Connected Development (CODE), a civil society organisation, has urged the federal government to declare Shikira, a small mining community in Niger state, ‘a national emergency’ or risk further lead poisoning damage to neighbouring communities.

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In May 2015, there was an outbreak of lead poisoning in Shikira, located in Rafi local government area of the state; and by middle of the month, the federal ministry of health confirmed the death of 28 children from 65 confirmed cases.

The 17 females and 11 males consumed by the outbreak were all below the age of 5, the World Health Organisation (WHO) blaming their death on high serum of lead levels 17-22 times higher than the acceptable limits.

One year after, the government has been urged to declare Shikira a national emergency and immediately deploy the funds necessary to clean up the area. The consequence of failing to do that, it was said, is a bigger crisis with the potential of spilling to other communities.

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Artisans at work in Shikira

“Connected Development CODE is humbly calling on the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President Bukola Saraki and Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara to declare Shikira, a small rural mining community in Rafi local government in Niger State a ‘national emergency’ to address the lead outbreak epidemic that recorded 65 cases way back in May 2015 due to negligence,” the group said in a statement.

“This call to Save Shikira is to reinforce the assessment plan released by the Response Planning Development Committee on Outbreak of Lead Poisoning in Niger State established in May, 2015.

“It is sad to note that nothing meaningful has been done about the crisis since the submission of the Committee’s report, which contained that N500 million should as a matter of urgently be approved to clean-up the community contaminated by lead poison due to improper mining activities which had claimed the lives of 28 children, mostly those below (5) five years. Laboratory testing confirmed high levels of lead in the blood of the over hundreds of surviving children, livestock’s and water reserves.

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“To CODE, 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.

“Dear Mr. President, Senate President and Mr. Speaker, this 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.”

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The group urged Buhari to approve the needed intervention funds from the Ecological Funds Office for urgent remediation to save the community.

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It also implored Saraki and Dogara to urgently debate lead poisoning on the floor of the senate and the federal house of representatives to save the community by its case a national emergency and compelling the executive to speedily approve and release the needed funds for intervention while ensuring oversight for speedy implementation.

“It is important to note that the rainy 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,” it added.

“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 our contributions to address the crisis, we would 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.

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“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, where we successfully tracked over N850m that helped saved the lives of 1,500 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.”



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