By Steve Agbota 

In its resolve against illegal trade and trafficking in wildlife, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is perfecting arrangements to extend capacity building in the area to all officers and men of the service.

This is as a team of international partners, including the United States, has promised assistance, particularly in training expertise and technology to boost the facilities on ground at the Customs Training College, Ikeja.

Leading the partners in an on-the-spot assessment of the facilities on ground in the college on Monday, the Commandant, Compt. Haniel Hadison, told the visitors that the facility was ready to receive their expertise, and that they should ‘make it a focal point in capacity building with the set objectives.

“We have officers willing to learn, and we the management of the college are also ready to give every support to achieve the set objectives,”  Hadison said.

He commended the Comptroller-General of Customs, Mr. Adewale Adeniyi, and the Customs’ management team for their continued support to the wildlife unit.

Fielding questions after the tour, Hadison said the NCS, especially the wildlife unit, is also part of the United Nations World Wildlife Day (WWD) celebration, and that is why the college, being where the wildlife unit of the Nigeria Customs is domiciled, is having the unit partners from other international organisations.

“We used this opportunity also to showcase how far we have journeyed in the fight against illegal trafficking in wildlife. So far so good, it has been an excellent outing, and there is much for the Nigeria Customs, particularly the wildlife unit, to achieve from these international partners.

“They (partners) are bringing in their expertise, technocrats, and their level of knowledge for us to tap from. Above all, it is going to be an added value, particularly as it relates to the CGC’s clarion call for capacity building.

“Recently, he particularly laid much emphasis on collaboration. Nigeria Customs cannot attain set objectives without collaborating with relevant organisations, and that is what we are experiencing at the moment,”  Hadison explained.

Speaking on the institution’s areas of need for the capacity building, Hadison stated: “Now that everything is centred around technology, we would need them (international partners) to bring in their capabilities and competencies in the use of technology in the fight against illegal activities.

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“Particularly, there is need to train our officers and men in the use of drones and other tech apparatus at the borders, airports and seaports, and even within the system, as well as the ungoverned spaces. The use of technology will help the Nigeria Customs to carry out its functions, particularly as it regards enforcement.”

Meanwhile, he warned perpetrators of illegal wildlife trade and trafficking that the agency remains opposed to such crimes.

“Everyday, trained officers make arrests, and a lot of investigations and prosecutions are ongoing. They should desist from these illegal activities. There is no room for them,” he stated.

On her part, the officer in charge of the NCS Special Wildlife Unit, ACG Abimbola Isafiade, commended the visit of the collaborators, stating that it means the agency is improving as the world is improving, and it means success for the future.

“With their partnership, we are going to improve on the trainings we have been having. Before now we had trained may be a fraction, now we want to go into training the whole of the Nigeria Customs, and I know that is possible with the kind of partners that we have got now.

“In addition to the Wildlife Justice Commission, we are partnering the U.S. Fishing and Wildlife. We had a meeting last month, where they pledged their support, and here they have come to assess the environment to see what facilities we have, to know where to step in in terms of capacity building.

“So, the capacity building will now go far and wide; we want to train practically all the men and officers of the Nigeria Customs Service and this is what this exercise has come to establish – a needs assessment. Then, the next is to begin the training for all officers on understanding what it takes to combat illegal wildlife trade and trafficking,” she said.

According to her, the training is expected to begin in the next couple of months, with the facilities, trainers/experts already on ground.

“We just need a few things, like the commandant has mentioned – power (for the classrooms), smart screens, which they have promised to give, and other resources to support what we have on ground. The Nigeria Customs Service already has the facilities, it is just about bringing them to standard,” she added.

For training accessibility, and for safety purposes, a place is being constructed for the intercepted wildlife items in the premises of the college following a “strategic order.”