By Steve Agbota, Lagos
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Thursday ordered the remand in the custody of the Nigeria Customs Service five persons accused of trying to export N22.3 billion worth of pangolin scales and elephant tusks.
The five accused persons include four Guinea nationals and a Nigerian. Three of the accused who were present in court were arrested in Lagos in August by officials of the Nigeria Customs Service
The accused who were identified as Troare Djakonba, Muyribein Bereye, Mohammed Berete, Sediki Berete (Guinean) and Isiaka Musa were arraigned before Justice Tijjani Rigim of the Federal High Court, Lagos on a four-count charge.
Muyribein Bereye and Sediki Berete were not in court as they were said to be on the run, with counsel to Nigeria Customs Service informing the court that efforts are ongoing to ensure their arrest.
All the accused persons were arraigned on four count charges bordering on collecting, loading, transporting and attempting to export N22.3 billion worth of pangolin scales and elephant tusks.
The charges brought against them in court were read in Manike language, a Guinean dialect, by a translator. They all pleaded not guilty to all four-count charges.
Trial Judge Justice Tijjani Rigim ordered that the accused remain in the custody of the Nigeria Customs Service until September 1 when a counter application for a bail application filed by the defence counsel is filed by NCS.
Justice Tijjani Rigim adjourned the case until September 1 to allow the Nigeria Customs Service to file a counter bail application.
Briefing reporters after the arraignment, counsel to the Nigeria Customs Service Smart Akande said all necessary applications would be filed before the adjourned date.
Barr Akanfe said the five accused persons were supposed to have been arraigned in court on August 18 but was stalled by the absence in a court of a translator.
He said recalled that the Comptroller General of NCS, Col Hameed Ali (retd), had on August 4 said officials of the service arrested three persons with different kilograms of Pangolin scales and Elephant tusks worth N22.3 billion in Lagos.
‘While displaying the seizures to newsmen in Lagos, the CGC Col said the 17,137.44 kilograms of Pangolin scales (196 sacks), 870.44 kilograms of Elephant tusks and 4.60 kilograms of Pangolin claws were evacuated at a location on the eastern side of Ijeoma Street, Lekki, Lagos State after proper examination.
‘He also said extensive collaboration yielded credible intelligence that triggered swift and comprehensive actions by the Customs Intelligence Unit and Headquarters Strikeforce,’ Akande added.