To tackle wildlife and forestry crime, Nigeria, Germany and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) came together during a virtual session on the 2020 World Elephant Day to announce a new partnership aimed at strengthening Nigeria’s response to the trafficking of wildlife and forestry products.
The partnership includes the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Nigeria Customs Service, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), law enforcement agencies and civil society organisations.
They are seeking to improve data-collection capacity and understanding of the driving factors of these trends, enhance the relevant policy and legal framework, strengthen law enforcement and border control agencies in their capabilities to exchange intelligence on shipments, disrupt trafficking flows and networks, cooperate internationally with their counterparts in source and destination countries, and to investigate and prosecute wildlife and forest crime offences.
Dr. Oliver Stolpe, UNODC Representative in Nigeria, stressed in his remarks the threat that wildlife trafficking poses to nature and global biodiversity. He observed that when wild animals are poached from their natural habitat, butchered and sold illegally, the potential for transmission of zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19, from animals to humans is increased.
Mrs. Birgitt Ory, Ambassador of Germany to Nigeria, remarking on the launch of the project, stated: “Together with UNODC we seek to support the Nigerian government in the important fight against trafficking in illicit wildlife products. We have a shared interest in preserving nature’s riches for future generations.”
In a goodwill message, Prof. Aliyu Jauro, Director General/CEO of NESREA, expressed optimism that “the successful implementation of the project will reduce the illicit trade in endangered species of wildlife to the barest minimum and Nigeria will regain her good image in the CITES community.”
Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, represented by the Acting Permanent Secretary, Dr. Bolatito Obisesan, acknowledged in a keynote remark that the project “will further add value to government’s effort in combating illicit activities that are detrimental to wildlife conservation in Nigeria”.
While thanking the Government of Germany and UNODC for initiating the project, the minister gave assurance of “undoubtful continuous support of the project for the period it will last for Nigeria”.
Nigeria has become a primary transit hub for several illicit wildlife and forest products, for the global illegal pangolin trade, sourced primarily from Central Africa. UNODC’s recently launched World Wildlife Crime Report 2020 found that, in 2019 alone, at least 51 tons of pangolin scales seized globally originated from Nigerian ports compared to only two tons in 2015.
Indeed, more than half of all seizures of pangolin scales worldwide could be traced back to Nigeria in 2019.