- Human rights lawyers and victims of 2006 deadly toxic waste dumping in Ivory Coast have welcomed sentencing and jailing of two people yesterday, but said justice has not taken its full cause.
Nigerian Salomon Ugborugbo, director of local Tommy company which had allegedly used trucks to distribute waste around Abidjan two years ago, was heaviest slapped with a 20-year sentence on a charge of "poisoning", while Ivorian shipping agent Desire Kouao received a five-year sentence for "complicity" over the same charge.
Reports have also said, seven local customs and port officials were acquitted.
Some victims cried that while some bit of justice has finally come, some rich executive were still sitting comfortably in their offices abroad and not likely to be booked.
17 people died while thousands were allegedly caused to contract some illness as a result of dumping of noxious waste at open sites around commercial capital Abidjan.
The case involving Dutch-based international oil trader, Trafigura had raised some serious questions about dumping of toxic materials in poor African countries.
According to media reports, Trafigura had already offered and agreed to a nearly $200 million out-of-court compensation settlement with Ivory Coast government in exchange of court indemnity, even though the company has continually denied any responsibility for deaths and illnesses suffered by residents.
It also disputes chemical slops were cause of the large number of medical complaints. The firm says it had contracted Tommy to handle the waste in good faith.
The incidents date from August 2006 when truck tankers hired by Salomon Ugborugbo, director general of Ivorian company Tommy, dumped more than 500 cubic metres of waste slops from Panamanian-registered cargo ship, Probo Koala, at open public sites across Abidjan.
The slops were a mix of petroleum residues, sulphur and caustic soda which had accumulated in the ship. Exposure to the waste is believed to be a cause for respiratory difficulties, nausea and other medical problems among local population.
Although compensation money has already exchanged hands for many of the victims, they are however reported to have claimed that it was not enough. As of end of last year, Ivory Coast had paid 31.5 million euros to about half estimated people poisoned.
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