The Federal Government has initiated investigations into the seizure by the Japanese Customs Service of about 7,100 kilograms of Pangolin Scales alleged to have originated from Nigeria.
The Hong Kong Customs made the discovery in a container at the Tsing Yi Cargo Examination Compound, and mentioned Nigeria as the source.
Minister of Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jibril made this known while reacting to a media report on the seized items which are said to have an estimated market value of about $450 million, the second highest seizure of its kind.
“The Ministry has initiated the investigation of the reported illegal trade by communicating officially with the Hong Kong CITES Management Authority with a view of furnishing us with the documents that will be forwarded to INTERPOL for further investigation”, stated the Minister.
He opined that the source could not have been Nigeria as pangolin were near extinction in the country and noted that, “ Nigeria is being used as a transit route for illegal wildlife trade and the image of our nation is being severed.’’
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 is a highly protected an 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. CITES objective is to ensure 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.
Jibril 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, globalization 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” added the Minister.