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Smugglers of imported snakes disappear from custody in Calabar – Details

Snake smugglers

THE two suspects that were arrested in connection with the smuggling
of consignments containing 140 different species of snakes and 660 other
animals imported into Nigeria from Cameroon have disappeared from the
custody of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services in Cross River
State.

The suspects, identified as Julius Novigana and Victor Agbor,
were handed over to officials of the NAQS on July 26 by the Customs
Area Comptroller in charge of Calabar Free Trade Zone, Cross River and
Akwa Ibom Commands, Mrs. Nanbyen Burromvyat, following their
interception.
The state director in charge of the NAQS, Mr. Sunday
Ukut, on Friday told the Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim
Jubril, that the two suspects had disappeared.

“Just two persons were brought here and we have no clue where they have disappeared to,” Ukut simply told Jubril on Friday.

Jubril was on an official visit to the office in Calabar to hand over the reptiles to the University of Uyo for research.
The minister, who showed surprise at the disclosure, said he was not happy with the agency’s poor handling of the case.
He
said the smugglers would have given information on where they got the
reptiles from and where they were taking them to 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.

However,
while handing over the reptiles to the University of Uyo
representatives, Jubril said the importers wanted to use Nigeria as a
transit point to smuggle the animals to Rotterdam in the Netherlands and
Luxemburg, the original destination, as inscribed on the consignments.

“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 said the reptiles had the capacity to
wipe out the country’s fauna if released without proper research because
of their poisonous nature, adding that it was for that reason that the
ministry decided to release them to the University of Uyo to conduct
appropriate research.

“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.

Receiving
the consignments, a snake expert in the Department of Forestry and
Natural Environment Management, University of Uyo, Dr. Edem Eniang, said
the snakes were professionally packaged for export.

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