Nigeria seizes seven tonnes of pangolin scales as analysis launches to help it fight wildlife crime

Nigeria has announced a huge bust of pangolin scales and ivory on the eve of the launch of a new legal analysis seeking to help the country more effectively fight illegal wildlife trade.

In a raid on 28 July, announced yesterday and reported by PM News, Nigeria Customs Service seized 7.137 tonnes of pangolin scales and 4.6kg of pangolin claws – the equivalent of at least 7,000 of the endangered creatures.

In addition, the operation in Lagos seized 846.34kg of ivory tusks and arrested three suspects; others are believed to have already fled Nigeria.

The seizure was announced on the eve of an event in the capital Abuja, where the US Embassy, in partnership with EIA and the Africa Nature Investors Foundation (ANI), launched the groundbreaking resource Combating Wildlife Crime in Nigeria – An analysis of the Criminal Justice Legislative Framework.

In recent years, Nigeria has emerged as Africa’s main transit and export hub for trafficking in elephant ivory, pangolin scales and other wildlife, but this in-depth analysis of the country’s relevant laws aims to help it turn the tide.

National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency Director General Aliyu Jauro, representing Honourable Minister of State for Environment Sharon Ikeazor, chaired today’s launch.

US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Kathleen FitzGibbon welcomed participants to the event and emphasised the critical need for greater communication and collaboration between investigative, prosecutorial and judicial bodies to bring about quicker justice and sentences which hold violators accountable.

“By working together, we will make more rapid progress in eliminating, neutralising and disrupting wildlife trafficking,” she said. “We need to do more to raise public indignation about this ugly crime that imperils the planet’s biodiversity, funds organised crime, spreads disease like COVID-19 and threatens the very existence of Nigeria’s unique and beautiful animals.”

At the launch of the legal analysis in Abuja (c) EIA

EIA Executive Director Mary Rice explained: “The networks responsible for trafficking wildlife from Nigeria are organised and well-coordinated, but the law enforcement response is fragmented and weak. This legal analysis recommends a coordinated multi-agency approach to strategically disrupt wildlife crime networks.

“We commend the Nigeria Customs Service for the significant seizures of pangolin scales and ivory, as well as arrests, made in July and January this year.”

ANI Executive Director Tunde Morakinyo added: “For too long, Nigeria has been rapidly losing its precious biodiversity to crime and corruption. The legal analysis launched today highlights concrete actions that we can adopt to protect our last remaining wild species and places for the present and future generations of Nigerians.”