BY GODFREY BIVBERE & LAIDE AKINBOADE with agency report
ABUJA — The Federal Government, yesterday, vowed to place heavy sanctions on the e-waste ship that was arrested on Wednesday. It also ordered that the toxic wastes laden containers on board the ship, MV Marivia Monrovia, be shipped back to the port of origin in the U.K.
This came after security operatives at the Tin-Can Island Port concluded examination on the two offensive containers bearing the e-wastes.
Director-General of the National Environmental Standard and Regulatory Agency, NESRA, Dr. Ngeri Benebo, said sending the consignment back to the port of origin was in conformity with the provisions of Harmful Wastes Act, promulgated after the Koko waste saga.
“We are sending the e-wastes back to the port of origin,” the director general said, adding that the agency was going to work according to Nigerian laws on the matter and do exactly what the laws said.
Benebo promised that the vessel owners would be heavily sanctioned in line with the laws of the land
How captain tried to deceive security agencies
“The captain wanted to deceive Nigerians. When he realised that there was a red alert on the containers, he lied that the containers were not destined for Nigeria and that they were meant for another country, which was completely false.
“I conferred with the Comptroller General of Customs, who said that once it is manifested as Nigeria, the containers must be dropped and inspected in Nigeria.”
She said the inspection of the containers, as directed by the comptroller-general, was carried out by officials of the NPA, NIMASA, the Customs Service and other security agencies. Benebo said it was discovered that the containers were meant to be disposed off in Nigeria.
According to her, Nigeria will never be used as a dumping ground and “we will resist any attempt by any country to make Nigeria dumping ground.”
Benebo said her agency acted on a tip off to track down the toxic contents in the ship. The names of the importers are Messrs Moronuk David and Bonik Investment.
Ship discharges other containers
When Vanguard got to Berth Four of the port where the ship was anchored, M.V. Marevia was seen discharging its cargo while the two deadly containers were isolated from other containers.
On the outcome of their examination, the officials of the NESREA, who conducted the test on the items in the container kept sealed lips.
Contrary to claims that all the relevant security operatives were on ground for the examination, Vanguard only saw representatives of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Terminal Operator and those of NESREA.
An NPA official said they did not know the outcome as they were only there to observe what the NESREA team was doing. The NPA official said NESREA team used their equipment to test the items and refused to disclose their findings.
Items in the containers
In the two 40-footer containers were used fridges, used television sets, used micro-wave ovens, etc considered hazardous.
Public Relations Officer of Tin-Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Chris Osunkwo, said, yesterday, that they were unable to do the examination because all the agencies were not on ground.
Osunkwo said there was so much confusion as to the actual content of the containers but stressed that true details could only be got after the examination.
Several calls to the head of NESREA team at press time did not yield results, as she seemed to be ending a call each time her phone rang. She also did not respond to text messages.
Assistant General Manager (AGM) in charge of Public Affairs of the NPA, Ileya Musa, said after the examination, what was discovered were used electronics and directed Vanguard to NESREA for details.
Reacting to the development, National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, said the danger of the incident was the likely agitation for the return of security agencies sent out of the ports by the Federal Government to reduce delay in cargo clearance.
Shittu explained that these agencies including NESREA should relate with their international counterparts on intelligence gathering to ensure that such goods do not leave their ports of origin in the first place.
He advised that should any vessel flouts the directive, the crew should be arrested and prosecuted, adding that any shipping company that aids the importation of such cargoes should be charged also.
Past waste dumping incidents
This is not the first attempt to dump toxic wastes in Nigeria. The first attempt was in 1988 when a shipment of over 3,500 tonnes of toxic wastes from Italy was imported to Koko Port, a coastal community in the old Bendel State, now Delta State.
In April 2010, the NCS arrested and detained a Maersk Line vessel, MV Nashiville, laden with toxic wastes (lead batteries classified as Basel code A1180 and broken televisions).
In June 2010, NCS also arrested and detained a ship, MV Gumel, in Lagos port for bringing eight containers with materials suspected to be toxic wastes.
Also, in October 2010, a vessel, MV Vera D, carrying three containers laden with toxic black and white television sets, was detained at the Tin-Can Port, Lagos. The toxic-laden containers were sent back to the port of origin in the US.
In December 2012, NESREA impounded four containers of used electronics described as “e-wastes” in Apapa Port.