Although the number of those in police custody cannot be ascertained, the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) confirmed the arrest and the rescue of the baby lion in a statement.
The agency’s Director of Environmental Quality Control, Ayuba Jacob, revealed that the arrest was carried out on Thursday by a joint team of personnel of the police, NESREA, and the National Park Service, who acted on a tip-off.
He explained that the operation was conducted because the animal was among the endangered species listed in the extant wildlife laws, including International Conventions.
“Lions, like other endangered species, are prohibited from illegal possession and open sale both locally and internationally under different conventions and regulations,” Jacob said on behalf of NESREA Director-General, Professor Aliyu Jauro.
“Nigeria is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). We have the National Environmental (Protection of Endangered Species in International Trade) Regulation 2011, and the Endangered Species (Control of International Trade and Traffic) (Amendment) Act, 2016.”
The NESREA official warned Nigerians to desist from environmental crimes, saying the agency would continue its war against perpetrators.
According to him, it is important for people to know that there are animals and plants that are conserved so they do not go into extinction.
Jacob stated that an investigation was ongoing, and the arrested suspects would be charged to court appropriately.
Another photo released by NESREA shows the agency’s officials and some policemen with the rescued lion cub at the National Children’s Park and Zoo in Abuja.
He said the rescued animal has been transferred to the appropriate custodial centre, pending further necessary actions as provided by extant laws.
“This is a criminal offence,” Jacob stated. “Such acts bring disgrace to Nigeria in the international community if not curtailed.
“We always carry out sensitisation exercises on topical environmental issues, and we enlighten hunters on endangered species.”