from Birdlife International (news release):

Outbreaks in Nigeria suggest controls on international poultry movements
are widely flouted

The recent outbreak of H5N1 avian ‘flu in Nigeria show that poultry
movements can cause the deadly virus to jump across countries and even
continents. With poor enforcement of controls already blamed for
outbreaks in China, South East Asia and Turkey, the Nigerian outbreak
further demonstrates that lapses in biosecurity are the major reason for
avian ‘flu’s continuing spread around the world.

Whilst the precise nature of the outbreak is unknown, it seems more than
likely that the virus arrived through infected poultry brought into the
country in defiance of Nigeria’s import controls. Speaking at a press
conference, Nigeria’s Agriculture Minister, Adamu Bello, said “Birds
come every day from China, Turkey, into Nigeria, and from Europe and
also from Latin America. So Nigeria is exposed. Illegal importation of
poultry by people who have farms, bringing in poultry from places and
smuggling them in…could also have been a cause.”

Mr Bello was also reported by Nigeria’s Guardian newspaper group as
saying: “We think someone may have imported or smuggled in contaminated

Large scale commercial poultry farms need a regular supply of day old
chicks, and this has created a global trade in supplying the industry in
countries such as Nigeria, which are unable to undertake all the stages
of commercial production. Contesting the ban on imports of day-old stock
earlier in 2005, a poultry industry spokesman said “Nigeria does not
possess the temperature, weather conditions and much-needed technology
to produce Grand Parent stock (day old chickens) now, which is the life
wire of poultry business.”

“Globalisation has turned the chicken into the world’s number one
migratory bird species” said Leon Bennun, Director of Science of
BirdLife International. “Movements of chickens around the world take
place 365 days a year, unlike the seasonal migrations of wild birds”,
Bennun added.

“It is important that strict biosecurity measures are imposed to stop
further spread not only within Nigeria but also to neighbouring
countries”, says Bennun.

However BirdLife is concerned that the authorities in Nigeria receive
appropriate support and advice from the international agencies managing
avian ‘flu and that resources are targeted effectively.

It is extraordinary, given the strong circumstantial evidence
implicating illegal poultry movements, and the repeated opinion of
Agriculture Minister Bello, that some representatives of the UN Food and
Agriculture Organisation have announced that wild migratory birds are
the source of the outbreak.

One senior FAO representative has even been quoted in the press as
saying: “If it’s not wild birds, it will be difficult to understand.
There is no real trade between the Middle East and Asia and Nigeria.”
Yet according to the websites of China’s embassy in Nigeria and their
Ministry of Commerce,”the trade volume between the two countries in 2003
reached US$ 1.86 billion,” and has continued to grow so that “Nigeria is
now China’s second largest export market and fourth largest trade
partner in Africa”.

Nigeria is a major oil producing nation, and with around 25 percent of
the population of Africa within its borders to provide a market for
imports, it is increasingly being sought out as a trading partner. The
largest-scale industrial poultry production in Africa is concentrated
within Nigeria’s northern states. If the global trade in poultry is
spreading avian ‘flu, it was predictable that it would hit Nigeria
before other African countries.

“Perhaps the time has come for an independent inquiry into the spread of
H5N1 over the past few years,” says Bennun. “This could help the world
to learn lessons on what could have been done differently to halt the
spread of the disease and help to stop further outbreaks.”