Shipments of pangolin scales intercepted and reported by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) between 2010 and September 2021 has been put at 190,407 kilogrammes. It was gathered that some seizures in ports of Hong Kong, China, Vietnam and other parts of South East Asia valued at $1.5 billion were traced to Nigeria. Since 2010, average mass of reported Nigeria-linked seizures increased steadily before jumping sharply around 2017.
It was learnt that the scales of pangolin are prized $3,000 per kilogramme, while the meat is $300 per kilogramme; live pangolin attracts $1,000 based on current black market prize. For instance, a report sponsored by the Chinese Government in 2017 revealed that the domestic wildlife trade employed one million people and was worth over $74 billion.
Worried by the trend of smuggling of wide life from Nigeria, the National Public Relations Officer of NCS, Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi, explained that Customs had collaborated with Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC) to curb the Asian smugglers from the illicit trafficking. He said that through the joint efforts, Customs recently intercepted 397 kilogrammes of pangolin scales and arrested eight smugglers.
He noted that three of the arrested suspects were identified as Vietnamese. They were involved in the attempted trafficking of large amounts of pangolin scales and ivories through Nigerian ports. According to him, preliminary investigation revealed the Vietnamese nationals as high-ranking members of a major organised crime group involved in the trafficking of ivory, pangolin scales, rhino horns and lion bones from Mozambique and South Africa through Nigeria to Vietnam.
Bomodi noted: “The three suspects were arrested while sourcing for pangolin scales in Nigeria, 397.5kg of which were found in their possession. It is important to note that the Wildlife Justice Commission is an international body, which works to disrupt and dismantle networks of illegal wildlife trade. “Through an intelligence-led operation, the collaboration between NCS and WJC led to the confiscation of 400kg of pangolin scales put up for sale on the illegal network.
He said that Customs would continue to enforce schedule 6 of the Common External Tariff, which identified endangered species as absolute prohibition for export. As a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of fauna and flora (CITES), the service would not relent in its enforcement responsibilities by suppressing to the barest minimum the unsustainable and unethical exploitation of the nation’s fragile ecosystem and its biodiversity.
While delivering a paper on “History of Confiscation, Current Challenges and Opportunities in Combating Pangolin Trafficking in Nigeria,’’ during the 2019 World Pangolin Day organised by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Lekki, Lagos and Pangolin Conservation Guild Nigeria, the Assistant Comptroller at the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Ikeja, Mutalib Sule, also explained that the seizure in Nige-ria was the highest in the world, while Japan came a distant second, having made a seizure of 7.100 kilogrames of pangolin in the same year. The assistant comptroller said that people engage in illicit trade of pangolins because of the benefits. Sule recalled: “On February 12, 2018, the FOU patrol team went to a building located along Allen Avenue and confiscated 54 sacks of pangolin scale and 218 pieces of elephant tusks.
For Customs to curb the use of Nigerian ports as a transit point for smuggling of pangolin scales and ivories, there should be unbroken arrests, prosecutions, sanction of culprits.