" ITREALMS: e-waste and Nigerian state

Thursday, November 03, 2005

e-waste and Nigerian state

Features of the week:

The issue of electronic waste otherwise called e-waste would pass as one of those things, but for the recent outcome of the Basel Action Network (BAN) study in some developing countries including Nigeria. REMMY NWEKE reports from Germany that the outcome of the study is as revealing as it is shocking.

"… What Africa needs is clean jobs. Africans want to live like other human beings, they want to enjoy life. This (e-waste) is shortening their lives … If somebody know [s] that something is bad, and you give this to somebody who is poor, you are terrorizing him. I call this toxic terrorism really, because it’s only beneficial to one side …." – Prof. Oladele Osibanjo, Director, Basel Convention.

Nigeria’s known toxic waste anxiety in 1988 was found in Koko in the southern part of the country, but the news report of "The Digital Dump: Exporting Re-Use and Abuse to Africa," re-echoed with some sense of alert recently in Lagos, the commercial nerve center of the nation.

e-waste, an electronic and electrically equipment (WEEE) generated waste has find another route into the country, as most of supposed fairly used ‘second-hand’ Personal computers (PCs), monitors, Television (TVs) and cell phones; which are either usable and repairable are being shipped into developing countries from developed nations.

The report released by the Seattle, Washington-based organization, Basel Action Network (BAN), advocates of global prevention of toxic trade from rich to poorer nations, was conducted in conjunction with San Jose-based Computer TakeBack Campaign.

Current situation

As stated by the report released penultimate Monday, October 24, 2005, United States (US) and Europe, were aiding and abetting the creation of a ‘digital dump from re-use and repair’ trade, established on the number of ‘unexpected’ exports to developing countries like Nigeria, who are struggling daily to reposition their economic quagmire saturated with corruption and inexplicable debt to Club of Creditors nation led by the Paris Club.

Although US’ National Safety Council, was reported to have disclosed that over 63 million computers in US only would be obsolete by end of this year.

BAN had also in 2002 conducted similar study in Asia, where it found that over 50 per cent of electronic waste collected for recycling in the western US, ended up being recycled in unregulated and unhealthy conditions in parts of China, India and Pakistan.

Parts of BAN’s latest report read: "A new investigation … has revealed that large quantities of obsolete computers, televisions, mobile phones, and other used electronic equipment exported from US and Europe to Lagos, Nigeria for ‘re-use and repair’ are ending up gathering dust in warehouses or being dumped and burned near residences in empty lots, roadsides and in swamps creating serious health and environmental contamination from the toxic leach ate and smoke".

A computer monitor, for instance, expert said, on average contains estimated eight pounds or three and half kilogrammes worth of lead, in addition to plastics laden with flame retardants and cadmium.

Re-use is good but …

In Lagos, BAN led by its coordinator, Mr. Jim Puckett noted that there is a legitimate robust market, ability to repair and refurbish old electronic equipment including computers, monitors, TVs and cell phones, by local experts who also complained of estimated 500 40-foot containers shipped to Lagos monthly, with 75 per cent of the imports presumably "junk" which are not economically viable through repairs or marketable.

Mr. Puckett, also said, "Re-use is a good thing, bridging the digital divide is a good thing, but exporting loads of techno-trash in the name of these lofty ideals and seriously damaging the environment and health of poor communities in developing countries is criminal."

The report traced corroboration on numerous computer identification tags from schools and government agencies as well as forensic examinations of hard-drives picked up by BAN in Lagos, unveiling some very personal information about their previous owners.

Lack of enforcement

This kind of trade, he said, is illegal under international rules governing trade in toxic waste such as the Basel Convention, but blamed governments and specifically the US for refusing to ratify, implement or properly enforce these rules for toxic electronic waste, from its end.

Proper enforcement of these rules, Mr. Puckett said requires all such e-scrap exports, whole or in parts to be properly tested for functionality and certified to be going to re-use destinations rather than for disposal or recycling, warning that everybody including users of electronic equipment need to be extremely careful.

"Things are completely out of control, manufacturers have got to get toxic chemicals out of electronic goods, governments have got to start enforcing international law, and we consumers have got to be a lot more careful about what our local ‘recycler’ is really doing. It’s time we all get serious about what is now a tsunami of toxic techno-trash making its way from rich to poorer countries, and start taking some responsibility," he declared.

A time bomb

Presently, there exists Decree 42 in Nigeria on hazardous waste which stipulates complete ban, but was not specific on e-waste. According to chief environmental scientist at the Federal Ministry of Environment, Mrs. Olakitan Ogunbuyi, "the Basel Convention has been ratified (by Nigeria) but not domesticated" and importers are taking advantage of this to ship in e-waste which comes as technologies – cell phones and PCs. Additionally, she said burning of this junk generates dioxin which is not visible but has dangerous effect in the long run.

Director, Basel Convention regional coordinating center, Ibadan, Nigeria, Prof. Oladele Osibanjo, described the study revelation as a time bomb. "… I was shocked to see these tones, heaps of e-waste. People believe out of sight is out of mind. Burn it off and it disappears. Of course, you just changed it from solid to gaseous phase; it’s still the same problem". Prescribing that what is good for the goose should also be good for the gander.

Total ban

In his reaction, President of the hardware group of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) known as Information Technology (Industry) Association of Nigeria (ITAN), Mr. Will Anyaegbunam, told Champion Infotel, though he had always known that there are lots of junks coming into Nigeria in the name of second hand or fairly used PCs and primarily into the Otigba computer village, "it is quite a surprise to me that the figure is as high as 500 containers".

Mr. Anyaegbunam, who also is the managing director, Beta Computers, said it is high time the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) declare a total ban on the importation of these PCs among other electronic gadgets, mostly within a specific thresh-hold and years after manufacture.

He was quick to visualise that even the specification threshold and age limit will be difficult to enforce, hence he advocated for a total ban on second-hand IT equipment.

"Except for tested and verified imports for donation to educational institutions," he asserted, insisting that this way, "No second hand PCs or other IT equipment should be allowed for resale". Further, he disclosed that ITAN would soon come out with a stand after reviewing the BAN’s study.

Mitigating the effect

Therefore, it is time for some recycling companies currently over 40 located in US to extend their offices and ingenuity to developing nations, like Nigeria to assist in cushioning the third leg effect of these unwholesome exports.

Whilst waiting on government and its agencies like SON and Customs to brace up, as well as the Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) to, maybe, come out of the shock of the e-waste dump in Nigeria, it is another confirmation of how developed nations are under-developing the continent as noted 32 years ago by Walter Rodney in his 1973 book, "How Europe under-developed Africa".

1 comment:

Used PC said...

Nice Blog Post !

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