The Federal Government has detained a vessel, MV GUMEL, suspected to be carrying eight containers of hazardous waste such as fridges, used televisions, used batteries and compressor pots.
The ship was detained on arrival at Tincan Island Port, Lagos State at 3.30pm on May 29, 2010.
The Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Customs Service, Tincan Island Command, Mr Chris Osunkwo, confirmed the report on Thursday to one of our correspondents. He said that Customs men were detailed to guard the ship after being alerted by the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency.
The ship, according to Osunkwo, was anchored at Berth 9, Tincan Port.
However, investigations revealed that one Mr. De Strooper Marc had alerted the Director-General, NESREA, Dr. Ngeri Benebo, through an e-mail of the illegal shipment of the suspected toxic materials from Germany via the Port of Antwerp, The Netherlands on May 14, 2010.
The email sent by Marc to Benebo reads in part, “We were not able to block these trailers before shipment, but we were able to get the bill of lading of these units. They were all loaded at the Port of Antwerp on the vessel, MV GUMEL Voyager. It left on May 14 and is expected to arrive on May 29, 2010.
“It should be good if you could inspect these units on arrival at the port of Lagos on May 29, 2010, and eventually send them back to Antwerp or directly to Germany.”
It was gathered that the consignments belonging to the Managing Director, Socar Talamiz Limited, Mr. Aminu Usman, arrived the port with Bills of Lading marked 23871; 25008; 25285; 25323; 25860; 25983; 26049; 26118; and 26029 respectively.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Environment, Mr.John Odey, confirmed the development to one of our correspondents through Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Rotimi Ajayi, on the telephone on Thursday.
Similarly, the Deputy Director, Industrial Compliance Monitoring, National Environmental Standards Regulation and Enforcement Agency, Mrs. Miranda Amakhree, confirmed the presence of the toxic waste ship in a telephone interview with our correspondent in Abuja on Thursday.
She, however, stated that the vessel had been arrested by a combined team from NESREA,Customs, the Nigeria Police and other security agencies at the ports.
According to Ajayi, “We were have received a report of a vessel laden with toxic waste materials. The minister has directed NESREA to be vigilant on issues like this. He said he would not tolerate a situation where individuals or companies violate our laws or conventions, to which Nigeria is a signatory as regards e-waste, toxic waste or any environmental issue that will create challenges for our people.
“The Federal Government will not treat the toxic waste vessel with any exception. NESREA is expected to go the whole hog in dealing with the issue, in line with the letters of our national laws and international conventions, especially the Rotterdam Convention, which establishes a Prior Informed Consent Procedure for certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade.”
However, Amakhree noted that the captain of the toxic waste vessel received “the clearance to come in from the Nigerian Ports Authority.
He added, “ The Antwerp Environmental Police alerted NESREA that a vessel carrying eight containers of toxic waste was coming to Nigeria. The name of the ship is MV Gumel. The ship was supposed to arrive Nigeria on May 29, but it finally arrived at the Tin Can Island Port by 10:30pm on Wednesday without being detected by naval authorities. This fuelled the suspicion that the ship was carrying some hazardous substances.
“The owner of the consignment, Mr. Aminu Usman, said that he was not aware that they were toxic materials. When the containers were opened, we discovered that there were hazardous waste as contained in the alert we received. These include fridges with used television sets, used batteries, compressor pots; old blenders, 1984 audio video players, assorted vehicle fenders,1980 model engine and spare parts. According to the captain of the ship, NPA gave the clearance to come in but the eight containers will be sent back to the country of origin. The owner of the consignment has accepted to pay the cost of freight .He has also written an indemnity that he will be held responsible if anything happens.”