Illegal parcels (Nigeria)
January 11, 2017
The Nation

News that the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) intercepted 23 elephant tusks worth over N458 million “between the 2015 and 2016 financial years” signified the relevance of the organisation, despite the challenges facing the postal system. The parcelled items were reportedly detected during screening at the International Mail Processing Centre (IMPC) in Lagos.

“The value of the 485.4kg of elephant tusks intercepted translates to $1,019,340 with the naira equivalent of N458, 703, 000,” said the Postmaster-General/Chief Executive Officer, Bisi Adegbuyi, while handing them over to the Director-General, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency. 
According to Adegbuyi, NIPOST’s findings showed that 1kg of elephant tusks has a black market price tag of $2,100.  It is a reflection of the poachers’ poor perception of the Nigerian postal system that they considered it safe enough for such illegality.  ”The successful interception of the 485.4kg of elephant tusks by NIPOST and the Nigeria Customs Service in the course of parcel screening exercise at the International Mail Processing Centre has proved them wrong,” Adegbuyi said reassuringly.

The success of institutional structures in this instance should be applauded. In particular, it is commendable that corruption was not allowed to influence correct official conduct. It is conceivable that desperate poachers may not be averse to employing corruption to beat the system.

It is no news that the greatest threat to elephants is large-scale poaching to supply the illegal global ivory trade. In 1989, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the international trade in ivory.  Elephant ivory is sought for its texture, softness, and lack of a tough outer coating of enamel; and the major markets for commercial ivory sales include the US, China, Thailand and Hong Kong.

Of course, NIPOST’s interception of elephant tusks means that the animals can be found in Nigeria where forest elephants are said to live in small populations scattered across the southern part of the country. An elephant conservation report said: “Yankari Game Reserve contains the largest surviving elephant population in Nigeria, and one of the largest remaining in West Africa. Estimated at about 350 individuals, this population is perhaps the only viable population remaining in Nigeria.”

It is a matter of conjecture as to where the seized tusks were obtained within the country. But the interception is certainly weighty enough to prompt greater vigilance wherever elephants can be found in the country.

Beyond the protection of endangered species, there is the important question of sanctions for violators. It is good news that two Chinese and a Nigerian arrested for alleged smuggling of elephant tusks have been arraigned before a Federal High Court. Shu Xiang Quan, Wu Sheng and Ugochukwu Frank were arrested on December 23 and arraigned before Justice Mohammed Hassan of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, on December 29, on a four-count charge. It is noteworthy that the Nigeria Customs Service Public Relations Officer, Jerry Attah, credited the suspects’ arrest to the intensification of its anti-smuggling campaign and operations.

The involvement of NIPOST in anti-smuggling activities is an indication of the scope of its operations. Its effectiveness in this role can be observed from information provided by the General Manager, IMPC, Mrs. L.U. Nwakanmma: “Our parcel scanning activities have also resulted in the detection and interception of a number of other prohibited and dangerous items at the international mail processing centre. They include various kinds of counterfeited national currencies, financial instruments and identification documents.”

The success recorded as a result of NIPOST’s anti-smuggling efforts should be pursued in its delivery of postal services, which needs to respond in greater measure to the demands of modernisation.