Wildlife Trafficking Through Nigerian Ports Continues Despite COVID-19

Abuja, 15 February 2021- On 20 January 2021 officers of the Nigeria Customs Service at the Apapa Port Command seized a container bound for Vietnam with an unusual mix of illegal wildlife products.

The 20 feet container was found to contain the remains of various endangered species, including 2,772 pieces of elephant tusks of different shapes weighing about 4,752kg, 162 sacks of pangolin scales weighing 5,329kg, 5kg of rhino horns, dried and fresh animal bones, 103 kg of skulls suspected to be of lions and other wild cat and 76 pieces of timber (semi-processed and processed).

According to the World Customs Organization (WCO) accredited technical and operational advisor on illegal wildlife trade and officer of Nigeria Customs, Animashawun Abimbola, this achievement was a result of risk profiling. The knowledge was obtained from parameters of previous interceptions both inside and beyond Nigeria, as well as the findings of recent technical reports, such as the 2020 UNODC World Wildlife Crime Report, which states that all export containers from Nigeria destined to Asia can be considered high risk. This understanding, as well as the recent capacity building on intelligence and risk profiling for officers of Nigeria customs provided by the WCO, have resulted in routine targeting of export containers based on risk profiling.

This most recent seizure provides another reminder that in the span of only a few years Nigeria has turned into a major transit hub for wildlife products leaving the continent and destined for the markets in Asia, Europe, and North America. It is also the first seizure since outbreak of COVID-19, confirming that the illegal trade in wildlife and forest products continues despite lockdowns, travel restrictions and reduced trade flows.

To remedy this situation, UNODC is supporting the Government of Nigeria through two initiatives, supported by Germany and the European Union.

In 2020, UNODC with the financial support of Germany launched a project in cooperation with the Nigerian Government aimed at strengthening Nigeria’s response to the trafficking of wildlife and forest products. This will be achieved through the development of Nigeria’s first national strategy to combat wildlife crime, trainings for frontline officers to detect and intercept illegal shipments of wildlife, as well as strengthening of prosecutorial and judicial capacity to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate wildlife and forest crime. This project is being implemented in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Nigeria Customs Service, the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), as well as other state and non-state actors.

Additionally, as part of the support of the European Union to the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), UNODC will 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, and support the conduct a corruption risk assessment of the wildlife sector in Nigeria.