By Vivian Emoni
The Federal Government, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and other relevant stakeholders have collaborated to create effective awareness in the fight against illegal wildlife and forest trade in Nigeria.
Alhaji Mohammed Abdullahi, Minister of Environment, made the commitment in Abuja, while inaugurating the 2022 to 2026 National Strategy to Combat Wildlife and Forest Crime in Nigeria.
Abdullahi said that the inauguration of the strategy is critical, with Nigeria seeking legislation and punishment for wildlife traffickers and other related forest trade in the country.
He said that the fight required enhancing institutional capacity, strengthening legal frameworks, increase collaboration enablers, raising awareness on wildlife and designing alternative means of livelihood for dwellers of local communities.
According to him, it is important to know that Nigeria, through the ministry, is committed in many ways in the fight against the menace.
“Nigeria is committed to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of fauna and flora (CITES).
“The ministry will not relent as it continues to collaborate with partners and stakeholders at the international, national and regional levels in the thematic areas of the fight against illegal wildlife and forest trade.
“The fight is through the mechanisms of investigation, enforcement, prosecution, and stockpile management,’’ he said.
The minister said that attention would be focused on the implementation framework as enunciated in the strategy strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis.
He said that the strategy would also highlight political, economic, socio-cultural, technological, legal, environmental, and law enforcement indices, with a view to ensuring that key players at the federal, state and other levels do the needful and are guided and motivated appropriately to maximise the gains of the strategy.
Abdullahi said that the ministry has provided all technical and necessary support towards the strategy implementation as well as adopted council states to ensure effective implementation of the strategy.
He said that the ministry has intensified strong awareness and advocacy campaign, adding that the campaign has expanded to the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the railways and airline operators.
He added that the ministry had also built electronic billboards which would be erected at locations such as airports and other strategic areas.
“The billboards will have clear and instructive messages to create awareness and sensitisation in the protection and conservation of wildlife and forest resources while discouraging illegal trade and trafficking in wildlife.
He said that a request has been sent to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) on the need to set up Wildlife Crime Unit within the force.
He said that the unit would be specially dedicated to deal with wildlife and forest-related crimes.
“We are stepping up action and our collaboration with our numerous partners will strongly support our quest in the fight against the illegal wildlife and forest trade,’’ he said.
Chief Sharon Ikeazor, the Minister of State for Environment, said that the Strategy is aimed at tackling wildlife and forest crimes as well as achieving sustainable forest management that would address climate change.
According to her, “it is not enough to have the strategy as an addition to our collection. The fact remains that its effective implementation at all levels for the attainment of its core outputs and results will go a long way in achieving its objectives.
“We are going to make this a priority.
“The Federal Executive Council did not only approve the strategy for implementation at its recent meeting.
It also said “The effective implementation is possible only if and when the state governments adopt the strategy as part of their critical policy framework, so it is important for the state government to adopt the strategy,” Ikeazor said.
Mr Oliver Stolpe, Country Representative of UNODC, said that the office would continue to provide technical support to the development and effective implementation of the strategy.
“We are committed to partner with Nigerian agencies in the implementation of the strategy.
“I have no doubt in my mind that this well calibrated framework will enable all stakeholders involved to effectively put their efforts toward achieving the aim of the strategy,’’ Stolpe said. (NAN)