Nigeria deals on illegal wildlife, forest products

The representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Oliver Stolpe said Nigeria is a key transit hub and consolidation point for various forms of illegal trade in wildlife and forest products.

He made this disclosure recently in his message to commemorate the 2024 World Wildlife Day and to present the findings and recommendations of the International Consortium for Combatting Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit Assessment for Nigeria.

Stolpe said that there are more than 1000 records between 2011 and 2020 indicating that Nigeria is a source, transit, or destination country, or that the offender was a Nigerian national.

The 2024 WWD theme ‘Connecting People and Planet: Exploring Digital Innovation in Wildlife Conservation’ underscores the pivotal role of technology in safeguarding wildlife.

The ICCWC Toolkit Assessment examines the effectiveness of the legal and regulatory environment, as well as of the institutional capacities of specialized law enforcement, prosecution, and the judiciary to prevent, detect, investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate wildlife and forest crimes.

“As we remind ourselves of the importance of preserving and protecting Nigeria’s rich biodiversity, permit me to recall some of the key findings from the Wildlife Chapter of UNODC’s Organised Crime Threat Assessment for Nigeria published in 2023. The assessment found that Nigeria is a key transit hub and consolidation point for various forms of illegal trade in wildlife and forest products, especially for pangolin, ivory and rosewood,” he stressed.

“These products are sourced both from Nigeria as well as from other countries in the region, including Cameroon, Gabon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and the Benin Republic. According to UNODC’s World Wildlife Seizures Database, there are more than 1000 records between 2011 and 2020 which indicate Nigeria as a source, transit or destination country, or where the offender was a Nigerian national.

“He commended the good work of the Nigeria Customs Service, seizures at Nigeria’s land, sea and airport border points have been on the rise, two-thirds of all seizures involving Nigeria were reported by the authorities of other countries. This suggests that interception capabilities still need to be strengthened, while enhanced information exchange and cooperation with relevant authorities in countries of origin, transit and destination offer opportunities for intelligence-led operations and parallel or even joint investigations to detect and dismantle trafficking networks.”

Stolpe noted that the report found that increased enforcement activities at the Apapa Port may be responsible for traffickers now increasingly using other Nigerian ports.

“The report further identifies border towns like Gaya in Niger, located close to the borders of both Nigeria and the Benin Republic, as a strategic site where wildlife products like elephant ivory and pangolin scales are kept prior to their import into Nigeria. Traffickers take advantage of festive and harvest seasons to move these illegal wildlife products, as authorities are less likely to search trucks during these high-volume periods when large quantities of animals and foodstuffs need to reach their destinations quickly.

“Another finding of the research suggests that armed groups are increasingly involved in the illegal harvesting and trafficking of rosewood, with nine park rangers losing their lives in violent encounters with persons involved in illegal logging in the Gashaka-Gumti National Park. in general, it appears that illegal logging activities continue, despite the 2018 trade suspension of rosewood from Nigeria,” he added.

He stated that more effort are required to tackle the illegal trade in wildlife and forest products.