The alarming rate of junk electronic devices in Nigeria

The recent disclosure by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that about 75 per cent of electronic devices imported into Nigeria annually is toxic junk and irreparable is as worrisome as it is deplorable.

The undesirable situation not only exposes Nigeria to environmental health hazards but further weakens the nation’s already comatose economy.

The NCC’s Executive Vice Chairman, Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, who disclosed this during the public inquiry on draft guidelines on disaster recovery and draft regulations on e-waste, last week in Abuja, said this was due to the low income of most Nigerians and their desperate quest for information. According to Prof Danbatta, the threat being posed by e-waste is so glaring and the NCC can’t just ignore it.

“In a fast-paced telecoms industry where speed and capacity define the networks, rapid advances in technology make it easier and convenient to change malfunctioning gadgets than to repair them.

“Also, the illegal and predatory e-waste value chain, which encourages the movement of e-waste from developed to the developing countries, adds another layer to the global challenge of handling e-waste. “In Nigeria, due to low GDP per capital/low income, and the desperate quest for information, it is estimated that 76% of electronics imported into the country are irreparable and toxic junk,” he said.

The NCC boss said in line with the commission’s regulatory mandate, the telecom’s industry regulator had developed a draft regulation on e-waste. He said the draft regulations represents a holistic intervention aimed at providing clarity and delimiting the responsibilities of various stakeholders in the e-waste value chain within the telecommunications industry.

While the draft regulations is industry-specific, he said, it nonetheless keys into initiatives at national and international levels.

The NCC’s Director of Legal and Regulatory Services, Mrs Yetunde Akinloye, while presenting the general overview of guidelines on disaster recovery and e-waste, said a fine of up to N10 million is being proposed against any company that flouts the regulations on e-waste.

It is on the backdrop of the deleterious effects of electronic junks that we commend the NCC’s move to eliminate the use of substandard mobile devices in the country.

 NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Mr Nnamadi Nwokike, said in a statement in Abuja recently that the commission is worried by the continuous proliferation of substandard mobile phones and devices in the country and had again advised telecom consumers to eschew patronage and usage of counterfeit handsets and other substandard mobile devices.

He said the commission made its position known at a one-day event tagged: “Sensitisation Programme on Hazardous Effect of Non-type Approved Handsets and Impact on Quality of Service and E-waste”, held at Paiko, Niger state, recently.

According to him, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Professor Umar Danbatta, while addressing participants at the event said the programme was part of the commission’s deliberate move to educate and create awareness on the hazardous health effects and negative economic implications of the patronage of fake handsets.

He said the proliferation of counterfeit handsets requires a lot of education on the part of the consumers and the collaboration with other government agencies to address it.

He enjoined telecoms consumers to check the commission’s official website to find the list of type-approved phones from which they can make choices of handsets to purchase.

“Cases of influx and patronage of counterfeit handsets are more rampant in developing countries, such as Nigeria where importers bring in substandard phones without recourse to regulatory type-approval process aimed at certifying such devices as fit for the market,” he noted.

He said NCC was empowered by the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, Section 132, to establish and enforce standards for all telecommunications equipment in operation in the country to ensure that they operate seamlessly and safely within the Nigerian telecommunications environment.

As such, all equipment manufacturers, vendors and operators, including customer devices such as mobile phones and wireless adapters, must therefore ensure that their equipment conform to the applicable standards as mandated by the commission before bringing them into Nigeria.

The NCC boss said that the commission was also saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that consumer enjoys his or her stake in the telecommunications industry.

He further said that the commission, in collaboration with the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and other government agencies, recently inaugurated two committees to design modalities towards curbing the proliferation of substandard handsets in the country.

It is trite to state that the NCC’s efforts towards the elimination of substandard electronic devices will come to naught if they are not complemented by the nation’s drive towards industrialisation and enhanced manufacturing.

That Nigeria is a dumping ground for all manner of imported goods, especially from China, is traceable to the fact that the nation’s manufacturing sector is vulnerable. While we welcome the Nigerian Industrial Evolution Plan (NIRP) adopted by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration as its policy plan to drive industrialisation, it is expedient to advise the government to accelerate its implementation.

This is necessary because one of the key pillars of the NIRP, which is the promotion of resource-based industrialisation, is a strategy that could bring manufacturing back to the path of sustainable growth.

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