The Federal Government on Friday June 5 embarked on a nationwide raid on business outfits allegedly doing illegal slaughtering, trading and exporting donkeys and their products especially donkey skin against the Government’s initiative to regulate the business and to preserve the donkey specie from going into extinction.
Part of the raid was carried out by the task force of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), which enlisted a detachment of men of the Nigerian Army and police officers to swoop on a facility in Ameke community in Ohaukwu Local Government of Ebonyi State, where some Chinese nationals were caught for alleged illegal processing of donkey skin and packaging them for export without the requisite permission.
Team leader of the task force Dr. Anthony Achuzie, said the raid had become necessary to stop the Chinese from engaging in illegal slaughtering of donkeys and packaging the skin to their country.
“We have instructions from the headquarters to protect our donkey species because the Chinese are slaughtering donkeys and repatriating the skin to their country. We have warned them to stop this business to no avail. So, this time, we intend to arrest everybody involved in the illegal business and we will seize every product and their property. This action is nationwide,’’ he said.
The operation which lasted for about 2 hours led to the arrest of three Chinese namely, Lucky Chen, Lill Xam Hut and Xi Zia, together with the Nigerian wife of Lucky, Joy Chen. The task force also seized and carted away all their consignment estimated to worth N30 million. The three Chinese men were later taken to the Area Police Command at Ohaukwu, for documentation and subsequent prosecution. They were also said not have valid documents required for the business.
According to Achuzie, the Chinese men will be arraigned in court from next week and they will face the full weight of the law.
It is estimated that Nigeria is losing over $2 billion every year due to the illegal smuggling of donkey products and the action is threatening the specie of donkeys because the Chinese operators appear not to have any plans to breed donkeys in Nigeria.
The Chinese are reportedly using the illegality to procure cheap labour and disrupt the regular value chain that would have created more jobs for people in the sub-sector, because they allegedly pay less and use less number of workers.
Experts have warned that if such is allowed to continue, then the expected foreign exchange accruing from derivatives of donkeys in line with the diversification agenda of the Federal Government in the agriculture sector, will suffer.
Leader of the Chinese, Lucky Chen while speaking to BusinessDay claimed the Chinese are not the ones killing the animals, stressing that they are only going to the market to buy the skin just like everybody is doing freely.
“We are only buying from the local market. We have been doing this for three years. We sell to Chinese people in Enugu, even in this village, Abia and Imo states,” he said.
The Chinese are however, being accused by sources within the local community of sponsoring the local people in the country for the indiscriminate slaughtering of donkeys.
National Vice Chairman of Donkey Skin Processors, Marketers and Exporters Association of Nigeria, Ifeanyi Dike said the government acted swiftly to curb the excesses and impunity of the Chinese, who have repeatedly violated laid down rules. He tasked the government to intensify their efforts, adding that there is no hiding place for any person or group that fails to play by the rules.
“The Chinese cannot be allowed to come to Nigeria to do illegal business. They are depriving the government and the people of Nigeria the much needed foreign exchange,” he said.
An indigene of the community, who gave his name as Peter Obodo, said “We have an association that regulates this business and we have given these Chinese notice for many years to understand that this thing they are trading in is illegal business and they should key in with the organization. Along the line many of them felt that the organization is not serious. As an African man you cannot trade just like that in China, so we had to make the government know about this illegal business going on.
“It is more than three years the Chinese have been doing this business, prior to this time they have been in Lagos. Last week they loaded a container for export from here and they have the impression that the government will not take action on that. Now they know that the government is serious with this business,” he said.