By Joy Odor
The U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires, Ms Kathleen FitzGibbon has emphasized the critical need for greater communication and collaboration between investigative, prosecutorial, and judicial bodies to bring about quicker justice and sentences which hold violators of wildlife crime accountable in Nigeria.
She stated this in her speech at the launched groundbreaking resource, “Combating Wildlife Crime in Nigeria” – An analysis of the Criminal Justice Legislative Framework in Abuja on Thursday, in partnership with the Africa Nature Investors Foundation (ANI) and Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
The U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires opined that Nigeria emerged as the main transit and export hub for trafficking in elephant ivory, pangolin scales, and other wildlife, but the in-depth analysis of the country’s relevant laws aims to help turn the tide.
According to her, working together, would make more rapid progress in eliminating, neutralizing, and disrupting wildlife trafficking.
Ms Kathleen noted that Nigeria need to do more to raise public indignation about the ugly crime that imperils the planet’s biodiversity, funds organized crime, spreads disease like COVID-19, and threatens the very existence of Nigeria’s unique and beautiful animals.
Earlier in his address, the Minister of State for Environment Sharon Ikeazor who Chaired the occasion and represented by the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency Director General Aliyu Jauro enjoined US and their partners to solicit the support of the National Assembly in their work for legislative framework.
Also the EIA Executive Director, Ms. Mary Rice explained, said the networks responsible for trafficking wildlife from Nigeria are organized and well-coordinated, but the law enforcement response is fragmented and weak.
She said the legal analysis recommended a coordinated multi-agency approach to strategically disrupt wildlife crime networks.
Ms Mary commended the Nigeria Customs Service for the significant seizures of pangolin scales and ivory, as well as arrests, made in July and January this year.
The ANI Executive Director, Mr Tunde Morakinyo added Nigeria has been rapidly losing its precious biodiversity to crime and corruption.
He stressed that the legal analysis launched highlights concrete actions that Nigeria can adopt to protect it’s last remaining wild species and places for the present and future generations of Nigerians.
The event was attended by senior representatives from key Nigerian government agencies and offices with the mandate to tackle wildlife trafficking, including the Nigerian Customs Service, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, Nigerian Senate, Attorney General’s Office, National Judicial Institute, National Police, National Parks Service, Department of Forestry, and National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency.