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E-waste, known as electrical and electronic equipment waste, has been identified as the fastest growing waste stream in the world, which is projected to soon reach fifty million tons a year. Though its generation is estimated at three times the rate of municipal solid waste, little attention has been paid to it.

E-waste includes large and small household appliances (refrigerators, toasters), ICT/Telecommunication equipment, personal computer, radio, cameras, fluorescent lamps, drills, saws, soldering equipment among others. A Professor of Chemistry at the University of Ibadan, Professor Oladele Osibanjo,  said the quest to bridge the digital divide has led to developing countries to embrace e-waste. Professor Osibanjo believed that the flood of e-waste and second-hand electronics from developed countries would bring about serious human and environmental problems into the  importing countries. Professor Osibanjo, who is also a Director of the Basel Convention Regional Co-coordinating Centre, explained that in 2009, at the second session of the international conference on chemical management held at Geneva Switzerland, raised the motion that e-waste as an emerging global issue should be taken seriously by Governments of the world. Professor Osibanjo noted that e-waste would be a major environmental challenge in the 21st century and would worsen poverty as crude recycling by scavengers in dump sites is likely to pose health and environmental hazards to people living around. Electronic scrap components contain contaminants such as lead, cadmium; beryllium/brominated flame retardant which could be extracted during crude recycling of e-waste and these have proven to be carcinogenic.

The reduction of e-waste coming into the country, according to Professor Osibanjo, can be curtailed if environmental agencies are properly positioned at all the nation’s sea and land ports. He called on the Federal Government to take the challenge associated with e-waste more seriously. Rapid changes in technology, media (tapes, software, MP3), and falling prices include major reasons which have resulted in a fast-growing surplus of electronic waste around the globe. Based on a report by the United Nation Environmental Project (UNEP), the amount of e-waste being generated could rise by as much as 500% over the next decade in countries such as India.

The recent raid by the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) at the popular computer village located in Ikeja Lagos was described by the Director of Enforcement, Mr Linus Njoku, as a process to put a check to the influx of substandard products into the Nigerian market. Mr Njoku said the raid was necessary to ensure greedy business men and women do not use the country as a dumping ground for e-waste. But this move was challenged by the Assistant Secretary- General of Computer and Allied Product Dealers Association of Nigeria (CAPDAN), Mr John Obaro who believes that synergy among all relevant stakeholders would make the fight against e-waste a success. Mr Obaro said the SONCAP and MANCAP requirements by SON have shown that it is ineffective in reducing importation of substandard products which increases the level of e-waste in the country. He also believed that the Nigeria Customs Service is not yet fully alive to its responsibility of monitoring what is imported into the country. Nigeria is yet to have the capacity to recycle the amount of e-waste in the country, which Mr Obaro believed that proper recycling of e-waste could be a good source of revenue and job opportunities. Mr Obaro said the major reason why e-waste would continue to increase in the country is because Nigeria is more of a consuming nation than a producing nation. This, he said, has contributed in making the country a dumping ground by developed countries. He called for the regulatory bodies to make defaulting importers who bring in substandard products to pay for their excesses, as this would serve as a note of warning to others planning to be involved in such nefarious acts. Mr Obaro also believed that e-waste bound for Nigeria through other countries could be curtailed from the point of entry.

The demand by Nigerians for the latest electronic and electrical devices would continue to increase the level of e-waste in the country. The attainment of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) would be impeded if sources of drinking water and farmlands are polluted by heavy metals associated with complex electrical equipment. It is, therefore, pertinent for the Federal Government to develop strategic mechanism for proper recycling of e-waste which would continue to be on the increase in the country as Nigeria is the most populous nation in the continent. Crude processing of e-waste in the informal sector by scavengers in dump site through burning would further increase the amount of heat in the environment, the release of more greenhouse gases (GHG) and bring about Climate Change.   

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