The federal government has commenced investigation into alleged trafficking of wildlife species to Vietnam and Hong Kong purported to have originated from Apapa Seaport, Lagos. The Vietnamese Customs Service had intercepted over 2,500 kilograms of pangolin scales and 600 kilograms of Ivory tusks as well as 8,200 kilograms of pangolin scales and 2,000 kilograms of Ivory were also intercepted by Hong Kong Custom Service.
The minister of environment,Suleiman Hassan Zarma, stated this in Abuja yesterday while reacting to media reports on the seized items considered as valuable items and used as medicinal ingredients in parts of Asia, especially China.
According to him, "The ministry has initiated investigation of the reported illegal trade by communicating officially with the Vietnamese and Hong Kong CITES management authority with a view to providing us with the documents that will be forwarded to the Nigerian Customs Service and INTERPOL for further investigation."
He pointed out that he was disappointed to receive information that Vietnamese Customs discovered concealed containers declared as consigning knocked wood by Vietnamese company, VIC Thanh Binh Import-Export Company Limited with its office address at Lien Hong Commune, Dan Phuong District, Hanoi.
Zarma noted that the most worrisome aspect of the information was that it originated from Nigeria despite the tough war against illegal wildlife trade in the West African region.
The minister wondered how the pangolin originated from Nigeria when the specie and elephant population was almost extinct in the country saying that such high volume of ivory would not have originated from Nigeria.
He lamented that Nigeria is used as a transit route for illegal wildlife trade, a situation that has rubbished the image of the nation globally. The minister recalled that Nigeria had signed and ratified the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1974 and 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 were highly protected endangered species and listed on Appendix I of (CITES) as well as on Schedule I of the National Endangered Species Act, 2016, he observed that export of wildlife fauna and flora from Nigeria were covered by CITES permit/certificates.
Zarma reaffirmed the ministry's role as focal point of CITES implementation and its commitment to conserve wild species that are almost extinct due to over exploitation, habitat change and illicit trafficking.