Friday, 1st December 2023

Group urges govt to clean up lead pollution in Niger community

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
02 May 2016   |   4:50 am
Twelve months after the Response Planning Development Committee on Outbreak of Lead Poisoning in Niger State submitted its report, a non-governmental organisation...
The affected site in Shikira community in Niger state

The affected site in Shikira community in Niger state

Twelve months after the Response Planning Development Committee on Outbreak of Lead Poisoning in Niger State submitted its report, a non-governmental organisation – Connected Development (CODE) has called for urgent approval of a N500 million clean-up for Shikira community in Rafi local government, Niger State.

The small rural mining community was contaminated by lead poison due to improper mining activities, which claimed the lives of 28 children, mostly those below five years. Laboratory testing confirmed high levels of lead in the blood of the over hundreds of surviving children, livestock’s and water reserves.

In a statement, signed by its Chief Executive, Hamzat Lawal, CODE is calling for ‘national emergency,’ to address the lead outbreak epidemic that recorded 65 cases way back in May, 2015 due to negligence. They are seeking President Muhammadu Buhari approval of an intervention funds from the Ecological Funds Office for urgent remediation of Shikira.

The group also urged Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to urgently debate lead poison on the floor of the Senate and the House respectively, to save Shikira by declaring the community a national emergency and compel the Executive arm to speedily approve and release the needed funds for intervention while you ensure oversight for speedy implementations.

“It is sad that nothing meaningful has been done about the crisis since the submission of the Committee’s report which contained that N500 million, this kind of attitudes is even more worrisome and shocking as the outbreak left other children with many anomalies such as fever, pallor, abdominal pain, vomiting, convulsion, altered level of consciousness and nervous breakdown. If nothing is done urgently, these children would be deformed for life.

“The situation may look bad when assessed outwardly, but inwardly there are sustainable solutions. It may interest you to know that Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders – MSF) are presently on ground to provide free medical services: Chelation therapy, but are arms twisted because they need government to first clean-up the contaminated areas for them to intervene,” he said.

Lawal noted that the raining season is almost here and might contaminate neighbouring communities and villages surrounding Rafi LGA putting more children at risk and degrading our environment at large.

“We strongly blame this onslaught on human lives on administrative recklessness and lack of “will” by institutions and political actors to tackle the plights of the citizenry in local communities.”

As part of CODE’s contribution to address the crisis, the NGO plans to host a stakeholders dialogue in the state which will bring together participants from ministries departments and agencies (MDAa) at state and federal level such as Environment, Health, Mines and Solid Minerals, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, CSOs & CBOs, development partners as well as locals in the community.

Also, our Follow The Money Team is keen in ensuring transparency and accountability in tracking and visualising funds released for this local community as we have done in the case of Bagega which we successfully tracked over 850 million naira that helped saved the lives of 1500 children in Zamfara state.

Lastly, are using this medium to call on the federal government to review the 2007 Mining Act to reflect present realities in the sector as it affects local communities and artisanal miners. Government should also consider sanctions for culprits responsible for this menace to avert similar occurrence elsewhere in the country.