Nigeria launches its first ever National Strategy to Combat Wildlife and Forest Crime in Nigeria 2022-2026

Abuja, 11 April 2022: In recent years, Nigeria has evolved into a primary transit hub for trafficking in illicit wildlife and forest products, particularly for the global illegal pangolin trade, sourced primarily from Central Africa. UNODC’s World Wildlife Crime Report 2020 found that in 2019 alone, at least 51 tons of pangolin scales seized globally originated from Nigerian ports compared to only 2 tons in 2015. More than half of all seizures of pangolin scales worldwide could be traced back to Nigeria in 2019.

Moreover, from around 2011, great volumes of rosewood, locally known as “kosso”, were exported from Nigeria to Asia. In October 2018, the CITES Standing Committee recommended that parties suspend commercial trade in kosso from Nigeria until the country carries out a non-detriment findings assessment for trade in the species. Data further suggest an increasing role of Nigeria in the illicit ivory trade. Despite a global decline in trafficking in ivory since 2011 and Nigeria being home to only 0.02% of Africa’s elephant population, 23% of all ivory seized globally between 2015 and 2019 had been trafficked through Nigeria.

In a bid to address these challenges, the Government of Nigeria with the support of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Government of Germany developed its first ever comprehensive strategic document – the National Strategy to Combat Wildlife and Forest Crime in Nigeria 2022-2026. The National Strategy was launched in a high-level high visibility event in Abuja, Nigeria on Monday 11 April 2022 and reflects Nigeria’s aspirations for “A Nigeria Free of Wildlife Crime”.

The seven key objectives of the National Strategy are to: Enhance Institutional Capabilities in all relevant institutions to drive evidence-based action to understand, detect and deter wildlife crime; Strengthen the Legal Framework to enable legal and sustainable trade, protect Nigeria’s fauna and flora and deter wildlife crime through a harmonised and strengthened legal framework; Increase Collaboration by ensuring strong coordination led by accountable partners; Honour Commitments by ensuring compliance with national and international commitments to regulate legal trade and combat wildlife crime; Remove Crime Enablers such as corruption and financial crime from enabling wildlife crime; Raise Awareness of Wildlife Crime, generating social and political will by raising awareness in all stakeholders as to the value of nature and the threat of wildlife crime; and Alternative Livelihoods which seeks to empower local communities through the development of wildlife crime prevention initiatives and alternative livelihoods.

The UNODC Executive Director, Ms Ghada Waly noted that the commitment of Nigerian authorities in developing this Strategy is a clear signal of the importance that is being attached to this issue, pledging UNODC’s continued partnership with the Government of Nigeria to tackle wildlife crime. She also sought the concerted support of other international development organisations for the implementation of the strategy.

The Honourable Minister of Environment, Barr. Mohammed Abdullahi said the development of Nigerian National Strategy and Forest Crime is critical and timely, noting that: “Today, Nigeria heeded the demand of the international community for well-structured guidelines, legislation and punishment for [poachers/killers of] wildlife and perpetrators of other related forest crimes. This requires enhancing institutional capacity, strengthening the legal frameworks, increasing collaboration, and removing crime enablers, raising awareness of wildlife crime and designing alternative means of livelihood for dwellers in local communities.”

The Honourable Minister of State for Environment, H.E.Sharon O. Ikeazor, Esq noted that the Strategy is aimed at tackling wildlife and forest crimes as well as achieve sustainable forest management that will also address climate change. “With a well spelt out strategic goals, and objectives the document has the potential to facilitate the reduction of wildlife and forest crimes in Nigeria”.

The strategy has been developed within the context of the Project Strengthening Nigeria’s Response to the Trafficking of Wildlife and Forestry Products” which is funded by the Government of Germany and implemented by UNODC in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Nigeria Customs Service, the National Environmental Standards and Regulatory Framework Agency (NESREA), as well as other state and non-state actors. The Project compliments the support of the European Union to the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) to undertake a comprehensive assessment of Nigeria’s preventive and criminal justice response to wildlife and forest crime, using the ICCWC Analytical Toolkit and ICCWC Indicator Framework as well as Corruption Risk Assessments of the wildlife and forest sectors in Nigeria.

The development of the National Strategy aligns with one of the Priority Areas of UNODC’s Strategic Vision for Nigeria “Protecting People, the Economy and the Environment Against Organised Crime” specifically, Priority Area 4.3 which seeks to ensure that Nigeria’s Environment is Protected from Crime” through the Strategic Action: “Promote and support the implementation of the National Strategy on Wildlife and Forest Crime, including through research and data collection as well as the establishment and support of multi-stakeholder platforms”.