Nigeria now listed as ‘country of concern’ on international wildlife trafficking

A REPORT by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) says the United States Department has reviewed Nigeria’s status from a previous category of a ‘focus country’ to a ‘country of concern’ due to illegal wildlife trafficking.

Cambodia and Cameroun also are on the same list.

The new status is a product of the US Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, a body comprising of 17 federal departments and agencies.

The US government organisations work to implement the US National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking in order to improve responses and resilience to illegal trafficking of wildlife in selected key countries.

In 2019 fiscal year, the US government earmarked about $114 million to Combat Wildlife Trafficking (CWT) globally.

It deploys three major approaches to realising the CWT target – strengthening law enforcement, reducing demand and building international cooperation to make the trade less lucrative for perpetrators, 2020 End Wildlife Trafficking Strategic Review reads.

However, the study outcome, according to the EIA recognises “serious concerns that either high-level or systemic government involvement has occurred.”

The EIA attributed some of the data sources used to reach the conclusion on classified information from different sources, public data including data from the US state department.

“This review is yet further evidence that Nigeria, whose crime index and criminal market scores for wildlife crime were rated as the highest in Africa, must urgently strengthen its response to the wildlife criminals who continue to exploit weak law enforcement to devastate the region’s wildlife populations for the illegal trade,” it added.

Nigeria has been on the radar for illegal trafficking of wildlife and other endangered species despite being a signatory to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

The nation is said to have played a major role in the illegal wildlife trade to consumer markets in Asia.

In April 2019, The ICIR reported how the Singaporean Authorities seized $51.6 million worth of pangolin scales. This was five days after a world record 12.9 tonnes of the animal scale, said to have originated from Nigeria was seized by the Singaporean Customs and other port officials.

2,500 kilograms of Pangolin scales and 600 kilograms of Ivory Tusks seized by the Vietnamese Customs Service, early February 2019 was said to have originated from Nigeria.

This seizure is different from 8, 200 kilograms of Pangolin scales and 2, 000 kilograms of Ivory Tusks seized by the Hong Kong Customs Service, and allegedly trafficked from the Apapa Seaport, Lagos.

“More disturbing is the fact that Nigeria is 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,” Suleiman Zarma stated in a reaction.

He had argued that Pangolin was near extinction in Nigeria, thus the nation could not have been the country of source for the endangered animals.

Efforts to reach Sagir el-Mohammed, the Director of Press, Federal Ministry of Environment failed as he did not respond to his call and text message sent to his phone.

Olugbenga heads the Investigations Desk at The ICIR. Do you have a scoop? Shoot him an email at Twitter Handle: @OluAdanikin

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