Customarily, there is this business-like way that things are done in and around the Nigeria Customs Service Training School, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria. However, on Wednesday 4th August 2021, the training school wore a slightly more serious look and it was obvious that something very important was going to happen there. The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), retired Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali in the company of Deputy-Comptroller General Ronke Olubiyi, who is in charge of Strategic Research and Policy, Acting Comptroller-General E.I, Edorhe, in charge of Enforcement and Drugs, Assistant Comptroller Adeyanju Aremu, the Zonal Coordinator of Zone ‘A’ and some Controllers as well as the NCS National PRO Joseph Attah were at the training school to hold a press conference to publicly present NCS’s largest seizure of contraband wildlife ever estimated at N22.2 billion.
The CG started the press conference by expressing delight with the performance of CG’s Strike Force Team A which made the remarkable seizure. The CG said in line with global best practices that NCS had developed a robust collaboration with the Embassies of the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany as well as with other credible international bodies to the extent that they now hold quarterly meetings which provide the platform to share experiences and intelligence.
According to the CG, it is this collaboration that yielded credible intelligence that the Customs Intelligence Unit and CG Strike Force Team ‘A’ swiftly acted on which led to the evacuation of sacks of different kilograms of Pangolin scales and Elephant tusks at a location on the Eastern side of Ijeoma Street, Lekki on Lagos island.
The seizure which was said to have been carried out based on the fact that it falls under Section 63 ‘E’ and ‘G’ of the Nigeria Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA), Cap 45 LFN 2004 (as amended), also falls under Export Prohibition Schedule VI of the Common External Tariff prohibits the exportation of wildlife. The CG highlighted the fact that Nigeria is a signatory to the CITES convention and therefore it cannot be used as a transit hub. A proper examination of the sacks was carried out and they were found to contain the following:
a. 17,137.40kg of Pangolin scales (196 sacks)
b. 870.44kg of Elephant Tusks
c. 4.60kg of Pangolin claws.
worth N22,283,747,850.00 (N22.2 billion)
The CG said three suspects — Traore Djakonba, Isaak Musa, and Mohammed Bereta — were arrested along with the seizure and that they were all non-Nigerians. According to the CG, the kingpin, Berete Morybinet, also a non-national, is currently on the run thinking he can evade the long arm of the law. The CG gave an assurance that all security agencies at all entry and exit points have been placed on red alert to track and arrest Mr. Berete Morybinet to face the law. The CG said the arrested suspects will soon be arraigned in court and that the same treatment will be meted out to any person or organization remotely or directly connected to this or any illegal wildlife trade in Nigeria.
While thanking the customs partners especially the Wildlife Justice Commission and those that have continued to contribute to the success of the Nigeria Customs Service, Ali assured that the service was determined and will continue to treat “any and every information with utmost confidentiality as well as with swift actions to stem this tide of illegality’’.
IWA reports that huge ivory and pangolin scale bust in Nigeria is a chance to disrupt wildlife crime networks
The seizure of a huge shipment of wildlife contraband in Nigeria is a prime opportunity to dig deeper and expose the companies and individuals involved.
On 21 January, Nigeria Customs Service confiscated a total of 8.8 tons of elephant tusks, pangolin scales, and bones from endangered wildlife species being shipped to Vietnam.
The haul was concealed in a 20ft container falsely declared as furniture materials at Apapa port, in Lagos.
When the container was opened, customs officials found logs stacked at the front concealing 162 sacks of pangolin scales and 57 sacks of ivory plus the bones of other species.
The seizure demonstrates the major roles played by Nigeria and Vietnam as, respectively, the world’s largest export hub and import hub for ivory and pangolin scales.
EIA investigations revealed how Nigeria has emerged as the world’s primary exit point for ivory and pangolin scales trafficked from Africa to Asia.
Since 2015, the West African country has been implicated in more than 30 tonnes of ivory and 167 tonnes of pangolin scales seized globally – the equivalent of at least 4,400 elephants and 167,000 pangolins.
Meanwhile, in 2018 and 2019 alone, Vietnamese Customs seized at least 22 tonnes of pangolin scales originating from Nigeria.