The Federal Government says it will continue to work with relevant stakeholders to support any initiative aimed at wildlife and biodiversity conservation in the country.
This was stated by the environment minister, Mr. Mohammed Abdullahi, at the official launch of the Quick Reference Guild to Fight Wildlife and Forest Crime in Abuja, which coincided with the celebration of CITES’ 50th anniversary and 2023 World Wildlife Day.
Abdullahi said that “Nigeria remains focused on tackling illegal wildlife and forest lands at the national, regional and international levels.”
Nigeria has continued to fulfil its obligations as a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.”
The Minister said that the aims of the Launching are “to assist wildlife crime, prosecutors and investigators in determining what is minimally required in terms of evidence to build a case against those accused of wildlife and forest lands and also tackling climate change problems.”
He stressed that the objectives would also strengthen international cooperation and coordination among law enforcement agencies to increase the knowledge of prosecutors and investigators on the handling of wildlife and forestry-related issues.
“Nigeria has taken several groundbreaking measures to tackle illegal wildlife trade. These include the watching and implementation of the national strategy to combat illegal wildlife trade coordination of the wildlife Enforcement Task Force launching of the National Park Forest policy by legality standards. I’ll also be covering today to launch the rapid Reference Guide for judges and prosecutors to facilitate the prosecution of wildlife forest criminals. Reference Guide is a collection of relevant and excellent laws about wildlife from in Nigeria and also includes an excerpt from the national guidelines for prosecutors in the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” He said.
Abdullahi also noted that the Nigerian government was committed to the implementation and adherence to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora “CITES” laws and regulations as well as to honour global agreements, conventions and treaties.
He was represented at the event by the Ministry, Acting Permanent Secretary Mr Charles Ikeah.
The Director of Forestry Ministry of Environment, represented by Mr Razak Adekola said wildlife Crime in Nigeria has become a challenge, limiting the conservation efforts of the government and other partners in the achievement of sustainable forest management.
The Director said that the rapid response guide would help to proffer direction for the judicial officers in the prosecution and the overall justice system session regarding wildlife material.
The Assistant Conservator General of the National Parks Service, Dr Mohammed Kabir said that the National Park Service was at the forefront of protecting and conserving the wildlife and their habitats in the national parks.
He reiterated the commitment of the Service to ensuring that all these areas within the management of the National Parks are free from negative activities.
Representative of the German government, Mr Matthias Dold, said that combating wildlife and forest crime is extremely important, and deserves more attention than it usually receives.
He noted that the German government is committed to continuing its support for UNODC and the Nigerian Ministry of Environment so that the proud Nigerian elephant can once again roam the land in tranquility.
According to him, “Nigeria has become a key source, destination and transit country for the international illegal wildlife trade over the last decade. It is the people of Nigeria that suffer most from this.”
“We are aware that a lot remains to be done, as you know, the best solutions for Nigerian problems, are Nigerian solutions. It is therefore important that the Nigerian Ministry of Environment leads on this issue and that it continues its commitment, UNODC, I am sure, will continue its invaluable assistance, as we celebrate World Wildlife Day today, I am proud to represent a government that has supported the important fight against wildlife crime, through its support to UNODC,” he explained.
Mr Dold said that the National Strategy to Combat Wildlife and Forest Crime in Nigeria 2022-2026, would contribute to strengthening the legal framework and the capacities to prevent, detect, interdict, investigate and prosecute wildlife and forest crimes as well as crimes in the fisheries factor.
He said these achievements have been reached with the assistance of UNODC, working towards combating wildlife crime, supported by the German government.
Country Representative, UNODC, Mr Oliver Stolp said the UNDOC guide would equip investigators and prosecutors alike with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively develop and present cases with the appropriate potential to deter future offenders.
He said; “All these are notable achievements and I congratulate the Federal Minister of Environment for leading the charge in achieving these milestones and all stakeholders for their important contributions. At the same time, we all know that a lot remains to be done. And this work although it also presents an opportunity, and then obligation for all of us to renew our commitments to protecting life on land and life on the water. It’s been a year since the national strategy was launched. So we must start to measure and monitor the implementation of the national strategy.”
According to him “Nigeria is not alone in this fight and can count on the partnership and financial support of the government of Germany, UK, and the US as well as the EU, all supporting a variety of projects and initiatives, including those implemented by UNODC. We, therefore, are confident that together we can achieve that vision laid out to the national strategy of Nigeria free of wildlife crime.”
Head United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Global Programme For Crimes, Hanny Cueva-Beteta commended the Federal Government for addressing wildlife and forest crime.
Cueva-Beteta said; “The illicit trade in wildlife and forest products represents a serious threat to Nigeria’s biodiversity economy and sustainable development. And research is showing that trafficking in illicit wildlife and forest products is a problem that is, unfortunately, increasing in Nigeria, in particular the issue of being a transit country.”
She also reiterated that UNODC would continue to work with Nigeria and other partners towards improving the rapid Reference Guide.
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