FG, UNODC to tackle illegal wildlife trade, forest crime

Due to the major export hub of pangolin scales trafficked through Nigeria, the federal government and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have put in place the National Strategy Policy to tackle illegal wildlife trade and forest crime. HELEN OJI reports.

Wildlife crime in Nigeria has become a hydra headed challenge limiting the conservation effort of the federal government and undermining the achievement of sustainable forest management. The recognition of this is critical and timely and the human being cannot exist in isolation of nature because ecosystem, economies and societies share a strong bond of interconnectivity.

The gradual loss of important ecosystems and their resultant services which are extremely difficult to replace has detrimental effects on the planet and can result in large scale environmental crises if not curtailed.  Wildlife crime syndicates are well established and organised, what is required is innovative, well-connected network across the African countries as well as identifying legislative loopholes and proceeds. Traffickers have been found to stockpile pangolin scales in countries with less enforcement and weak legislation. 

Trafficking wildlife

According to the Country Representative, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, (UNODC), Mr Oliver Stoipe, Nigeria’s wildlife and forests are under severe threat, with immense amounts of rare tropical woods being illegally extracted and smuggled out of

the country.

Stoipe stated that Nigeria over the past decade has evolved into a primary transit hub for the trafficking of wildlife products, including ivory, pangolin scales and other protected species. 

He added that UNODC’s 2020 Wildlife Crime Report found that despite Nigeria

being home to less than 0.1% of Africa’s elephant population, 23% of all elephant tusks seized globally between 2015 and 2019 had been smuggled through Nigerian ports.

He noted that “we have seen Nigeria evolve into a major export hub for pangolin scales, with close to 60% of all seizures having either originated or been trafficked through Nigeria.

“Similarly, equally concerning, the illicit extraction and export of African Rosewood, locally known as “kosso”, despite the suspension of legal international trade of Nigerian rosewood by the CITES standing Committee in 2018, illegal logging has continued. The UNODC 2020 World Wildlife Crime Report notes that between 2015 and 2018, there was a considerable spike in the volume of kosso exported from Nigeria, with the country accounting for the lion’s share of kosso exports from Africa. In 2017 alone, over 50% of kosso exports from Africa were traced to Nigeria.

Awareness on wildlife crime

Also speaking, Minister of Environment, Mohammed Hassan Abdullahi, stated that the goal is to free Nigeria of wildlife and forest crime, this requires enhancing institutional capacity, strengthening the legal frameworks, increase collaboration and remove crime enablers, raise awareness of wildlife crime and design alternative means of livelihood for dwellers of local communities.

“We will provide all technical and necessary support towards the full implementation of this national strategy.

Abdullahi stressed that the attention will focused on the strength, weakness, opportunities and threats (SWOT), analysis taking into account the highlighted political, economic, socio-cultural, technological, legal, environmental and law enforcement indices with a view to ensuring that key players at the Federal, State and other levels do the needful and are guided and motivated appropriately to maximize the gains of the strategy.

Fauna and flora

“Nigeria commits to the convention on International Trade in. Endangered Species of fauna and flora (CITES) and will not relent as it continues to collaborate with our partners and stakeholders at the national and regional levels in the thematic areas of the fight against illegal wildlife and forest trade through the mechanism of investigation, enforcement, prosecution and stockpile management

Furthermore, the railways and airline operators in which giant dedicated electronic billboards will be erected at strategic locations at our airports and others with clear and instructive messages to create awareness and sensitization in the protection and forest resources while discouraging illegal trade and trafficking in wildlife.

Biodiversity conservation

According to Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor,  “We need to achieve sustainable management of the environment, biodiversity conservation other than an instrument that could facilitate the effective and efficient implementation of our lofty policies, programmes and initiatives.”

She noted that it is embodiment of all that is needed to reverse the negative trend of social, political and economic impact of wildlife crime in Nigeria.

“Nigeria is blessed with cornucopia of natural resources which comprise of rich biodiversity ranging from aquatic to terrestrial fauna and flora. The over 1,800 species of fauna and about 4,600 species flora reported to be found in Nigeria are under serious multiple threat pushing them to the verge of being lost irredeemably.

She emphasize that it is not a enough to have the strategy as an addition to our collection, It’s effective implementation at all levels for the attainment of it’s core outputs and results will go a long way in achieving its objectives.

Head of Wildlife and CITES Management, Mr. Timothy John, who reviewed the policy, said Nigeria is already on the path to fight against illegal wildlife and forest crime, noting, they are now tackling transnational and domestic forest products.

While promising to enhance institutional capabilities in the country, John urged government to track transport and financial flows; carry out surveillance on marine, freshwater and terrestrial crime.

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