Nigeria faces possible sanction over alleged illegal ivory trade


Chinedum Uwaegbulam, The Guardian Nigeria

Date Published

From the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) has come a recommendation that Nigeria and two other countries implicated in illegal wildlife trade should be sanctioned.

The 66th meeting in Geneva recently demanded that Nigeria, Angola and Laos People’s Democratic Republic be suspended from commercial trade in CITES-listed species to stem the illegal rhino horn and ivory trade.

Some weeks ago, Singapore authorities intercepted and seized an air shipment of illegal ivory and pangolin scales from Nigeria, worth $1.3 million at the Changi Airfreight Centre. The 0.8 tonne shipment originated from Lagos and was on its way to Vientiane, Laos via Singapore. The shipment was labeled “complete wigs of synthetic textile materials”.

But when Singapore Customs and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) officers inspected it, they found 255 pieces of raw elephant tusks weighing about 505kg, and pangolin scales weighing about 324kg.

CITES was established as a response to growing concerns that over-exploitation of wildlife through international trade was contributing to the rapid decline of many species of plants and animals around the world. The Convention was signed by representatives from 80 countries in Washington, DC, on March 3, 1973, and entered into force on July 1, 1975. As at January 2016, there were 181 parties to the Convention.

If the global group goes ahead with its threat, it would be the second time Nigeria would be sanctioned by the international wildlife regulator. In July 2005, Nigeria was suspended for increasing illegal wildlife trade and lack of adequate enforcement of the Convention. The recommendation was withdrawn in August 26, 2011 after Nigeria designated National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) as the country’s new enforcement authority and enacted new wildlife regulations.

At the meeting, CITES also called on Mozambique and Tanzania – both of which have lost more than half their elephants since 2009 – to take critical steps against ivory trafficking before its next meeting in September. Mozambique is also required to report back on the progress of its action plan to save rhinos, and could be sanctioned if sufficient improvements are not made.