Nigeria Arrests Wildlife-Smuggling Kingpin

Published: 03 October 2023

Nigeria Wildlife TraffickingIn the seizure made in 2021, lion skeletons, elephant ivory, pangolin scales and rhino horns were discovered. (Photo: Nigeria Customs Service/Facebook, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

Nigerian authorities have arrested a suspected wildlife trafficking kingpin whom they hold responsible for a large shipment of illegal wildlife products that police discovered and seized in 2021 before it managed to be sent to Vietnam.

The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and the Wildlife Justice Commission reported on Saturday that Felix Maiva is believed to be involved in a well-known transnational organized crime organization operating in West Africa.

In January 2021, a container with nearly five tonnes of elephant ivory, more than five tonnes of pangolin scales, five kilograms of rhino horns, and some lion skeletons was discovered at the Nigerian seaport of Apapa. Its destination was Haiphong, Vietnam. The investigation into the shipment led to Maiva’s arrest.

“The Wildlife Justice Commission wishes to congratulate the NCS for their rapid response resulting in this outstanding outcome against a well-established transnational organized crime network. We remain committed to supporting the Nigeria Customs Service in further dismantling this criminal network,” said Olivia Swaak-Goldman, the Executive Director of the organization, in a statement.

Another member of this criminal group was convicted by a Nigerian court in June this year. Felix Olame served as a clearing agent and was captured in January 2021 in connection with this case.

“Smuggling suspects, no matter how far they run, would be caught by the long arms of the law," stated Hussein K Ejibunu, Deputy Comptroller of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

Thanks to the collaboration between the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Wildlife Justice Commission, 22 individuals have been captured since July 2021. In the same period, over nine tonnes of pangolin scales and more than one tonne of ivory have been seized.

“This successful partnership enabled the disruption of the criminal networks trafficking ivory and pangolin scales in Nigeria, with trafficking reaching its lowest level in five years. It also led to the displacement of ivory and pangolin scales trafficking from Nigeria to other countries,” states the Wildlife Justice Commission.