Reps laud UK, US agencies’ inputs on endangered species bill

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 The House of Representatives has commended the UK Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund for the development of Endangered Species Conservation Protection Bill.

Also commended were the US State Department-Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, and the Pangolin Conservation Fund.

Rep. Terseer Ugbor, the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Environment, gave the commendation during the Policy Dialogue on the ‘Endangered Species Conservation and Protection Bill, 2024.

Ugbor, who sponsored the bill, said that biodiversity was particularly threatened by actions of wildlife criminals as illegal activities like poaching and smuggling had become major concerns to the nation’s economy.

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“Wildlife crime also fosters corruption, facilitates insecurity and presents opportunities for the spread of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19.

“Nigeria has emerged with the unenviable status as a global hub for wildlife trafficking in recent years, and continues to be considered as one.”

He urged Nigeria to act swiftly and work to reverse the negative status and threat to its beautiful country and the world.

“The passage of this legislation will mark a major milestone for global conservation efforts and Nigeria’s international image,” he said.

He added that it would also advance the legislative agenda of the 10th House of Representatives.

Ugbor, who described the illegal activities of poachers and smugglers in Nigeria as a major sabotage to the economy, underscored the need to take necessary action to end the ugly trend.

Mr Oliver Stolpe, Country Representative, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, called for review of Nigerian legislations to provide for stiffer penalties for those involved in trafficking in endangered species.

He added that the current legal framework does not meet the threshold of the serious crime definition in the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.

He said that pending the adoption of the bill, Nigerian law enforcement authorities could not fully activate provisions of the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crimes (UNTOC).

According to him, the weaknesses of the current legal framework are exemplified in the minimal sentences handed down to wildlife crime perpetrators who have been prosecuted and convicted in the past year and a half.

The Country Director of Wildlife Conservative Society, Mr Andrew Dunn, underscored the urgent need for Nigeria to strengthen relevant laws and policies aimed at curtailing illegal wildlife trade.

He said: ” Nigeria has always had an endangered species decree but it is all out of date. It is time for a review. The penalties are outdated.”(NAN)

By Femli Ogunshola

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