NESREA Tasks Telcos,Banks On Environmental Governance

Advises Operators To Subscribe To EPR Programme For Sound Management Of E-Waste

Professor Aliyu Jauro, DG NESREA at the forum

Telecommunications companies have been advised to subscribe to the Extended Producers Responsibility programme, EPR, of the government to ensure sound management of electronic wastes and other hazardous substances from their equipments.

The Director General, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, NESREA, Prof. Aliyu Juoro gave the advice at an interactive session with stakeholders in the telecommunication and broadcast sector in Lagos.

Professor Jauro with some of the Participants

He said this has become necessary as the introduction of the 5G network in the country would bring about massive deployment and erection of equipments that would generate more electronic wastes.

Professor Jauro explained that the EPR programme, being implemented by NESREA, required that producers and sellers of electrical and electronics materials be involved in the management of wastes from their products, known as E-waste.

The NESREA Director-general said telecommunication companies were categorized as “Producers” because they import batteries for hybrid power backup systems in base stations and Electrical Electronic Equipment.

Some Participants

According to him, “The Agency has continually observed that some operators mobilize their contractors to the field without carrying out site-specific Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

“This action is in clear violation of the EIA Act and has significant negative impacts on the environment.

“It is the responsibility of operators to ensure that any potential hazard relating to mast construction is averted for the public good, hence the need to obtain your Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to mobilization to site.

“The introduction of 5th generation network in Nigeria is a welcome development as it will improve the broadband for effective and efficient network for the subscribers, however, the 5G will result to the deployment of more electronic equipment, erection of more bts sites, solar panels etc.

“As you are aware, the Agency has commenced the implementation of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programme for all categories of waste.

“Batteries and e-waste are amenable under the EPR scheme as encapsulated in the National Operational Guidelines for the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programme.

” Also, Regulations (3) (i) of the National Environmental (Standards for Telecommunication/Broadcast Facilities) Regulation, S.I 11, 2011 requires telecom operators to ensure “disposal of its spent or waste batteries in accordance to guidelines issued by the Agency”. While Regulations (4) (b) of the National Environmental (Electrical & Electronics) Sector Regulations, S.I 23, 2011 requires that all Producers including Importers ensure Environmentally Sound Management of e-waste”.

He said the agency received reports of some telecom operators giving out their used batteries and e-waste to unregistered collectors and recyclers, a development he said was harmful to the environment, due to health pollution

The NESREA DG, opined that it has also been brought to the attention of the agency that telecom operators have in their possession, heaps of used batteries and e-waste.

He noted that batteries and e-waste, if not quickly disposed in an environmentally friendly manner, could pose substantial risk to the workers and the environment, including causing deformity to unborn babies.

Participants in group photograph

Professor Jauro, while expressing government’s appreciation for the enormous contributions of the telecommunication sector to national development , however called on the operators to adhere to environmental guidelnes aimed at ensuring public health and safety.

He announced plans by the agency to institutionalize a reward system that would promote voluntary compliance to environmental friendly guidelines and sanctions for defaulters.

In his words,
” Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it has been four years since the previous edition of this interactive session.

” Within this period, the 2019 – 2022 Environmental Audit cycle was concluded and the new 2022 – 2025 Audit cycle has commenced in line with the provisions of the National Environmental Regulations for the Telecommunications sector.

“At the end of the EA certification, it is expected that the EA recommendations will be implemented but this is seldom the case.

“It is important to note that citizens are becoming more aware of their environmental rights and the TelCos should endeavor to implement the EA outcomes including the removal of abandoned or decommissioned masts that have become an unpleasant blot on the environment.

“While we applaud some of the operators for complying with the environmental requirements, other telecommunication operators are failing to comply.

” This action is in breach of the provisions of the National Environmental Regulations for the sector and relevant sanctions will be meted out to the defaulting operators in due course.

“As part of the efforts to ensure proper handling of ULABs and E-wastes, Alliance for Responsible Battery Recycling (ARBR) and E-waste Producer Responsibility Organization of Nigeria (EPRON) the Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs) for the sectors have been established.

“However, most of the TelCos are yet to fully subscribe to the EPR scheme.

“The Agency is dismayed that the TelCos have taken a back seat in this novel project to rid our environment of hazardous substances and waste.

“We appreciate the enormous contributions of the telecommunication sector to national growth and development despite the operational challenges of the country’s business environment.

“The Agency will institutionalize a reward system for the sector to promote voluntary compliance as well as improve environmental stewardship, but will not fail as the police of the environment to “wield the big stick” on recalcitrant operators who are bent on disobeying the laws of the land.

At the end of today’s meeting, we expect a concrete roadmap that will guide activities regarding environmental governance in the sector”, he added.

A similar forum was held with stakeholders in the banking sector on the subject matter.

While the interactive session with stakeholders in the banking sector was the maiden edition, that with telecommunication and broadcast operators was the third edition.

Organised by NESREA in collaboration with the Nigerian Energy Support Programme , the sessions provided the opportunity for discussions on the Extended Producer Responsibility Programme and the need for the operators to voluntarily comply with the regulation.

By Innocent Onoh

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