WARRI – The Executive Director of ERA / FoEN Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo has called on both the Delta State and the federal agency National Environmental Standard Regulation Enforcement Agency ( NESREA ) to immediately set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the recent dumping of toxic waste dumping in Niger delta and in particular Koko town I in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State.
Addressing a press conference in Lagos, Dr.Ojo who lamented the high rate impunity with which people continuously degrade the environment, gave a brief history of toxic dumping in the Niger Delta.
“This is not the first time this is happening. To refresh our memory, persistent ecological onslaught on the people of the Niger Delta being perpetrated by corporations and their Nigerian collaborators continues unabated leading to massive pollution of water bodies and soil contamination.”
“To recall, in 1987 an Italian businessmen Gianfranco Raffaeli and Renato Pent, of the Waste Broker firms Ecomar and Jelly Wax respectively, signed an illegal agreement with an unsuspecting Nigerian businessman, Sunday Nana, to use his property for storage of 18,000 drums of hazardous waste for approximately $100 a month. Italy is believed to produce between 40 and 50 million tons of industrial wastes and 16 million tons of household wastes each year, most of which are exported to developing countries like Nigeria for disposal. Nana was made to believe the wastes were substances relating to the building industry, and were residual and allied chemicals. By the time the truth came out, it was discovered that the contents included “toxic and radioactive” substances including asbestos fiber and dioxin, among other dangerous chemicals.”
“The Koko people and those who handled the wastes were exposed to the hazards of the chemicals and some were hospitalized with problems ranging from chemical burns, nausea, to paralysis. The chemicals included resins, solvents and pigments that cause inflammation of vital human organs, poisoning the blood system and cancers. Nana reportedly died while watching the toxics.”
The environmentalist recall that it took several media stories before the then Ibrahim Babangida junta stepped in and made some arrests and finally through diplomatic means ensured that the toxic wastes were returned by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to sender in Italy.
According to him to him, the incident played a crucial role in the birth of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) charged with the administration and enforcement of the provisions of environmental laws in Nigeria. In addition, the government enacted the Harmful Waste (Special Criminal Provisions) Act, 1988, to deal specifically with illegal dumping of harmful waste.
Another toxic nightmare unfolding in Koko? It may shock you all to know that nearly 30 years after the sad incident we mentioned, ERA/FoEN and locals have again confirmed new wastes dump in vessels owned by Ebenco Global Link Limited as hazardous.
Ebenco is into waste management and recycling and operating in the Koko since 2007 or thereabout and known for emptying sludge and similar wastes into Koko river or simply burying them.
ERA /FoEN while urging the federal government to do all within its power to check indiscriminate and illegal dumping of hazardous wastes like in the case of Ebenco Global Link Ltd, and more importantly in keeping with the spirit and letter of Section 20 of the 1999 Constitution for the protection of air, water, soil, therefore make the following demand:
That the Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) live up to its responsibility of protection of the environment and enforcing compliance with all environmental laws both in Nigeria as well as international agreements, protocols and treaties on the environment to which Nigeria is a signatory.
They also demanded that the Delta state Ministry of Environment and the federal Ministry of Environment should also step in to collaborate for a proper Commission of Enquiry to unravel the persistence of toxic waste dumping in Koko; Ebenco Global Link Limited be compelled to clean up its mess in Koko and evacuate its hazardous wastes, including those allegedly surreptitiously buried in large quantities.
ERA/ FoEN insisted that Ebenco be made to pay penalties and fines as well as compensation to victims/community people whose land have been contaminated.
“We stand in solidarity with the people of Koko and concerned environmental advocacy groups in challenging the human rights abuses and impunity being perpetrated by the company. This environmental onslaught at the behest of the company that has led to the divide and rule of the people in Koko must stop now!!! The environment is our life, it is not for sale! “the group said.