ABEOKUTA – Experts in the protection and conservation of wildlife have identified archaic and unfavourable laws and long periods of prosecution as a major factor that triggers illegal wildlife trade in Nigeria, and thereby posing a lot of danger to wildlife preservation.
The experts made the declarations at a two day workshop on regional common action plan on combating illegal wildlife trade in South West, organised by the Nigeria Conservation Foundation in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
Abimbola Animashaun, an officer of Nigeria Customs Services in charge of Illegal Wildlife Trade, while presenting her paper on enforcement and seizure of vultures and other wildlife, explained that considerable progress has been made on combating the illegal trade, but that the country must move forward.
According to her, the size of the country allows for porosity of the borders, adding that the insecurity across the country has made it difficult to monitor the land areas because unapproved routes are more than the approved ones.
According to her, enforcement is not weak, but the existing laws encouraged the illegal trade because the punishment is negligible.
“About a week ago, we recorded a seizure in Katsina we also made in Apapa port and different parts of the country.
“The compliance level is very low, and this is not surprising because the penalty is almost not there, even though we have the Acts, we have the policies, we have the laws, but the penalty is too low for compliance.
“We should ensure there is a review of penalty for these crimes, and to have our judiciary trained more on the prosecution of environmental crime.
“ I think this will go a long way to curb the situation because when you have a crime, you have prosecution and deterrent is not there, the crime continues to increase,” she added.
Joseph Assam, Chief Conservator of Park, Old Oyo National Park, while speaking on ‘Wildlife Conservation in Protected Areas’ rolled out the achievements of the National Park in the last one.
He demonstrated why enforcement has not been the challenge, but the existing laws which encourage poachers to engage more in the business.
“Last year alone, we arrested 87 poachers for various crimes of killing animals and we prosecuted them, we have started this year also, but with a focus more on conservative education and enlightenment campaigns to schools and judiciary because we need to come together to protect these wildlife for this generation and generation yet unborn.
“Judiciary plays a very important role, and we will continue to enlighten them. But, we need to upgrade and review some of our laws especially in terms of sanction and penalties involved, we need to upgrade them, then we can continue to educate the judiciary so that they can apply them to the latter,”
He, however, hinted that the National Park Act is being reviewed by the National Assembly with a view to looking at emerging challenges and addressing the same towards combating the illegal trade.
Dr. Muhtari Aminu- Kano, the Director General of Nigerian Conservation Foundation, in his welcome address explained that the existence of open wildlife and bush-meat markets in Nigeria is an encouragement to poaching and trafficking in the country.
He, therefore, called for concerted efforts to allow the law to take its course on offenders to serve as deterrent to others.
According to him, the campaign focuses on the need to stop killing of vultures for any purposes because the animal reduces the cost of health care as they feed on carcasses which are likely to harbour bacteria that could be harmful to human environment, saying regrettably however, vulture is gradually going into extinction.
“We are using different approaches, part of the approach is enlightenment, part of the approach is appeal, but that very strong approach is the implementation of the laws because there are some people who will heed to appeal, there are some people who would be enlightened and stop their destructive attitudes.
“But there are deviants who will not heed no matter what we do and that is where the law comes in. The law is to straighten up a society, to put everybody in check because nobody is above the law.
“Vultures are very important in our society and that is why nature put them in place; vultures reduce the cost of health care because vultures ensure people do not get sick, by going to clean up all the carcasses that will form bacterium that cause different diseases.”