt extensively with the increasing threat to wildlife due to over exploitation particularly for illegal trade to meet soaring demand.

He said; "Statistics show that in some species, the decline in their populations of more than half in just 40 years. The species involved have included elephants for their tusks, rhinos for their horns, pangolins for their scales, lions and leopards for their skins, great apes for their meets, parrot and other tropical birds for pets and even vultures in places like Nigeria for voodoo medicine".

He assured that NCF is determined to build on more than three decades of conservation leadership in Nigeria and will be part of the Pan- African strategy to combat illegal exploitation and trade in wildlife in the continent.

In his lecture, the Vice Chancellor, Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun said meeting the complexity of the challenge posed by illegal wildlife trade and requires a multi-pronged approach to wildlife management.

According to him, law reform is critical while real and effective reform will not come cheap as implementation expectedly will encounter opposition of the well-resourced criminal networks.

"Studies have shown that source countries of wildlife trade include some of the poorest countries with the richest sources of biodiversity. The flow of wildlife trade, according to these studies , he said , appears to be form developing countries to developed countries".

The professor of environmental law and policy said in this regard Africa and a number of South east Asian countries have been identified in confiscated data published by the European Union as the main sources of countries of illegal wildlife.

He identified over exploitation as the most devastating impacts associated with the illegal trafficking , poaching , transit, trade and sale of wildlife saying it has caused extinction of species while putting the sustainability of others in dangers.

Prof Fagbohun called for the strengthening and enhancement of legislative framework as well as incorporation of anticorruption measures in work plans of national , regional and sub regional wildlife enforcement networks, stressing that wildlife trade is a multi billion dollar trade with international connections and should require a collective and collaborative efforts to tackle.

In his remarks, former Commonwealth Secretary -General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku called for the involvement of traditional institutions in the move to halt illegal wildlife trade, while the general manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, PGPA. CHEVRON Nigeria Limited, Mr. Esimaje Brikinn pledged Chevron's continued support to wildlife conservation in Nigeria.

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