LONDON: Nigeria’s new Endangered Species Conservation and Protection Bill to combat wildlife trafficking and protect highly endangered species has passed its first reading at the Nigeria House of Representatives.
Prepared by the Nigerian Ministry of Environment and jointly sponsored by Hon. Johnson Oghuma, Chair of the House Environment Committee, and Hon. Sam Onuigbo, the legislation would make Nigeria compliant with international conventions on endangered species, organised crime and corruption while increasing investigative powers to include financial enquiries and intelligence-led operations.
In addition to creating offences for damaging critical habitats, permit violations, the introduction of invasive species, obstruction and preparing to commit an illegal act, the Bill passed on Wednesday would increase penalties to reflect the seriousness of the crimes and their impact on endangered species; expands courts’ ability to expedite wildlife cases and recover assets, create corporate liability and support international cooperation.
Oghuma said: “The rate at which some species of fauna and flora are being extinguished is assuming a frightening dimension. Every day, more and more species are becoming endangered and pushed to the brink of extinction. It is worthy of note that any action that is against biodiversity sustainability comes with a great cost. Just as humans have the right to life, so do the plants and animals.
“We [Nigeria] must therefore do everything within our strength to ensure their sustainability. It is time to act to stop environmental degradation and protect our wildlife and plants globally and Nigeria cannot afford to be the last.”
Africa Nature Investors Foundation (ANI), the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Wild Africa Fund have been actively supporting the Nigerian Government’s efforts to fight illegal wildlife trafficking, with support from the UK Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund and the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
Tunde Morakinyo, ANI Executive Director, said: “This is a momentous thing for Nigeria. The whole world is watching us. Let’s get it right and show the world how we can be the leaders in Africa on fighting the illegal trade in wildlife.
“We salute the politicians for giving this their attention so close to the elections. They know how important this is for Nigeria.”
Mary Rice, EIA Executive Director, stated: “This comprehensive legislation is cutting-edge and a potential game-changer. Working alongside our partners, EIA sees this as a key step in tackling trafficking and protecting critically endangered wildlife in Nigeria and across Africa. We hope it can be rapidly adopted to address the current crisis.”
Wild Africa Fund CEO Peter Knights added: “Nigeria has become the epicentre of the illegal trade in ivory and pangolin scales. If passed, this Bill would give authorities the legal tools to close down trafficking – border agencies have made huge seizures but have struggled to prosecute and pursue criminals internationally due to weak laws previously.”
CONTACTS FOR MEDIA
- Justin Gosling, EIA Senior Project Coordinator (West and Central Africa), via justingosling[at]eia-international.org
- Wilson Ogoke, ANI Wildlife Policy Coordinator, via wo[at]ani-nigeria.org
- Kelechukwu Iruoma, Wild Africa Fund Nigeria Representative, via kelechukwu[at]wildafricafund.org
- The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses. Our undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants, pangolins and tigers, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops such as palm oil; we work to safeguard global marine ecosystems by tackling plastic pollution, exposing illegal fishing and seeking an end to all whaling; and we address the threat of global warming by campaigning to curtail powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases and exposing related criminal trade.
- Africa Nature Investors Foundation (ANI) is an indigenous Nigerian non-governmental organisation working to make Africa’s nature and wildlife a source of pride to Africans. One of ANI’s main visions is to demonstrate that appropriate private sector-led investments can make nature conservation in Africa sustainable and profitable in a manner that provides development benefits locally and nationally. ANI is led by experienced African professionals committed to bringing best-practice nature conservation to West and East Africa.
- The Wild Africa Fund is a non-profit organisation that employs mass communications such as the “Music for Wildlife” and “Poaching steals from us all” campaigns to change attitudes to poaching, habitat loss and human wildlife conflict. Wild Africa Fund also promotes wildlife tourism and carbon offset as a new source of conservation and sustainable development funding. It also promotes and directly supports local wildlife programmes from offices in Cape Town, Lagos and Kigali and runs the programmes previously under WildAid in South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.
- Johnson Oghuma is a member of the Federal House of Representatives representing Etsako East/West/Central Federal Constituency
- Sam Onuigbo is a member of the Federal House of Representatives representing Ikwuano/Umuahia North/South Federal Constituency.
- International conventions on endangered species, organised crime and corruption, to which Nigeria is a signatory member, include the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
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