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A seal on a toxic dump

The Guardian

Nigeria
22/09/2010

Residents of Owode area of Ikorodu, Lagos State, whose houses and businesses are located near the Majidun River, had been curious over the movement of trucks, particularly at night.

The trucks would arrive and park by the bank of the river and after movements indicating that things were being offloaded from the vehicle and dumped into the river, the drivers would drive away again.

Then, they noticed that something was going wrong in the River Majidun, which had been a source of sustenance for most of them over the years.

The river provided them with water for domestic use, fish and crabs for food and they usually travelled in their boats and canoes to other parts of the state and beyond through the same river.

Gradually, their suspicion over the mission of the night trucks grew and soon they realized that something was being dumped into the river.

According to a resident, Mr. Tolani Agoro:  “If they had nothing to hide, why do they bring the trucks when people are not around? Why do they try to ensure no one sees what they do?”

The action they took was to take their suspicions to the Lagos State Ministry of Environment where officials, after listening, swung into action to unravel what lay behind the surreptitious movement of trucks at the bank of River Majidun.

The result of that action was that over the weekend, several people were arrested as they were dumping dangerous waste, confirmed to be expired dry-cell batteries loaded in a truck, into the river.

The Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Muiz Banire, was shocked, describing the arrest of the suspects as “a Divine intervention to avert what might have later resulted into a major health hazard in the state.”

Banire’s shock later turned to indignation when the truck was traced to Nos., 40/42 Jimoh Odutola Street, Eric Moore Industrial Area, Iganmu, where four large warehouses stocked with expired dry-cell batteries, were located.

The commissioner confirmed that it was from the warehouse that the suspects usually took the expired cell-batteries to dump into River Majidun.

The warehouses were immediately sealed off to forestall further indiscriminate disposal of the highly toxic material.

A resident of the area, Kamoru Salau told The Guardian that he and others like Agoro had been noticing the unusual movement of the trucks in the last few weeks and were bothered.

He said the river meant a lot to members of the community and they therefore could not afford to be silent over whatever was happening to it that appeared out of the ordinary.

“Our life as a community is intertwined with the river. Whatever is happening to it is of great importance to us.” Banire explained that following complaints by some residents, officials of the Monitoring, Enforcement and Compliance Department (MEC) of the Ministry apprehended some truck drivers while they were dumping the toxic materials into the Majidun River.

“The vehicles were traced to the warehouses in Iganmu where thousands of cartons of the expired batteries were stored.”

He condemned the action, pointing out that the arbitrary disposal of toxic wastes into streams and rivers as well as arable land put the entire populace at the risk of epidemics.

Apart from that, the commissioner noted that such actions were capable of stifling economic activities through low productivity as a result of ill health.

“Aquatic life and the lives of Lagosians are equally under immense threat of extermination by such dangerous acts.”

He added that newborn babies would be the most vulnerable as they might contract a disease commonly called the Blue Baby Syndrome- a disease, which is contracted through high exposure to lead, a major toxic component of the dry cell battery.

“When lead- (Pb)-accumulates in the body system of aquatic animals like fish, shrimps, snails and frogs, and these are in turn consumed by the unsuspecting members of the public, such individuals could suffer from skin and blood cancer.”

The Commissioner warned industrialists, manufacturers, poultry farmers and depot managers to stop indiscriminate waste disposal.

He told them to always contact the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) and the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) as the statutory agencies of the Ministry of the Environment empowered and equipped for the proper assessment of environmental impact of industrial wastes and proper disposal of solid waste respectively.

Banire stated that companies that failed to comply would not escape the appropriate sanctions as ignorance of due process and environmental friendly business practices would not be acceptable defense for carrying out incriminating acts which are injurious to both human and natural endowments of the state, all in name of doing business.

The commissioner urged Lagosians to be vigilant and quickly report to the Ministry of the Environment any person or group of persons found dumping things in inappropriate places in their communities for immediate intervention by the appropriate department.

He maintained that the state government was concerned about the safety of its environment and health of the people, and as such would vigorously pursue all proactive measures to prevent the dumping of toxic wastes into the water bodies in the state.

However, some environmentalists including the Director, Regional Coordinator Centre for Africa for Training and Technology Transfer, BASEL Convention, Prof. Oladele Osinbanjo have said that those who carelessly handle electronic and toxic waste might, unknown to them, be literally digging their own graves and those of others.

Another environmentalist, Dr. Yinka Aderinto expressed concern that many people were actually ignorant of the danger inherent in toxic wastes and thus, dumped them anywhere.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.

    

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