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E-waste management still a challenge in Nigerian market

Dumping of e-waste into the African markets, especially Nigeria, where the demand is so high has continued to be on the increase despite measures put in place by the regulatory authorities, including the Standard Organization of Nigeria, (SON), the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria, (CPN) and other relevant bodies to stem the ugly trend which constitutes health implication.


With the ugly trend causing more harm than good as a result of environmental pollution and attendant health implication, the western economies, IT experts say, must take action to prevent electrical waste (e-waste) being illegally exported and dumped in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and China, among others.


Given the economic implications of recycling of these products, the western nations, according to findings, see Africa, with Nigeria in the lead as the final destination. This trend which has remained unabated has continued to be a challenge to the regulatory agencies, especially, the Standard Organization of Nigeria, (SON) which my have been helpless in regulating the daily influx of these obsolete e-gadgets that have short life span.


Even with the Basel Convention prohibiting International waste transfer, hundreds of containers stuffed with over used PCs and their accessaries, according to recent checks, have been shipped to African continents, especially, Nigeria because of its high demand.


Recent checks also revealed that millions of computers enter the Nigerian ports every month .These PCs, it was learnt, are fraudulently shipped most of the time as re-use or refurbished, thereby making the IT market look so untidy.


Although the Lagos state ministry of environment and other regulatory agencies may have made efforts to bring the culprits to book, the truth of the matter, according to Vanguard Computers & e-Business findings is that the government and the regulatory agency may not have devised a sustainable measure to control the growing e-waste in the Nigerian IT market.


Just last Monday, a visit to the Nigerian silicon valley, the Computer Village Ikeja, showed that effort to control the influx of thousands of used / refurbished PCs, cellular handsets and other e-gadgets may not have yielded the expected results as these products have continued to flood the Nigerian market by the day .


Even though e-waste is a global issue, especially in most African countries where there is no effective e-waste management system, the fact remains that Nigeria has remained a dumping ground for all kinds of computer scraps that come into the country from the developed economies, especially European and Asian markets by the day.


Some of these products, according to finding, were brought into the country by racketeers and Non governmental Organizations, (NGOs) as a donation which in the long run, never last the test of time.

PCs, according to experts, are just like other e- products and have components that contain highly toxic substances, gases and heavy metals which can be harmful to human health and the environment. The trash from old computers, mobile phones or refrigerators, according to experts, contains dangerous substances, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and barium among others.


When piles of unwanted electronics materials which are improperly disposed of, according to them, can leach toxins into the soil, air and groundwater which later enter into crops, animals and human body systems causing contamination and pollution.


The issue of hazardous content in electronic items has worried, before now, and continues to worry medical experts. With this, medical experts have warned that exposure to these substances can cause damage to blood and nervous systems, DNA, immune systems, kidneys, can lead to respiratory and skin disorders and lung cancer as well as interfere with regulatory hormones and brain development


Worried by the growing trend of e-waste across markets, the Computer Aid International had last month launched a campaign for action against toxic trade, challenging the UK government over the trend.


The UK government, according an international development charity organization, Computer Aid , in a media report must take action to prevent the UK's electrical waste (e-waste) being illegally exported and dumped in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and China. The Computer Aid had last month written a petition calling for the government to provide the Environment Agency with the resources to effectively police the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive.


In a statement issued last month, the Computer Aid called on the UK government to tighten up the WEEE directive and highlights why it's time to take action to prevent the UK's hazardous waste being exported to the developing world.


The charity also hits out at cowboy commercial traders actively abusing re-use and recycling initiatives, as well as the computer manufacturers that shirk responsibility for their equipment dumped in developing countries.


Louise Richards, CEO of Computer Aid, stated: "National newspaper exposes and reports from both Greenpeace and Consumers International clearly demonstrate the extent of the e-waste problem, and serve to highlight the limitations of the current legislative framework for e-waste. According to Consumers International, in Nigeria alone more than half a million second-hand PCs arrive in Lagos every month, yet only one in four works.


"The Environment Agency must be provided with the resources to police e-waste, prosecute anyone involved in a supply chain that results in the dumping of e-waste and remove licences from organizations in breach of the WEEE legislation. It's imperative that the government clamps down on fraudulent traders posing as legitimate re-use and recycling organizations, who are enticing unwitting UK businesses to use them for disposal of electrical equipment.


"These traders do not declare the contents of their shipments as hazardous e-waste, but falsely claim consignments consist entirely of electrical equipment destined for productive re-use. The result? The waste is manually scavenged for metals, then stripped down and incinerated in the open air. The high volume of environmentally unsound e-waste is driven almost exclusively by the motive of profit, but the cost is borne by the environment and the children who disassemble the equipment."


Computer Aid also in the statement highlighted how existing legislation is failing to hold manufacturers to account if their products are found dumped in developing countries, as Tony Roberts, Founder and Director of International Programmes, urges producers to take responsibility for the products they are placing into the global market:

"Under the Producer Pays principle of the WEEE directive, producers of electrical equipment are responsible for funding the end of life recycling of equipment within the European Union, but no such legislation exists for the millions of electronic products sold in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Producers should be made to accept the producer pays principle on a global scale, and take responsibility for the safe recycling of products in developing countries.


They must also consider the design of their products and reduce their use of hazardous substances in the manufacturing process, so they can be more easily recycled.


"Modern economic development is not possible without information and communication technologies, any more than it is possible without cars or factories, but we must put a stop to this shameful abuse of e-waste in the developing world."Computer Aid said


To date, Computer Aid has refurbished more than 130,000 PCs and laptops, all of which are being used to support e-learning. e_health, e_inclusion and e_agriculture projects in countries such as Kenya, Madagascar and Zambia. Asset tracking ensures all computers can be traced to the exact hospital, school or project they are benefitting.


The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive came into UK law in January 2007, and has been in force since July 2007. It aims to minimise the impact of electrical and electronic goods on the environment, by increasing re_use and recycling and reducing the amount of WEEE going to landfill.


The WEEE Directive also aims to improve the environmental performance of businesses that manufacture, supply, use, recycle and recover electrical and electronic equipment.

The WEEE Directive affects producers, distributors and recyclers of electrical and electronic equipment _ including household appliances, IT and telecoms equipment, audiovisual equipment (TV, video, hi_fi), lighting, electrical and electronic tools, toys, leisure and sports equipment.


Source: Emeka Aginam, Vanguard

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