Southwest Regional Delegation of the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) has accused the Custom Branch Office of Tiko for conspiring with illegal wildlife traffickers to facilitate the trafficking of illegal wildlife parts across the country.
An authoritative sourceat the Southwest Regional Delegation of MINFOF, who preferred anonymity, hinted the Green Vision (GV) that the Customs branch office in Tiko has been facilitating the exportation of wildlife parts out of the country.
Speaking shortly after the confiscation of some 123 elephant tusks and 350Kg Pangolin scales recently at the Tiko Warf about to be smuggled out of the country, he said it took so much pressure from the hierarchy for the illegal wildlife parts be handed to the competent authority.
“On the 24th of October, our Tiko collaborator noticed some wildlife parts in three bags at the Tiko Warf. When he drew the attention of customs which was the immediate competent body to handle the situation, the officials of customs initially didn’t take it seriously. I guess, they wanted to play over our collaborator and cover it up, while they allow the parts to go. When our attention was drawn to the situation, we immediately dispatched competent forces to the area but the customs officials refused to over the wildlife parts to us. It was thanks to pressure from our hierarchy that the wildlife parts were handed to us,” our source revealed.
According to him, customs officials in Tiko and Idenau have in different occasions conspired with wildlife traffickers to smuggle whole or parts of protected wildlife species out of Cameroon.
“They cover-up many illegal activities at the Warf, permitting traffickers to have free tickets with trafficked parts, out of the country. They sometimes even threaten to beat our officials at the Warf, should they (MINFOF officials) mount stiff pressure on them (Custom officials),” the source added.
He attributed the mischievous activities of the custom officials to the love for money and material things that have eaten deep into the minds and hearts of some custom officials that they are willing to do anything to amass ill-gotten wealth.
The source indicated that they have made a series of reports against the customs officials in the Southwest, expecting that in no distant future, customs officials in the Region will be brought to book.
These allegations were also confirmed by the Regional Chief of Wildlife and Protected Area at the Southwest Delegation of Forestry and wildlife, Nono Joseph, during the tenth annual meeting grouping stakeholders fighting against poaching in the Region. He said he and his team have left the borders a couple of times frustrated in their attempt to track the illegal route used by wildlife traffickers to export animal parts due to inadequate collaboration from custom officials. He beckoned on the government to strengthen efforts to perfect understanding between MINFOF and the customs.
On their part, the customs officials refuted all the allegations levelled against them. The Chief of Centre for Customs in Tiko, Mr Aboubakar Danglady, said the Customs branch of Tiko has enjoyed fruitful partnerships with MINFOF ever since he took over.
“It is unfortunate that we are being accused by MINFOF. All I know is that MINFOF has fruitful ties with us. We all fight for the same course so why compete within ourselves?” the Tiko customs boss asked.
Reacting to the October 24 incident, Mr. Aboubakar revealed that they were just trying to follow administrative procedures.
“On that day, it was our collaborators who discovered the wildlife parts. It was seized and brought into our office. In the process of making reports to our hierarchy, MINFOF officials mounted pressure on us to hand over the seized wildlife parts. When we told them the procedure, they took it for bad faith, and started calling other administrators. Sooner than later, a delegation comprising of the Divisional officer for Tiko, and the Assistant State counsel, in the company of the forces of law and order suddenly appeared in our office. We received even more pressure to hand over the wildlife parts. After a heated meeting and to the understanding of everyone, the wildlife parts were finally handed to them,” Mr Aboubakar Danglady revealed.
Meantime, custom officials instead attributed corrupt practices at the Cameroon borders to MINFOF Officials. A custom official, who pleaded for anonymity, told GV that officials of MINFOF in the Southwest Region are reputed for illegal trade especially at landlocked borders.
“We have received calls several times from MINFOF officials requesting us to liberate trucks intercepted with timber leaving Cameroon to Nigeria through Ekok” the source revealed.
He said their relationship with MINFOF is strained at times when they refuse financial promises from MINFOF and still impound trucks with illicit goods against their (MINFOF) wish.
Little or no wonder that the Secretary General at Southwest Governor’s Office, Mr Fon Ndikum Clement, during the tenth edition of the Southwest Anti-Poaching Commission called on “all warring factions” to work together to drive government’s policies ahead.
By Yanick Fonki Ndeley