By Anthony Nwachukwu
A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the four Guineans and a Nigerian standing trial for their alleged attempt to export N22.3 billion worth of Pangolin scale and elephant tusk remanded in the custody of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
The accused, identified as Troare Djakonba, Muyribein Bereye, Mohammed Berete, Sediki Berete (Guineans) and Isiaka Musa were arraigned Thursday before Justice Tijjani Rigim on a four-count charge bordering on collecting, loading, transporting and attempting to export N22.3 billion worth of Pangolin scales and elephant tusk.
However, the Guineans pleaded not guilty to all four-count charges, which were read to them by a translator in Manike, a Guinean dialect.
Justice Rigim ordered their remand till September 1, 2021, when the NCS is expected to file a counter-application to their bail application by the defense counsel. He further adjourned till then.
Muyribein Bereye and Sediki Berete, reportedly on the run, were not in court yesterday, though the NCS’ Counsel, Smart Akande, told the court that efforts were ongoing for their arrest and prosecution.
He further told newsmen after the arraignment that all necessary applications would be filed before the adjourned date, stating that all the accused persons were supposed to have been arraigned on August 18, 2021 but for the absence of a translator.
Akande recalled that the NCS Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), had disclosed while displaying the seizures on August 4, 2021, that the 17,137.44 kilogrammes of Pangolin scales (196 sacks), 870.44 kilogrammes of elephant tusks and 4.60 kilogrammes of Pangolin claws were evacuated at a location in Lekki, Lagos State, following extensive collaboration and credible intelligence.