By Sandra Chukwunyere
The Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, has intercepted and arrested three foreign nationals in Lekki area of Lagos for allegedly smuggling over 22 Billion Naira worth of body parts of pangolin and elephant, both endangered organisms that the nation is obliged to protect,as signatory to the Convention of International Trade on Endangered Species of wild fauna and Flora, CITES.
Announcing this at a news conference in Lagos, the Controller General Customs CGC, Col. Hammed Ibrahim-Ali (RTD) said that a manhunt has equally been launched to apprehend the kingpin of the smuggling gang, one Berefe Morybinet who is on the run.
Ibrahim-Ali who thanked NCS partners for their roles in achieving the feat stated that security agencies at all entry and exit points are on red alert to track and arrest Morybinet , even as he advised the run away smuggling kingpin to in his own interest ,turn himself to the Service.
According to him, “the seizure is in line with section 63 “e” and “g” of CEMA, cap 45 LFN 2004 as amended.
“It also falls under Export Prohibition Schedule V1 of the extant Common External Tariff which prohibits their exportation.
“Nigeria is a signatory to CITES convention, hence cannot be used as a transit hub.”The feat is a testimony of what sincere collaboration between nations can achieve for our world and individual nations in particular.
“While thanking our partners , especially the wildlife commission, let me give the assurances of the Service’s determination to treat any body and every information with utmost confidentiality and swift appropriate actions to sterm this tide of illegality.
“Already, three suspects who are non-nations have been arrested.
They are Traore Djakonba , Isiak Musa and Mohammed Bereta. The kingpin Berete Morybinet is on the run thinking he can evade the long arm of the law.
“The suspects arrested will soon have their date in court as NCS will leave no stone unturned to bring them to justice.”We will extend same treatment to any person or Organisation remotely connected to this or any illegal wildlife trade”.
A breakdown of the seized items showed that they comprised of 17,137.40kg of pangolin scales in 196 sacks, 870.44 kg of Elephant tusks and 4.6kg pangolin claws, “all with estimated value of #22,283,747,850.00”.
Col.Ali pointed out that “deforestation and depletion of wildlife, especially the endangered species have been global concern with nations collaborating, sharing intelligence and expertise that will stamp out indiscriminate killing of endangered species.
“In line with global best practice, NCS has been in robust collaboration with embassies of US, UK and Germany with other credible international bodies , already indicating interest to join our quarterly meetings that provide platform for shared experiences.
“I am therefore happy to announce that our extensive collaboration yielded credible intelligence that triggered Swift and comprehensive actions by the customs intelligent unit and the Headquarters Strikeforce.
This led to the evacuation of sacks of different killograms of pangolin scales and Elephant tusks at a location on Eastern side of Ijeoma Street, Lekki, Lagos State”, he said.
CGC underscored ” the ever increasing and relevant functions of the global customs community” in fighting the menice of wildlife smuggling , adding that the campaign by the global customs to sterm illegal movement of CITES materials would help to guarantee national security as well as economy, health and environmental protection.