Connect with us

Customs Corner

Nigeria advised to do more to crack down as pangolin trade increases



Nigerian trafficking

Nigerian advised to do more to crackdown

as pangolin trade increases

  • Training of Nigerian officials and exchanges with their customs counterparts in destination countries including China and Vietnam are expected to improve intelligence sharing and curb trafficking.
  • Enforcement and prosecution of laws against wildlife trafficking remains weak, say experts, who emphasize the need to treat the matter as a transnational crime rather than as a conservation issue.
  • Authorities seized 113 tonnes of pangolin scales originating in Nigeria between 2016 and 2019, more than half of global seizures.

Law enforcement officials around the world have seized more than 200 tonnes of pangolin scales since 2016, more than half of it linked to Nigeria, a new report has found.

The report, published February by the Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC), identified 52 major seizures of pangolin products between 2016 and 2019. More than 130 tonnes were intercepted in 2018 and 2019 alone, indicating an unprecedented increase in trafficking, often engineered by organized criminal networks. In all likelihood, “significant quantities” of pangolin scales continue to be smuggled undetected across borders and oceans.

WJC, which works to tackle organized crime in wildlife trafficking, focused on seizures of 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) or more, collecting and analyzing media reports, as well as conducting its own investigations to fully assess the extent of the illegal trade in pangolin scales.

The report identifies 27 countries and territories “disproportionately involved” in the trafficking of pangolin scales: just six — Nigeria, Vietnam, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) — accounted for 94% of all intercepted scales.

The analysis points out that the most persistent smuggling routes connect Nigeria to Vietnam and Hong Kong, with Singapore emerging as a transit hub between these countries.

The total weight linked to Nigeria irrespective of role continued to increase throughout the period studied, rising from 10.4 tonnes in 2016 to 13.2 tonnes in 2017, 36.5 tonnes in 2018, and 52.9 tonnes last year. (The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime last year pointed out that with pangolins in Nigeria seemingly already hunted to the verge of extinction, scales smuggled out of the country to Asia may originate from poaching in neighboring countries.

Pangolin traffickers. Image by USAID via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Strengthening enforcement

Nigeria’s Endangered Species (Control of International Trade and Traffic) Act outlaws trade in pangolins. It was amended in 2016 to allow a maximum fine of 5 million naira ($13,000) or one year in prison for offenders.

But with seizures in 2019 easily outstripping 2018’s total, these penalties appear to be insufficient deterrent for either the wealthy syndicates involving Asian merchants and their Nigerian counterparts that drive the trade, or the hunters and bushmeat vendors who supply it, poaching pangolins from as far away as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Abimbola Animashawun, an intelligence officer with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), says it is “worrying … that Nigerian law and penalty for such offenses is still too weak and this is not helping matters at all.”

Very few people have been convicted for wildlife trafficking offenses, despite occasional in-country seizures of large shipments of scales. Thirty-one seizures of illegal wildlife between March 2010 and August 2018 are recorded in a September 2018 submission to CITES, the global wildlife trade authority, from Nigeria’s environment ministry. But only eight of these cases were prosecuted, with three convictions: in each case, the court handed offenders a six-month jail sentence with the option to pay a fine of 100,000 naira ($260).

Enforcement at both ends of the supply chain is also hindered by corruption, according to Sarah Stoner, WJC’s director of intelligence.

Also Read:

“As in any major transnational organised crime, corruption is an enabler of wildlife trafficking, and from previous investigations the WJC has identified that wildlife trafficking is often synonymous with the presence of ‘compliant’ enforcement officials who facilitate the smuggling,” Stoner told Mongabay in an email.

“There is no doubt that transnational trafficking at this scale could not happen without corruption and it continues to be the greatest challenge in addressing wildlife trafficking.”

A raft of new initiatives, including workshops for Nigeria’s enforcement officers and international exchange meetings, has been implemented by conservation groups since 2017 to improve capacity for detection, interception and intelligence sharing.

For instance, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has organized workshops for Nigerian customs officials to help them search and thoroughly inspect consignments to improve detection rates for illegal wildlife products such as pangolin scales and ivory, thanks to funding from the U.K. Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund. Customs officials currently prioritize efforts to intercept contraband like rice, imports of which via land border posts have been banned since 2016.

WCS says it hopes the officers who received training will be better able to prevent trafficking of pangolin scales. Additional workshops are planned for Lagos and Port Harcourt this year, said WCS Nigeria director Andrew Dunn.

In September 2019, WCS also facilitated a visit to Nigeria by top Chinese customs officials to share intelligence about Chinese nationals and others identified as part of organized networks involved in the seized pangolin scales originating from Nigeria.

This meeting, Dunn said, will help both countries better coordinate efforts to tackle trafficking of pangolins and other wildlife. There are plans for a similar visit by Vietnamese customs officials in the first half of 2020.

With additional support from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, WCS is also working with Nigeria’s National Environmental Standards and Regulations Agency (NESREA) and the NCS to ensure that all seized wildlife products, such as pangolin scales and ivory, are properly catalogued in an online database and stored in secure locations around the country.

One of the WCS staff works directly with the NESREA in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to keep reliable inventory of all seizures, improve security of the stockpile to ensure that intercepted contraband does not slip back into the market, and make the data readily available for policymakers to improve planning.

White-bellied pangolin. Image by Darren Pietersen/African Pangolin Working Group

Stoner urges stronger international cooperation and demands that trafficking of pangolin scales must be addressed as a transnational crime rather than as a conservation issue. “As in other forms of serious and organized crimes, the application of advanced investigative techniques and intelligence analysis is largely not being applied to wildlife trafficking,” she said.

Stoner points to a recent large-scale seizure of pangolin scales smuggled via Cameroon and the consequent arrest of 20 suspects as a “good example of how high-level and closely coordinated interventions to effectively disrupt the criminal networks driving the global trafficking of scales are crucial.”

Stephen Aina, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation’s coordinator for species recovery and conservation programs, says he wants custom officials to explore the use of whistle-blowers for interceptions and arrests. But he says he also believes a more coordinated approach is required to address the trafficking of pangolin.

“Efforts within the country are at best disjointed and largely uncoordinated,” Aina said.

“There is the need for stakeholders to develop a pangolin conservation blueprint and action plan that will be binding on all actors … a nationally coordinated recommendation is key.”

Continue Reading



Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Customs Corner

PTML Customs Command Generates N66.9b, Targets Two-Hour Clearance Time for Vehicles



Author: Gift Wada.

The Port Terminal Multiservices Limited (PTML) Command of the Nigeria Customs Service has collected N66,920,181,586.30 as total revenue for the first quarter of 2024, which is N22,198,965,809.55 higher than N44,721,215,776.75 collected between January and March 2023, representing 49.6 percent increase.

The Customs Area Controller (CAC) of the command, Comptroller Saidu Yusuf, in a press statement signed by the Command’s Spokesperson, Chief Superintendent of Customs Muhammad Yakubu, on 13 April 2024, described the increase in revenue collection as a laudable feat.

Comptroller Yusuf, while commending the Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, MFR, for initiating strategies to achieve faster cargo clearance, assured that PTML Command under his watch aims to surpass its record of three-hour cargo clearance for compliant traders.

“The launching of time release study (TRS), which is ongoing, and other deliberate efforts by the Comptroller General have contributed to expanding terminal space and promoting ease of doing business in PTML.

“The PTML command has the potential to achieve two-hour cargo clearance and surpass its existing three hours records if port users compliance level is improved,” he said.

Comptroller Yusuf, who described PTML as one of the safest and most secure environments for Roll On Roll Off (RoRo) and general cargoes, also advised importers and their agents to take advantage of the incentives available for compliant traders such as fast track, advance ruling and possible migration to the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status.

He reminded port users in PTML of the robust and time-conscious dispute resolution mechanism, which has contributed immensely to the revenue collection, trade facilitation, and anti-smuggling functions of the command.

While commending the various government and private sector stakeholders for their cooperation and support towards the realisation of the government’s goal for revenue collection and prevention of unlawful activities, Comptroller
Yusuf expressed optimism that the command will surpass its annual target for the year.

He described the importation of vehicles meant for Nigerian roads into neighbouring countries with the intent to smuggle them through unapproved roads into Nigeria as unpatriotic and an act of economic sabotage as the command has the capacity for seamless and efficient processing of such automobile cargoes.

For the second quarter and first half of the year, the CAC enjoined command officers to maximally deploy available technology and rededicate themselves to the job to achieve more.

He reminded port users that there is increased anti-smuggling vigilance to uncover concealment such as under declaration and smuggling of prohibited items. The CAC added that any discovered infraction will fully evoke the Nigeria Customs Service Act (NCSA) 2023, where there are spelt-out penalties.

Continue Reading

Customs Corner

Comptroller Jaiyeoba Commends Apapa Scanning Officers for Non-Compromise



Author: Ibe Wada.

The Customs Area Controller (CAC) of Apapa Area Command, Comptroller Babajide Jaiyeoba, has commended Officers of the Non-Intrusive Inspection Technology Unit (NIITU) for their invaluable contributions to the overall success of the Command.

Comptroller Jaiyeoba, who paid an unscheduled visit to the scanner site, reminded the officers of the importance of teamwork in sustaining the gains of compliance and revenue collection recently recorded by the command.

In a press statement issued on Tuesday, 9 April 2024, by the Public Relations Officer, Chief Superintendent of Customs, Abubakar Usman, the CAC thanked Deputy Comptroller of Customs Salamatu Atuluku, the Scanner Manager of the scanning site and encouraged the unit not to be deterred by complaints coming from persons who were made to pay accurate duties to the government after issuance of demand notices.

According to him, no business person made to part with money will be happy with Officers who refuse to compromise the ethics of their jobs.

Addressing the officers, he said, “The main reason for me coming here is to appreciate you. I may not see you, but I have seen your work, and I won’t keep quiet about what I have seen. You are doing very well.”

He urged the Officers to remain steadfast in their commitment to integrity, emphasising that uncompromising adherence to their duties would ensure their credibility before the public and their superiors.

“For those of you doing intervention in the form of Demand Notice(DN), there is nobody who part with money that will be happy with you. They will want to play intelligent by hiding somewhere. When you fetch them from their hiding place, they become your enemy. Whatever they write about anybody here will still come down to me, and if anybody works well, the onus on me is to defend such a person”. He added.

The CAC acknowledged the challenges faced by Officers issuing demand notices, highlighting the inevitability of dissatisfaction from individuals required to pay accurate duties to the government.

He reminded the unit not to be swayed by such complaints but to focus on upholding the integrity of their work.

Comptroller Jaiyeoba encouraged the officers to remain resilient, noting that their commitment to excellence would lead to further responsibilities and recognition.

“Just have it at the back of your mind that you owe yourself the duty of doing your work diligently whether anyone comes around as a friend or enemy. It is not enough for you to rest. The reward for hard work is more work.” He concluded.

Continue Reading

Customs Corner

PH Oil & Gas FTZ Customs Generates N11B, Surpasses Revenue Target



Author: Lucy Nyambi.

The Nigeria Customs Service, PH Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone Command, has generated the sum of N11,745,352,898.00 in the first quarter of 2024. This surpasses the revenue target of N1,245,352,898.00, representing an 11.9% increment in the first quarter of 2024.

This was contained in a statement signed by the Command Public Relations Officer, ASC II Paul Gimba, on Monday, 8 April 2024, on behalf of the Customs Area Controller (CAC), Comptroller Abubakar Umar.

According to the statement, Comptroller Abubakar Umar attributed the achievement to robust and positive engagement with relevant stakeholders in the industry.

He said, “This remarkable record was achieved as a result of robust and positive engagement with relevant stakeholders in the industry. This stakeholder engagement has minimised resistance to customs laws, improved problem solving and identified potential risks and challenges from stakeholders’ perspectives and trade facilitation. ”

“This line of action is in line with the Comptroller-General of Customs Bashir Adewale Adeniyi MFR policy thrust of Consolidation, Collaboration, Innovation and implementation of the CGC’s trade facilitation initiatives”. He emphasised.

According to the CAC, the Command will continue to facilitate trade in the export of refined sugar “from Bundu Sugar Refinery, fertiliser from Notore Chemical Industries PLC and LNG from Bonny Island including collection of revenue on goods entering into the Customs territory such as Oil and Gas Equipment, oil well supplies, spare parts and instrumentation and tubing etc.”

Comptroller Umar stated that the command’s zero tolerance for revenue leakage had earned a commendation from the CGC.

“On the 26th February 2024, the Comptroller-General of Customs commended three officers of this Command over the recovery of N3,118,444,588.00. It cannot be over-emphasized the role of collective efforts and dedication to duty of Officers and Men of this Command in this significant achievement. ” He said.

The Customs Area Controller appreciated the CGC and the Management of the Nigeria Customs Service in the commendation of officers’ diligence, which has boosted the morale of officers and men of the Command.

Continue Reading