Environmental experts have expressed disappointment over the inability of the existing legislations to tackle issues of illegal wildlife trade in West African sub-region.
Speaking at Partners Dialogue on Environment in Abuja, they stated that no legislation recognises it as criminal activities, and court cannot punish perpetrator accordingly. Kwame Awere-Gyekye of West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change said that illicit trade on wildlife was not taken seriously by laws to prosecute the offenders in the sub region.
He noted that when people are caught trafficking in wildlife, member countries find it difficult to sue the offenders “so we cannot convict them or to cite penalty in our law books.“Since there was no legislation to this effect, the law courts don’t focus on such crimes. Our legal system does not enshrine wildlife theft is as a crime. So, it has not addressed the issue.”
Awere-Gyekye also added, there is need to build capacity of security operatives at seaports, airports, and entry points, adding that when they are equipped, they would do the needful.
Also speaking, Director General, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, said illegal trade has been identified as a major set back in the entire region, and no law to tackle it.He regretted that at the current rate of biodiversity loss and habitat degradation, the region’s stock of environmental resources is expected to diminish by over half within the next decade.
“West Africa has to prioritise and publish its own biodiversity and challenge so it could get global attention and support. We can’t do it as NGOs, but we have to partner with stakeholders, too.”
According to him, “So when we are in the same page to share information, it would determine the next steps of action. We’ll share what we are doing individually and collectively here.”Contributing, Joseph Akpokodie of World Bank, noted that environment seems to be neglected, especially, in the area of protecting our numerous species of flora and fauna in West Africa.
He therefore commended NCF for acting on behalf of BirdLife Partners by collaborating with ECOWAS to organise the workshop for civil society organisations and key development partners. On her part, Lozo Romeo of SOS Forets, Cote D’Ivoire, said the result of a large scale loss of biodiversity was dangerous, as it will ultimately affect the capacity for economic, and exacerbate climate change.