Recall that the Service had in August arrested three Guineans and a Nigerian for attempting to export pangolin scales and Elephant tusks worth N22billion.
Addressing journalists in Lagos on Monday, Customs Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, said the arrests were made following intelligence from the WildLife Justice Commission, stating that two suspects, Mr. Salif Sanwidi and Sunday Ebenyi have been arrested in connection with the seizure.
Attah said although the illegal wildlife trade is not essentially a Nigerian thing, some foreigners with active connivance of few Nigerians lured by money are bent on using Nigeria as a transit route for the illegal trade.
He said international experts working with the Service are expected to conduct a DNA test on the pangolin scales to know which country the animals originated from.
“You will recall that the Service, acting on credible intelligence provided by our international partners, announced wildlife seizure worth over N22billion and with the arrested suspects currently facing prosecution.
“In the course of further investigation to arrest other members of the gang, we received another credible intelligence from the same international partner, WildLife Justice Commission, and swiftly deployed our intelligence operatives with the Strike Force as a SWOT team. This led to the interception of one Mercedes Benz Bus with registration number BGT 256 LG along Kudirat Abiola Way Oregun, Ikeja, Lagos.
“Upon 100 percent examination, the bus was found to contain 1,009.5kg of pangolin scales and 5kg of pangolin claws totaling 1,014.5kg with Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N1,728,788,750.00
“Two suspects have already been arrested in connection with this seizure. They are Mr. Salif Sanwidi and Mr Sunday Ebenyi. They will also be charged to court to answer for their crime. This criminality is not essentially a Nigerian thing. Those who buy these things are not Nigerians but Nigeria is being used as a conduit pipe for this illegal trade.
“For the avoidance of doubt, illegal wildlife trade contravenes Section 63”e “ and”g “ of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap 45 LFN 2004. Nigeria is a signatory to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. As responsible members of the global community, we cannot allow our nation to be used as a conduit pipe for illegal trade on wild life. We remain committed to the quarterly meeting with embassies of the USA, UK and Germany and welcome on board other International organizations that are joining the fray.
“We commend the WildLife Justice Commission for their continued strong commitment to this course through provision of credible and actionable intelligence, including technical aids,” Attah said.
Representative of the Ministry of Environment, Department of Forestry, Olayemi Babajide assured that all the seizures would be handed over to the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) for proper disposal after the conclusion of investigation by Customs.