Operatives of the Apapa Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service have intercepted a container loaded with 162 sacks of pangolin scales weighing 8,800 kilograms and 57 sacks of various wildlife parts including ivory/animal horns and lion bones.
The total weight of the items valued at N952 million stood at 854,719 tonnes.
Comptroller of the command, Comptroller Muhammed Abba-Kura, who displayed the pangolin scales and other wildlife parts seized at the Apapa port on Tuesday, said the container processed for export was destined for Haiphong, Vietnam.
He said 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 (NXP) number, the exporter indicated that they have 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 5 percent of the content of the container,” he said.
The Controller explained that exportation of endangered species such as pangolin and other widelife parts is 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 (CEMA) 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 (CITES) 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 percent 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 has been arrested in connection with the seizure.
He said the suspect is being interrogated and after due investigation, the service will 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.
Despite a 2017 ban on international commercial trade of pangolin scales, experts estimate that more than a million pangolins were poached from 2000 through to 2014.