By Kehinde Ibrahim, Lagos
THE Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), on Sunday, arrested three Vietnamese and five others for attempted trafficking of 397.5kg pangolin scales and ivories through Nigeria.
In a press statement made available by the national public relations officer of the Service, Timi Bomodi, he said the interception were made in conjunction with the Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC).
According to him, preliminary investigation revealed the three Vietnamese nationals are identified 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.
The three suspects were arrested while sourcing for pangolin scales in Nigeria, 397.5kg of which were found in their possession.
The Wildlife Justice Commission is an international body which works to disrupt and dismantle networks of illegal wildlife trade.
Bomodi said the suspects were arrested through an intelligence-led operation, saying: “the collaboration between NCS and WJC led to the confiscation of 400kg of pangolin scales put up for sale on the illegal network.
“The two organizations were able to identify other members of the criminal syndicate for arrest to further put a stop to the environmental destruction posed by these unscrupulous elements. The arrested suspects have been charged to court on various counts bordering on the illegal trade in wildlife.
“These arrests came as part of a proactive enforcement operation targeting the top echelon of wildlife traffickers worldwide, and are assessed to have caused unprecedented disruptions to organized global wildlife trafficking network.
“This is the fourth major illegal wildlife arrest in one year resulting from the strategic partnership between the Nigeria Customs Service, Wildlife Justice Commission and other foreign governments. It demonstrates the commitment of the Nigeria Customs Service as a formidable ally in the fight against wildlife trafficking.
“Initial crackdowns in 2021 had resulted in discoveries of 7.1 tons of pangolin scales and 850 kgs of ivory, all of which were seized by the NCS.”
Bomodi also added that the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) commended officers of the Service for their efforts in breaking the chain of illegal wildlife trade and unlawful deforestation and tree felling activities.
The CGC assured the public that the Service will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to support the rest of the world in protecting endangered species and prevent deforestation.
“Nigeria Customs Service would never allow perpetrators of these crimes to profit from it or escape the wrath of the law,” Ali was quoted as saying.