The Federal Government has promulgated the National Strategy to Combat Wildlife and Forest Crime in the country.
Speaking in Abuja on Monday at the launch of the National Strategy to Combat Wildlife and Forest Crime in Nigeria (2022-2026), the Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdullahi noted that wildlife crime syndicates are well established and organised, insisting that what is required is innovative, well-connected network across the African countries identifying legislative loopholes and weak security architecture to block seamless movement of wildlife crime and proceeds.
The Minister, while stating that traffickers have been found to stockpile pangolin scales in countries with less enforcement and weak legislation, said: “The development of Nigerian strategy on wildlife and forest crime is critical and timely.”
He added that: “Today Nigeria heed to the demand of the international community for a well-structured guidelines, legislation and punishment for wildlife traffickers and other related forest crime perpetrators.
“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.”
He assured that under his watch, the Ministry of Environment would provide all technical and necessary support towards the full implementation of the national strategy.
He however said the state governments are needed to adopt the strategy as part of their critical policy framework to ensure that the objective of the national strategy is achieved.
He said: “At the federal level, unparalleled attention will be focused on the implementation framework as enunciated in the Strategy. Similarly, attention will be focused in the Strength, Weaknesses, 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 maximise the gains of the Strategy.”
He acknowledged that the landmark achievements would not have been possible without the cooperation and support of the numerous passionate partners including development partners.
The Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor noted that Nigeria is blessed with cornucopia of natural resources which comprise of rich biodiversity ranging from aquatic to terrestrial fauna and flora.
She said: “The over 1,800 species of fauna and about 4,600 species of flora reported to be found in Nigeria are under serious multiple threats pushing them to the verge of being lost irredeemably. Wildlife and Forest crime which include the illegal taking, trading, harvesting, processing, killing, possessing and consumption of wild fauna and flora in all its habitat range – aquatic, terrestrial and arboreal has in recent years been a big challenge in the conservation of biodiversity within the nation’s boundaries.”
Also speaking at the Launch, the Country Representative of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Oliver Stolpe said: the promulgation of this strategy comes at a critical time, stressing that over the past decade Nigeria has evolved into a primary transit hub for the trafficking of wildlife products, including ivory, pangolin scales and other protected species.
He said: “At the same time, Nigerian wildlife and forests are under severe threat, with immense amounts of rare tropical woods being illegally extracted and smuggled out of the country.”
He disclosed 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.
“Similarly, 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.”