By Steve Agbota, Lagos
Operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) attached to the Comptroller General of Customs Strike Force at the weekend bust another gang responsible for the smuggling of pangolin scales and claws.
During the undercover operation, the team recovered a total of 1,014 kg of pangolin scales and claws valued at about N1.73 billion while two suspects were arrested.
Those arrested were identified as Salif Sanwidi and Sunday Ebeyin, while other members of the gang are currently on the run. Efforts are ongoing to apprehend the fleeing members of the gang.
Addressing the media at the Customs Training School, Ikeja, where the seizures were displayed, the National Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Deputy Controller (DC), Joseph Attah, said that experts from the Federal Ministry of Environment, Department of Forestry, are expected to conduct the DNA test on the pangolin scales to determine the country where the animals were killed.
According to him, although the illegal dealing in wildlife is not essentially a Nigerian phenomenon, some foreigners with the active connivance of a few Nigerians are bent on using Nigeria as a transit country.
He recalled that the service, acting on credible intelligence provided by international partners, announced wildlife seizure worth over N22 billion and with the arrested suspects currently facing prosecution.
‘In the course of further investigation to arrest other members of the gang, we received another credible intelligence from same international partner, wildlife justice commission, and swiftly deployed our intelligence operatives with the Strike Force as a SWOT team.
‘This led to the interception of one Mercedes Benz Bus with registration number BGT 256 LG along Kudirat Abiola Way Oregun, Ikeja, Lagos. Upon 100 percent examination, the bus was found to contain 1,009.5 kg pangolin scales = 1,009.5kg and 5kg pangolin claws totaling 1,014.5kg with duty paid value (DPV) of N1,728,788,750.00.
‘Two suspects have already been arrested in connection with this seizure. They are Mr Salif Sanwidi and Mr Sunday Ebenyi. They will also be charged to court to answer for their crime. For the avoidance of doubt, illegal wildlife trade contravenes Section 63 “e” and “g” of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap 45 LFN 2004,’ he said.
‘Nigeria is a signatory to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. As a responsible member of the global community, we cannot allow our nation to be used as a conduit pipe for illegal trade on wildlife. We remain committed to the quarterly meeting with embassies of USA, UK and Germany and welcome on board other International organisations that are joining the fray,’ he said.
Oluyemi Babajide, from the Ministry of Environment, Department of Forestry, assured that all seizures would be destroyed in line with the international laws when the Federal Government grant such approval.