The Federal Government has formally handed over more than 600 snakes, spiders and millipedes recently seized in Calabar to the University of Uyo, in Akwa Ibom.
Personnel of the Nigerian Customs Service, Cross River and Akwa Ibom Commands intercepted three consignments containing 140 species of snakes and 600 animals at the NIWA jetty, Calabar on July 24.
The consignment is also made up of geckos, millipedes, hairy frogs and spiders, imported into the country, all valued at N6.9m.
The Minister of State for Environment, Mr Ibrahim Jibril, who handed over the contraband to the institution on Friday in Calabar, called for a comprehensive expert report on the consignment to enable government has a better understanding of the issues involved.
He, however, commended the Nigeria Customs Service for its gallantry, saying that government expected an official recommendation on the customs officers that impounded the animals.
“The Federal Government commends the officers and men of Nigeria Customs Service and other agencies involved in the interception of these animals.
“We thank them for portraying the country in a good light because everything we hear about Nigeria is negative.
“I must commend the Nigeria Customs Service for doing something positive for our country,’’ he said.
According to him, the officers and men of the NCS have done the country proud, adding that the nation must appreciate them.
The minister said that the Federal Government would continue to reward Nigerians who demonstrated a commitment to the service of their fatherland.
Jibril urged Nigerians to shun negative tendencies capable of tarnishing the nation’s image stressing that government would not hesitate to punish evil deeds.
Receiving the animals on behalf of the University, Dr Edem Eniang of the Department Forestry and National Services, said that the original destination of the animals was from Cameroon to Luxemburg.
“But the people decided to pass through Calabar because probably, it was more convenient for them to travel through Calabar,” he said.
Eniang, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Bio-Diversity Centre, Uyo, said the animals were very viable for conservation.
“They are all poisonous snakes and they are very valuable because their venom could be used for many kinds of medicine, including anti-venoms.
“The poisonous snakes in this region are very valuable and we will examine them, especially the ones that are still alive, we will rehabilitate them and make recommendations to the government.”
He disclosed that some of the animals had died while others escaped.
Contributing, Mr Sunday Ukut, the State Director of Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services, described the seizure as “a break through” by a combined effort of NCS and other relevant security agencies at the port.