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Koko is a small peasant settlement made up of mainly farmers ,fishermen and petty
traders.The community is situated in the southeastern part of Nigeria, in the swampy Niger
Delta area in present day Delfa State,as of the time of the incident, however,it was situated
in the former State of Bendel.

The soil in the area is extremely porous and marshy and therefore the more reason toxic
chemicals like the one under focus is of great cataclysm to the people of that
community.This is because the chemical could have easily leaked into the river at any point
in time.

In 1987, Italian businessmen shipped toxic waste of several Italian industries to Nigeria for
storage in the backyard of a Nigerian businessman, who described them merely as
miscellaneous construction materials.

The first shipment was on board the ship M.V. Baruluck, which was addressed to Koko, a
village in Southern Nigeria on July 24, 1987. Following this shipment were other cargoes of
toxic waste on board M.V. Danix and M.V. Line. These exports emanated from the city of

Months later, a scandal over toxic waste was publicized when the barrels of waste began
leaking into the surrounding area.

It has been said that Italy produces between "40 and 50 million tons of industrial wastes and
16 million tons of household wastes each year" most of which is believed to be exported to
developing countries for disposal.

Hence,in 1987, Italian businessmen Gianfranco Raffaeli and Renato Pent, of the waste
broker firms Ecomar and Jelly Wax respectively, signed an illegal agreement with Nigerian
businessman, 67-year-old Sunday Nana, to use his property for storage of 18,000 drums of
hazardous waste for approximately $100 a month (see JELLYWAX and BARREL
cases).Which according to him ,was a request for "piece of land to dump what he claimed
was raw materials for his industry".

As stated earlier,the wastes were exported from the port of Pisa, and elsewhere in Italy, to
the receiving firm in Nigeria, the Iruekpen Construction Company, owned by Sunday Nana.
To cover the tracks of such illicit and dangerous material,the wastes were imported as
substances "relating to the building trade, and as residual and allied chemicals."

However,local Nigerian officials discovered the illegal toxic waste stored at the port of Koko.
When the story broke in Italy, the Nigerian Embassy in Rome did not even inform the
government in Lagos of the scam. That was left to some Nigerian students in Italy who
phoned the Lagos daily, The Guardian, to trigger a reaction by President Babangida's

It was then discovered that the waste, which had been stocked at random under the tropical
sun, was deadly: "Not only was there PCB, but also asbestos fiber and perhaps dioxin."

Over 100 workers from the Nigerian Port Authority were employed to remove the wastes.
The Nigerian government supplied the workers with equipment, protective clothing, and gas
masks, but the protective clothing was insufficient and many did not even have gloves to
protect their hands. The wastes were more toxic than many had realized and many workers
began needing hospitalization with problems ranging from chemical burns, nausea, to

Prior to the exposure, there was a conspiracy between the trading company in Italy, S.I.
ECOMAR, and its Nigerian agent Raffaelli, an Italian resident, and the Nigerian
Pharmaceutical Board. The Nigerian Pharmaceutical Board issued licenses to facilitate the
importation of toxics into Nigeria. Inspectors at the port were also part of the conspiracy
because they benefited from the syndicate.

According to Edokpayi in 'Pie of Pisa', the intricate business of disposing of these toxic
wastes through small Italian ports is very lucrative,considering that over 35 million tonnes is
exported from Italy yearly. Gianfrance Raffaelli like the 'Merchant of Venice' in
Shakespeare,acting as the link- man, at Koko (Nigeria) port is known to have made between
20 and 25 million naira from the deals.


Meanwhile,the effect,had started taking its tolls before a very long period of time,for instance
Dr. Soloman Ogbemi, the senior medical officer at Koko General Hospital, declared that the
"seven premature births that occurred within a one two-week period in July were due to the
high toxicity of the dumpsite."

The leaking barrels caused the contents to enter the soil. This in turn caused a problem for
the entire town of Koko by polluting the ground in which they grew their food and on which
the children played. When the barrels were later transported back to Italy, it was discovered
that they were in such a poor condition that the water surrounding the ship was
contaminated with some of the toxic wastes. As a result, the plant and animal vegetation in
the water was endangered. The wastes that were sent to Nigeria from Italy not only polluted
Koko, Nigeria, but it also polluted the waters outside the port of Livorno, Italy.

Eventually, the Italian government agreed to pay the cost of returning the wastes back to
Italy, at least until they could determine the guilty parties. As a result, in July of 1988, two
ships, the KARIN B and the DEEPSEA CARRIER, began the process of carrying the wastes
from Nigeria back to Italy. While in route back to Italy, the Italian Environment Minister,
Giorgio Ruffolo, announced the Italian ports designated to accept the wastes as the Tuscan
port of Livorno and either Ravenna or Manfredonia Harbour in the South Adriatic.

The former was to accept the wastes from the KARIN B and the latter was to accept the
wastes from the DEEPSEA CARRIER. However, the announcement resulted in protests,
strikes and blockades in all three ports in an attempt to prevent the waste from being
unloaded. (After its arrival in Italy the KARIN B was refused entry into Livorno when water
samples taken from the surrounding area showed traces of toxins leaking from the ship.)

In December of 1988, workers began unloading the KARIN B. The containers of waste were
transported to a warehouse until they could be identified, after which they would be
repackaged and shipped off to a temporary storage place in the Emilia Romagna area of
Italy. In January of 1989 the first wastes left Livorno. The DEEPSEA CARRIER, on the other
hand, was still held at bay, with its crew sequestered on board, until August of 1989 when
the ship was finally allowed to unload in Livorno.


The Nigerian government heard of the toxic wastes after the barrels began leaking into the
surrounding environment, creating a public hazard to the people in the area. The discovery
of the hazardous waste barrels led to the recalling of the ambassador ofItaly to Nigeria and
the seizing of an Italian freighter, the owners of which are now demanding $1 million
compensation from the Italian government.

The incident has further resulted in the jailing of at least 54 individuals involved in the
transaction, the institution of the death penalty in Nigeria for waste traders, and the banning
of hazardous waste exports to developing countries by Italy. The Italian Ministry of the
Environment expected to pay $14.3 million for claims on the KARIN.

As a result of this case, several actions were taken. For example, the first act of
reconciliation was enacted by the Nigerian government when they reinstated the Nigerian
ambassador to Italy two months after he had been recalled. This was followed by more
substantial actions such as the one taken by the OKAYS leaders (all of whom are members
of the Lome Convention) when they agreed to make it a criminal offense to facilitate the
dumping of dangerous waste and urged the developed countries to tighten their controls on
exports of such products. All OKAYS member-states were also asked to take the necessary
steps to stop dumping and increase legislative safeguards against such practices.

The Nigerian President went even further by proposing a regional system known as
"Dumpwatch," designed to monitor dumping activities. However, of all the actions taken to
stop the transfer of hazardous wastes the Basel Convention on the Control of
Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal appears to be the
most important (see BASEL case). The Basel Convention calls for the management "in an
environmentally sound manner" of all transboundary shipments of hazardous wastes as well
as household wastes. To this end, the Convention sets up a system of checks and balances
whereby, prior to the export of such wastes, "the consent of the exporting country, the
importing country, and any transboundary countries must be first obtained."

In April,2008, twenty one years after,94 victims of the infamous Koko toxic waste dump
recieved N39.7m compensation from the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Warri, for injuries,
pain and frustration suffered during the evacuation of the toxic dump after 21years of
hardship.It is believed that the gesture is a demonstration of the donor's 'corporate social
responsibility to those who risked their lives through evacuating the infamous toxic waste in
Koko Port'.


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