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Customs arrests fleeing wildlife smuggling kingpin

By Steve Agbota

The Federal Operations Unit Zone A of the Nigeria Customs Service has arrested Mr Felix Maiva, a wanted wildlife smuggling kingpin who has been on the run since 2021.

In a statement issued on Friday by the Unit Public Relations Officer, Superintendent of Customs, Theophilus Duniya said that
Mr Maiva’s arrest is a fallout of intense investigation and surveillance that followed the discovery of a 1 X 20 feet container found to contain 4,752kg of elephant ivory, 5,239kg of pangolin scales, 5kg of rhinoceros horns, and some lion skeletons.

According to the statement, the illegal wildlife products were bound to be exported to Haiphong, Vietnam, in January 2021 through the Apapa Sea Port, Lagos-Nigeria.

“The suspect is a shipping agent for the BERETE organised crime group that is wanted by the Nigeria Customs Service for their involvement in the January 2021 seizure and other organised wildlife trafficking offences.

“It is worthy of note that the earlier wildlife seizure made by operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service in Apapa led to the conviction of a clearing agent, Mr Felix Olame, in June 2023 by a Federal High Court in Lagos, the statement reads in part.

Furthermore, the Ag. Comptroller Federal Operations Unit Zone A, Hussein K Ejibunu, who commended the officers for their tact, intelligence and consistency in following up on the suspect, reiterated that smuggling suspects, no matter how far they run, would be caught by the long arms of the law.

He describes the breakthrough as a morale booster for officers following up on similar cases and suspects.

Maiva’s arrest comes as a result of an intelligence-driven operation by Officers of the Nigeria Customs Service and the Wildlife Justice Commission to support the global effort to fight crimes against endangered species.