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U.S Govt, FG partner on strengthening legal framework to combat wildlife trafficking in Nigeria

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By Ajuma Edwina Ameh
To tackle wildlife and forest crimes, the governments of Nigeria and the U.S. have launched a legal analysis framework.
The U.S.-funded legal analysis framework is aimed at countering wildlife trafficking in Nigeria.
The analysis was conducted by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), and Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) with support from the U.S. Government.
Speaking during the launch on Thursday in Abuja, the U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires, Kathleen FitzGibbon, stressed the need for greater communication and collaboration between investigative, prosecutorial and judicial bodies to bring about quicker justice and sentences which hold violators accountable.
According to her, Nigeria has emerged as the main transit and export hub for trafficking in elephant ivory, pangolin scales, and other wildlife.
She said: ”We are working with NGOs and different government agencies to strengthen the legal framework. The penalty for wildlife trafficking has to be increased; that is the only way to deter the crime.
“Also in terms of training on how investigations are done, we have different U.S government agencies that also do thesame thing, so they can collaborate.
“By working together, we will make more rapid progress in eliminating, neutralizing and disrupting wildlife trafficking. We can also identify the weaknesses in the legal framework and move on from there.
“Another thing we can do is to encourage all the government agencies to work together, because everyone has to work together to understand the nature of the crime, agree on what the penalty is and make sure they go to jail. If you don’t have that coordination then the traffickers win.”
On her part, the EIA Executive Director, Mary Rice explained that the networks responsible for trafficking wildlife from Nigeria are organized and well-coordinated, adding that the law enforcement response is “fragmented and weak”.
According to Rice, this legal analysis recommends a coordinated multi-agency approach to strategically disrupt wildlife crime networks.
“We commend the Nigeria Customs Service, for the significant seizures of pangolin scales and ivory, as well as arrests made in July and January this year,” Persecondnews quotes Rice as saying.
Also speaking, the Executive Director, ANI, Tunde Morakinyo noted: “For too long, Nigeria has been rapidly losing its precious biodiversity to crime and corruption.
“The legal analysis launched today, highlights concrete actions that we can adopt to protect our 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, and Attorney General’s Office.
Others are National Judicial Institute, National Police, National Parks Service, Department of Forestry, and National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency.

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