The Nigeria Customs Service on Friday said it had arrested three men for alleged illegal export of elephant tusks to Asia.
The men were arrested at different locations in Lagos between January 25, 2024, and February 4 and 6, 2024, for allegedly facilitating the sale and export of five pieces of elephant tusk, weighing 25.35kg, and worth about $16,000 equivalent (N23,520,000).
It was gathered that the arrest involved the Customs Special Wildlife Office, and the Customs Police Unit during an intelligence-led, joint enforcement operation with the Wildlife Justice Commission.
Nigeria is in a push to protect its dwindling elephant population from rampant wildlife traffickers, and Illegal wildlife export contravenes the Endangered Species Act and the Nigeria Customs Service Act.
Over the past three decades, the country’s elephant population has declined drastically from an estimated 1,500 to less than 400 due to poaching for ivory, habitat loss, and human-elephant conflict, according to conservationists.
The officer in charge of Nigeria Customs Service Special Wildlife Office, Assistant Comptroller Abim Isafiade said the Service is leaving no stone unturned in its commitment to end Illegal wildlife trade.
He said that on January 9, 2024, Nigeria destroyed 2.5 tonnes of seized elephant tusks valued at over N9.9bn ($11.2 million).
“The Service is determined to dismantle the wildlife criminal networks operating within the country.
“Illegal wildlife trade or trafficking of wildlife is a criminal offence punishable under law, and so Nigeria Customs Service will continue to support global efforts to fight Wildlife crime.
“The suspects will be charged to court as soon as investigations are concluded,” Isafiade said.
Experts say tens of thousands of elephants are killed worldwide each year for their tusks.
That is despite a decades-long ban on the international trade of ivory.
According to conservationists, Nigeria has become a hub for the illegal trade in animal parts from Africa. The biggest markets are said to be in Asia.