Two suspected smugglers of consignments containing 140 different species of snakes and 600 other animals imported into Nigeria from Cameroon have “disappeared from custody,” PUNCH is reporting.
Nanbyen Burromvyat, the Customs Area Comptroller in charge of Calabar Free Trade Zone, Cross River and Akwa Ibom Command said the consignments were imported from Cameroon aboard a vessel MV Flesh, and were intercepted by officers on July 24, 2017, on arrival at the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) jetty, with a market value of N6.9 million.
The Lagos-bound animals were made up of geckos, millipedes, hairy frogs and spiders.
The suspects – Julius Novigana and Victor Agbor – were handed over to the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS) in Cross River State.
Sunday Ukut, the state director of NAQS, speaking to Minister of State for Environment Ibrahim Jubril, said that the two suspects had disappeared.
Jubril was visiting Calabar to hand over the animals to the University of Uyo for research.
“Just two persons were brought here and we have no clue where they have disappeared to,” Ukut told Jubril.
The unhappy minister said the smugglers would have given more information on where the animals were from and for what purpose.
“But the agency has messed up the vigilance and good intentions of the Customs service officers who intercepted the consignment,” he said.
Jubril however said that according to the destination inscribed on the consignments, the importers wanted to use Nigeria as a transit point to smuggle the animals to Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Luxemburg.
“The importers thought they could use the Nigerian water channel or airports to smuggle these reptiles because they considered our airport and water channel as easy transit points for their nefarious activities, but thanks to the Customs for their vigilance; they intercepted the items,” he said.
He added: “We must learn to have the interest of the environment at heart in all our activities. There are many things that these reptiles can do that are both destructive and beneficial to our habitat. So, we must always learn to ensure that we are vigilant at all times to ensure that nobody or organisation imports things that can negatively impact on our environment,” he said.
Photo Credit: PUNCH