Customs nabs three for trafficking elephant tusks worth $16,000

The Nigeria Customs Service on Friday revealed that it had arrested three men for alleged illegal export of elephant tusks to Asia.

The suspects were arrested at different locations in Lagos State between January 25 and February 4 and 6, 2024.

The arrested suspects allegedly facilitated the sale and export of five pieces of elephant tusk, weighing 25.35kg, and worth about $16,000 equivalent (N23,520,000).

Reports gathered showed 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.

Protecting its dwindling elephant population from rampant wildlife traffickers and Illegal wildlife export contravenes the Endangered Species Act and the Nigeria Customs Service Act is in Nigeria’s top priority in recent years.

According to conservationists, the country’s elephant population, over the last three decades, has declined drastically from an estimated 1,500 to less than 400 due to poaching for ivory, habitat loss, and human-elephant conflict.

The conservationists asserted that Nigeria has become a hub for the illegal trade in animal parts from Africa. 

The biggest markets are said to be in Asia.

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.

Isafiade disclosed that on January 9, 2024, Nigeria destroyed 2.5 tonnes of seized elephant tusks valued at over N9.9 billion ($11.2 million).

He said: “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.”

Despite a decades-long ban on the international trade of ivory, experts say tens of thousands of elephants are killed worldwide each year for their tusks.

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