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Customs arrests expatriates over smuggling of pangolin scales, elephant tusks

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Abiola Seun The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), on Sunday, arrested three Vietnamese and five others for attempted trafficking of 397.5kg pangolin scales and ivories through Nigeria.In a press statement made available to our correspondent by the National Public Relations officer, Timi Bomodi, said the interception were made in conjunction with the Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC).According to him, preliminary investigation revealed these three Vietnamese nationals are identified as high-ranking members of a major organized crime group involved in the trafficking of ivory, pangolin scales, rhino horns and lion bones from Mozambique and South Africa through Nigeria to Vietnam.The three suspects were arrested while sourcing for pangolin scales in Nigeria, 397.5kg of which were found in their possession.It is important to note that the Wildlife Justice Commission is an international body which works to disrupt and dismantle networks of illegal wildlife trade.Bomodi said the suspects were arrested through an intelligence-led operation, saying, “the collaboration between NCS and WJC led to the confiscation of 400kg of pangolin scales put up for sale on the illegal network.“The two organizations were able to identify other members of the criminal syndicate for arrest to further put a stop to the environmental destruction posed by these unscrupulous elements. The arrested suspects have been charged to court on various counts bordering on the illegal trade in wildlife.“These arrests came as part of a proactive enforcement operation targeting the top echelon of wildlife traffickers worldwide, and are assessed to have caused unprecedented disruptions to organized global wildlife trafficking network.“This is the fourth major illegal wildlife arrest in one year resulting from the strategic partnership between the Nigeria Customs Service, Wildlife Justice Commission and other foreign governments. It demonstrates the commitment of the Nigeria Customs Service as a formidable ally in the fight against wildlife trafficking.”“Initial crackdowns in 2021 had resulted in discoveries of 7.1 tons of pangolin scales and 850 kgs of ivory, all of which were seized by the NCS.”Bomodi, however, said the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd), commended officers of the Service for their efforts in breaking the chain of illegal wildlife trade and unlawful deforestation and tree felling activities.The CGC, assured the public that the Service will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to support the rest of the world in protecting endangered species and prevent deforestation.“Nigeria Customs Service would never allow perpetrators of these crimes to profit from it or escape the wrath of the law”.It will be recalled that in 2021 the Comptroller General of Customs at a media briefing in Lagos showcased a seizure of pangolin scales and elephant tusks worth 22.6 billion Naira.This achievement was widely acknowledged as a major boost to the fight against the extinction of endangered wildlife species in Nigeria.It is pertinent to conclude that Nigeria Customs will continue to enforce schedule 6 of the Common External Tariff which identified endangered species as absolute prohibition for export.

 As a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of fauna and flora (CITES), the Service will not relent in its enforcement responsibilities by suppressing to the barest minimum the unsustainable and unethical exploitation of the nation’s fragile ecosystem and its biodiversity.

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