By Emma Okonji
Following the renewed call by the International Telecoms Union (ITU), the United Nations agency on telecommunications, that Africans and developing nations must come up with legislation to address the management of electronic waste (e-waste) in order to tame its corresponding health hazards, some stakeholders have called on the federal government to quickly come up with an Executive Bill to address the situation.
Disturbed by the rising rate of e-waste dumpsites in developing countries, Nigeria inclusive, and the potential health danger they pose to people, ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, recently stressed the need for developing nations to begin the process of legislating and implementation of e-waste policies in their various countries, especially in countries yet to be covered by e-waste policy implementation.
According to him, “Currently, 66 per cent of the world population is covered by national e-waste management laws, an increase from 44 per cent that were covered in 2014.
“Reliable and official data and statistics on e-waste provide the foundation for sound e-waste legislation and management at the national level.”
In spite of the campaign, Nigeria, which is the most populated country in Africa and which habours several e-waste dumpsites, has no law protecting its citizens from the health hazards on e-waste.
Worried about the situation, telecoms subscribers under aegis of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS), have joined forces to call for e-waste legislation in Nigeria.
The National President of NATCOMS, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, said the call became necessary, following the health risks posed to humans by the increasing e-waste dumpsites in Nigeria.
Telecoms Lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, told THISDAY in a telephone interview that although it was absolutely necessary for Nigeria to have e-Waste Management Act that is framed in form and substance, the nation must not wait for international bodies like ITU to remind us on what to do to address the rise of e-waste dumpsites across the country, especially in Lagos.
According to Ogunye, “Nigeria needs a law of such nature that requires tech expertise and foreign investors who understand the business of e-waste recycling to effectively manage the situation.”
Ogunye, called on the federal government to as a matter of urgency, set up an inter-ministerial ad-hoc committee made up of persons from various ministries like the Ministries of Health, Communications, Science and Technology, Trade and Investment. “The inter-ministerial committee will first look at the existing global laws on e-waste, review them and develop a working document. The committee will then work with the Ministry of Justice to draft an Executive Bill that will be sent to the National Assembly for passage, before it will be assented into law by the President of Nigeria,” Ogunye advised.
He, however, stressed that the framework for the draft bill must include tech start-ups that would gather e-waste and the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) who manufacture the electronic equipment in order to have an understanding with them on how best to recycle damaged, malfunctioning and used electronic gadgets after the expiration of their lifespan.
The telecoms lawyer, however, expressed displeasure about a situation where Nigeria does not have proper recycling system in place, be it e-waste of other wastes like plastics, bottles and paper wastes.
“Nigeria has developed its municipal solid waste management system, yet government is not doing anything meaningful in that area. We have a lot of plastics waste around our lagoons and rivers, causing environmental hazards to humans and water creatures. We are good at burning wastes and in the process, we create health hazards for people living around the areas where those wastes are burnt,” Ogunye added.
He said the government had decided not to do what it was supposed to do concerning waste management in the country, saying governments in Nigeria do not rely on studies and do not sponsor survey studies on all types of wastes, including e-waste, to see the damaging effects they have on human health.
Global bodies, including World Health Organisation (WHO), have raised the concern over health risks posed by the rising dumpsites of e-waste in developing countries, which they said, could lead to various killer cancer diseases to humans and sea creatures.
Electronic waste refers to all items of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and its parts that have been discarded by its owner as waste without the intent of re-use. E-waste is also referred to as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), or e-scrap under different circumstances.