Monday, August 30, 2010


Nigeria as Dumping Ground for E-waste

By Editorial Board

Nigeria as Dumping Ground for E-waste

Recently, Dr. Ngeri Benebo, Director
General of the National Environmental
Standards and Regulations
Enforcement Agency (NESREA) raised alarm over the health and environmental hazards posed by indiscriminate importation of used electrical/electronics by unscrupulous businessmen into the country. Benebo who spoke at the recently concluded National Conference on ICT and the Nigerian Environment in Lagos identified lack of legislation, weak global and regional response as well as absence of infrastructure for recycling as some of the challenges militating against e-waste control in Nigeria.

Sadly, as far back as February 2008, Greenpeace, a global environmental advocacy group, had in a statement declared that "Nigeria is one of many destinations for the developed world’s toxic e-waste." A flurry of activities designed to meet the damaging revelation head-on were initiated at the time. Benebo told a stakeholders meeting that the Federal Government had initiated a number of actions to combat the scourge of e-waste dumping in the country including the establishment of an inter-ministerial committee on e-waste management to proffer lasting solutions to the problem.

Investigations by Greenpeace also revealed that the problem was traceable to the large influx of second hand electronic/electrical equipment into the country. Benebo then reportedly said "all imports of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEE) that qualify as WEE under the Basel Convention including those identified by the national definitions in Nigeria could be prohibited. Nigeria can impose additional requirements regarding age and packaging in order to ensure that the material sent into the country as second hand electrical/electronic goods are not hazardous wastes."

It is inexcusable that four years after the Basel Action Network, a pressure group that monitors the trade in hazardous waste, published a report which claimed that some 500 containers with 400,000 second-hand computers were unloaded every month in Lagos ports, the government has yet to establish sound legal and regulatory framework capable of putting a stop to the odious practice. Although Article 2(1) of the Basel Convention on the Control of trans-boundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal did not give a universal definition of waste by describing it as "substances or objects which are disposed of or are intended to be disposed of or are required to be disposed of by the provisions of national law, Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia proffers a more detailed definition of e-waste as "all secondary computers, entertainment device electronics, mobile phones, and other items such as TVs and refrigerators, whether sold, donated, or discarded by their original owners."

Benebo is right in describing e-waste as an emerging hazardous waste issue in Africa with absence of national infrastructure to recycle the materials as well as legislation to regulate the sector. The proposed national policy on e-waste management should fill this gap for Nigeria. It should ensure that the incidence of dumping of e-waste from the developed countries is minimised to the barest minimum if not eradicated. Because millions of computers become obsolete in the developed world every year, the menace of hazardous waste to the African continent remains potent and real. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that worldwide, 20 million to 50 million tonnes of electronics are discarded each year. Less than 10 per cent gets recycled and half or more ends up overseas. As Western technology becomes cheaper and the latest machine comes to be regarded as a disposable fashion statement, this dumping will only intensify.

Successful implementation of the policy would, however, require the support of Nigerians because the ravishing poverty afflicting a vast majority of the citizenry means that most Nigerians cannot afford brand new products. More importantly, the requisite equipment that can aid detection must be procured while the officials who will be deployed to the borders are also given the necessary training. The world’s waterways are still filled with ships looking to unload toxic waste in vulnerable countries. The latest dimension to dumping of hazardous waste which consists of the dumping of unwanted mobile phones, computers and printers, which contain cadmium, lead, mercury and other poisons means that target countries must ensure that the dangerous wastes are not allowed on their territories.

The public should also be educated on the dangers of burning damaged or disused electronics because improper disposal of e-waste can release hazardous chemicals and heavy metals into the environment, making certain areas toxic.

1 comment:

Lauren Roman said...

It's more inexcusable that electronics recyclers have known for well over a decade that there was something amiss with all the toxic e-waste that they were so freely trading with export brokers, no questions asked.

The first Basel Action Network Documentary entitled "Exporting Harm; The High-Tech Trashing of Asia" was released in early 2001 shedding light on where all this stuff was going for the first time. Some recyclers got religion and beefed up their operations to manage all the nasty stuff domestically here in North America. Many of those are now a part of the e-Stewards recyclers network, providing responsible recycling to their clients ( But the majority, in order to meet the demands of their customers who chose price over environmental and social ethics, continue to do what 'sells'.

Shame on them and moreover, shame on their customers who, by this time, certainly know better.