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FG Investigates Alleged Trafficking Of Pangolin Scales, Ivory Tusks To Vietnam, Hong Kong.

THE Federal Government has initiated investigations into the seizure by the Vietnamese Customs Service of over 2,500 kilogrammes of pangolin scales and 600 kilogrammes of ivory tusks, as well as seizures by the Hong Kong Customs Service of 8,200 kilogrammes of pangolin scales and 2,000 kilogrammes of ivory alleged to have originated from Apapa seaport in Lagos.

Minister of Environment, Suleiman Hassan Zarma, made this known in a statement while reacting to media reports on the seized items which are said to have high market value. Pangolin scales are used as exotic 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,' Zarma said.

According to him, '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.'

The minister opined that the source could not have been Nigeria as pangolins 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,' he said.

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.

Zarma, therefore, reaffirmed the Ministry's role as focal point of CITES implementation and its commitment to conserve wild species which he observed are 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,' concluded the minister.
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:Feb 26, 2019
Words:642
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