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Customs intercept N22.3b worth of Pangolin scales, elephant tusks

From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos

Three suspects have been arrested by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for allegedly smuggling N22.3 billion worth of Pangolin scales and Elephant tusks, which the agency has intercepted.

The seizures, comprising 17,137.44kg Pangolin scales contained in 196 sacks, 4.60kg Pangolin claws and 870.44kg Elephant tusks were intercepted at a location on Ijeoma Street in Lekki, Lagos State after examination, the agency disclosed.

Displaying the items before newsmen in Lagos Wednesday, the Controller-General of Customs (CGC), Col. Hammed Ali (rtd), said the agency intercepted the items based on credible intelligence and collaboration between the Customs Intelligence Unit (CIU) and the Headquarters Strike Force.

Ali explained that the seizures complied with Section 63(e) and (g) of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA), Cap 45 LFN 2004 as amended, and the items fall under Export Prohibition Schedule VI of the extant Common External Tariff, which prohibits export of same.

“Nigeria is signatory to CITES convention hence cannot be used as a transit hub,” he stated. “This feat is a testimony of what sincere collaboration between nations can achieve for our world, and individual nations in particular.

“Already, three suspects who are non-nationals have been arrested. They are Mr. Traore Djakonba, Mr. Isiak Musa and Mr. Mohammed Bereta. The kingpin, Mr. Berete Morybinet, is on the run, thinking he can evade the long arm of the law.

“Security agencies at all entry and exit points are on red alert to track and arrest him to face justice. He is therefore advised in his interest to surrender to the NCS.”

According to him, the suspects would soon be prosecuted, and the same treatment awaits any person or organization directly or remotely connected to this or any other illegal trade in wildlife.

“While thanking our partners, especially the wildlife justice commission, let me give assurances of the NCS’ determination to treat any and every information with utmost confidentiality and swift, appropriate action(s) to stem this tide of illegality,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Ali explained that the ever increasing and relevant functions of the global customs community inform the need for the agency to raise revenue, suppress smuggling and intercept illegal movement of items that can compromise national security, economy, health and environment protection.

“Deforestation and depletion of wildlife, especially the endangered species, have been a global concern, with nationals collaborating, sharing intelligence and expertise that would stamp out indiscriminate killings of endangered species,” he noted.

“In line with global best practices, NCS has been in robust collaboration with embassies of U.S., UK and Germany, with other quarterly meetings that provide platform for shared experiences.”

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