The Apapa Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, on Tuesday, intercepted export containers loaded with pangolin scales and lion bones worth N950m.
NCS controller in charge of the command, Comptroller Muhammad Abba-Kura, while showcasing the seized goods to newsmen, said the container, with the number CSLU 2362640, was used to conceal 162 sacks of pangolin scales and 57 sacks of various wildlife parts, including ivory/animal horns and lion bones.
Abba-Kura, however, explained that the seized goods stood at 854,719 tonnes, with the pangolin scales alone weighing 8,800kg.
Meanwhile, findings by Financial Street has shown that despite a 2017 ban on international commercial trade of pangolin scales, experts have estimated that more than a million pangolins were poached from year 2000 through to 2014.
Explaining further, the Customs Apapa Area boss said that the items were falsely declared as furniture components in an attempt to evade arrest, but operatives of the command, acting on intelligence, were able to intercept it upon physical examination.
“In the declaration on the Nigeria Export Proceed number, the exporter indicated furniture components, but if you look at how the logs were arranged in the container, you will know that they have something to hide. Apart from the wildlife itself, the exporter contravened the export procedure by falsely declaring the content of the container as furniture components whereas the log is not even up to five per cent of the content of the container,” he said.
The controller explained that exportation of endangered species such as pangolin and other wild life parts was against international conventions and therefore prohibited.
He said, “Our action of impounding this container is in line with provisions of Section 147 of the Customs and Excise Management Act Cap 45 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. Also, the seizure is in line with Schedule 6 of the Common External Tariff.
“The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species entails that Customs administration all over the world protects wild life by intercepting illegal trade on such animals. Pangolins – scaly, shy and sensitive – are believed to be the world’s most trafficked non-human mammals, accounting for as much as 20 per cent of all illegal wildlife trade.
“Their scales, which are made of keratin have no scientifically proven curative properties, but are in high demand for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Consequently, all eight species are threatened with extinction.
The Customs boss said one suspect identified as Felix Oname of 17, Chief Joseph Udeth Street, Egan Igando, Lagos State, had been arrested in connection with the seizure.
He said the suspect was being interrogated and after due investigation, the service would take necessary action in line with environmental laws, convention and treaties on environment.
Abba-Kura, while reiterating Customs’ zero tolerance for false declaration, assured that all efforts would be geared towards ensuring that such dangerous and harmful environmental crimes were detected and prevented.
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