Breaking News! UK Sentences Nigerian-born Exporter to Prison!

After a cacophony of alarm bells in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, Basel Action Network and Greenpeace have finally achieved what they wanted.

A TV repair man is going to jail for buying something reuseable which someone else wanted, who could not otherwise afford new.

Hoax 1, Africa 0
There has been one environmental activist who has been trying to keep "illegal exports of e-waste" in the news.  They earn money by certifying Recyclers don't illegally export.  But they've rarely been able to show enforcement, and bemoan our inattention to "ewaste exports".

Yesterday they got their Big News.  OMG.  An African is finally going to UK jail for "e-waste" wastecrime.

Joseph "Joe" Benson (black) of BJ Electronics was accused by Cahal Milmo (white) of #wastecrime. Lord Chris Smith, the UK's Environmental Director, vowed to stop England's illegal dumping on the shores of Nigeria and Ghana.  And they put a TV repairman, with about 90% working product, in prison to make him an example to others willing to trade or donate used goods to Africa.

After 4 years and untold dollars, Joseph Benson said uncle.  He will start a sentence of 16 months.

Who is "Joe Benson"?  In February, this blog was the main source of information about the trial and appeals of "Hurricane" Joseph Benson of BK Electronics.   Benson, a Nigerian-born television repairman, was profiled by UK journalist Cahal Milmo as an "e-waste exporter".  In a sting set up by Greenpeace, covered The Independent's Cahal Milmo, BBC, and The Guardian newspaper, Benson's crew reportedly accepted a sabotaged CRT television in 2010.

Just learned that Benson sentence was reduced from 24 to 16 months in prison today.

So who pointed the finger at Joe Benson?   It started in 2005, with the publication by Basel Action Network of its paper, "The Digital Dump:  Exporting Reuse and Abuse to Africa".   BBC covered the paper in 2006.
In customs documents, the computers are described as being "shipped for re-use."
But Jim Puckett of environmental NGO the Basel Action Network says that in practice, dubious exporters exploit the re-use category to increases their profits and offload their environmental responsibilities. 
"Unscrupulous exporters from the North are intentionally mixing bad with good so that they are able to avoid disposal costs," he says. 
"Usually when you bring a computer to a recycler, you pay a fee. But brokers will take this fee, and instead of recycling will mix in some good equipment and trade it... exporters say it is working equipment to help the poor to bridge the digital divide, but what we've observed is not bridging the digital divide but the creation of a digital dump." 
In fact, it is several dumps, spread around the city. Lagos has no computer recycling facilities itself, and so the waste computers build up in huge piles.
On these dumps children scavenge for the contents - they can earn around US $2 a day by collecting components - but are also putting their health seriously at risk.

Africa has many pressing problems.  There are many terrible choices of jobs there.  Is TV repair really on the list of jobs so bad, we must arrest and make an example of them??

Then the hyperbole started.  Ghoulish fear of used electronics, and guilt from #povertyporn, was driven into the hearts of British journalists.  The melodramatic, tear-jerking paper by Puckett in 2010, "A Place Called Away"seemed to affect the Brits especially.  Full of alliterations and halloweenish language, Puckett made the 7% unrepairable units (which he matter of factly states are 50%) seem a risk too great to bear.   If so, then brand new product (failing at somewhere between 11%-33% in Africa) is even worse.  Perhaps Interpol's right, and African children just shouldn't be exposed to internet, television, and mass communications.

Project Eden came aboard on a mission, apparently to return Africa to a natural state, a pristine place no longer called "away".

I've been warning readers about this Hurricane Benson case for two or three years now, and now they've done it.  The put the TV repairman in jail, after all the Ghana and Nigerian E-Waste Assessment studies showed him innocent, and Puckett tried to silently distance himself from what he calls "Collateral Damage".


One of the angriest blogs I've written was done by laptop, sitting in the audience, while Jim Puckett of put on a powerpoint slide in Las Vegas conference... one of the slides was Cahal Milmo's article about Benson, with Benson accused by name of shipping E-Waste.   Puckett was championing the accusation, the indictment, of a man accused by name.   I asked Puckett how he knew Joseph Benson was guilty.    He said he didn't know the name of the person I was asking about.

His name is Joseph Benson.   It was right there on your powerpoint, Jim.  Human beings have names.  That presentation of this accused man set me off on a series of blogs titled Environmental Malpractice.

Ten months ago, I met Mr. Benson at Heathrow in London.  I posted a smartphone video of him, which has less 101 views at this time.  I was inspired to take up the case again, in a series on the blog titled "Bullyboys", and again in the "Firehose" blogs.

So I can't write too much without seeing why Mr. Benson pleaded guilty.  Was it fatigue?  When I met him, he had spent more money on his defense than he would have paid in fines.

Closer to the Truth
The 2009 Interpol Report (Emile Lindemulder) published its fallacious conclusions (if Africans are paying for the freight instead of being paid to take it, they must be organized, and therefore "organized crime"??) on the heady hot air blowing from The Guardian, BBC, CBS 60 Minutes, BusinessWeek, GAO Reports, and PBS Frontline...  all built on the sandy foundations of Basel Action Network's "data" or "statistic".

The 2009 Greenpeace video, showing sea containers full of stretch-wrapped, fairly modern, hotel-takeout TVs, and then cutting to #povertyporn images of children at sparse dumps, is a model for environmental friendly fire, for misdirected "environmental justice".

"Where are all of the planes that safely land?"  

It's a journalist's question, about our interest in the rare crash over the thousands of normal landings.  No one covers a normal plane flight.  The 93% of televisions in Joe Benson's containers which worked - a number actually higher than brand new product sold in Ghana and Nigeria, didn't matter in the end.

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