ERuDeF Staff, Forestry Officials Coached on Legal Proceedings for Wildlife Crimes

Tabi poses with villagers after training session
Tabi poses with villagers after training session

On July 10 -11, 2015, some ERuDeF staff, eco-guards, staff from WCS Kagwene and Takamanda-Mone project, as well as officials of the Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife for Manyu were trained on legal proceedings for wildlife crimes. The workshop was organized by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) at the WSC premises in Bamenda, Northwest Region.

     By Enokenwa Allen Tabi

In her opening remarks, the Northwest Regional Delegate of the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF), Mrs. Mbah Grace, urged especially the eco-guards to make good use of the skills gained from the workshop to fight wildlife crimes in their respective areas.

In his presentation, Senior Sate Counsel Justice Sunjo Didacus stressed the role of the forest guard as judicial police officer (JPO) in the investigation of wildlife and wildlife related offences; searches, and seizures in the course of an investigation.

Justice Eyong Ngwayi Lucy, Examining Magistrate, Court of First Instance and High Court of Manyu presented on: legislation and familiar terminology in the investigation and prosecution of forestry, wildlife, fisheries and related offences and arrest by eco-guards or a judicial police officer of forestry, wildlife and fisheries departments, procedures and circumstances.

Justice Antunka Moses A. of the Court of First Instance and High Court of Manyu lectured on commencement of court actions and prosecution of wildlife and wildlife related offences.

At the end of the workshop participants learnt that JPOs and judicial police agents are determined by rank or special training and all must be admitted under oath in a Court of First Instance of a judicial area.

That the JPO, his/her agent or any officer of the forces of law and order may effect an arrest of wildlife and related crime; any individual, whether a citizen or not, in the cases of offences committed flagrante delicto may effect an arrest.

The participants also learnt that eco-guards are special judicial police officers (SJPO) and should work under the direct supervision of the state counsel regarding arrest on wildlife crimes and offences; that they should work in collaboration with JPOs and should be able to speak the legal language.

In addition, JPOs can conduct search of houses, premises and seizures after a warrant is issued. In the course of investigation, a JPO should make sure an offender signs the inventory form after search or seizure. JPOs should also take pictures, if possible, of seized items to prepare clear evidence in court.

Furthermore, JPOs should dispose of perishable exhibits or sell them under the direction of the legal department and pay revenue to the state treasury; JPOs should respect rules of investigation for accomplishment of wildlife cases.

Meanwhile, forestry and wildlife offences committed in protected areas where they are no eco-guards like the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary or outside the protected area, the nearest Forestry and Wildlife Post or Divisional Delegation should be informed to carry out the law enforcement and initiate the prosecution.

Finally, criminal proceedings involves three stages; Investigation, preliminary inquiry and prosecution.

More than 40 participants attended the workshop.