Customs Records 12 Convictions for Over 20,000kg of Endangered Species Intercepted in 3yrs

The Special Wildlife Office of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), on Tuesday, disclosed that it has intercepted about 20,000 kilograms of illegal wildlife products and live specimens on the verge of being smuggled out of the country by criminals in the last 3years

Speaking at the second edition of the Cooperation meeting between the service and the Wildlife Justice Commission, the Officer in charge, NCS Special Wildlife Office, Abimbola Isafiade, stated that her office has so far secured 12 convictions on illegal wildlife cases and still counting

According to Abim, as she is fondly called, before now, the service recorded no prosecution on the arrest of Illegal Wildlife cases. However, since the creation of the office, Nigeria has taken center stage in the fight against wildlife crime and trafficking of endangered species.

She said, “In kilograms, we have seized about 20,000 kilograms of illegal wildlife products with live endangered species, and it is not just about the arrest but the fact that we are going ahead to prosecute these cases and have 12 convictions within three years with many cases pending before the court. From zero to 12 is remarkable and the best step in the right direction. Before 2021, we had zero convictions on Wildlife trafficking from Nigeria, but now, we have 12, which is commendable!

“It’s a major shift, based on the commitment by NCS in developing the capacity of its officers. It is a huge investment which is yielding these visible results”. And it shows that we are committed to the global cause. Hence, we are collaborating with other agencies in this fight because no agency can do it alone. Without all these efforts, we probably won’t be here talking about achievements today. So it is a huge success,” for which NCS, particularly the management and prosecutors, should be commended

She further stated that apart from the 12 convictions recorded, there are a series of ongoing court cases awaiting final judgment

“As of today, apart from the 12 convictions, we have a series of ongoing court cases. I’m sure we would secure convictions with stiffer penalties, with the Nigeria Customs Service Act and inclusion of financial crime investigation in NCS Illegal Wildlife cases, she said.

Also speaking on the Partnership with NCS, the Attachee of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Brian Geourgous, reiterated that the US government supports and pledges its commitment to Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) through training, provision of equipment, and other areas of needs to fight Wildlife Crime.

“Well, the U.S. government will focus on assisting Nigeria Customs Service the best way we can in some of these border areas that may be porous and may be seeing an influx of wildlife-related products undeclared.

“I think that the Nigeria Customs Service is doing a great job. We’re here to assist and to implement some training and some other areas where we feel we may be able to help NCS do a little bit better. Over the last several years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made great strides in international investigations, which is one of the reasons that I’m here. And that’s an area where we can assist Nigeria Customs Service,” he stated.

He, however, commended the service for their effort in combatting wildlife smuggling, thereby calling for improvement in strategies.

Right now, we are going to start implementing some of the strategies that you and I have talked about. We are at the point now where we will stop talking so much and start doing more.

Like any agency around the world, whether in Nigeria or the United States of America, we have to adapt and change with the criminal elements. They change, and we also need to change. So, as government agents, we need to learn and adapt to overcome, and that’s part of the reason that I am here to assist,” he stated.