The Follow the Money Campaign Team has said it is “extremely excited” that the Nigerian government has “finally bowed to public pressure” and began the cleanup of Shikira, the small rural mining community affected by lead poisoning in Rafi local government area of Niger state, north central Nigeria.
“Follow The Money Team, while celebrating this significant landmark in history of the Nigerian mining industry, also want the government to be transparent in carrying out this assignment and come up with a clear work plan showing the actual amount budgeted and a definitive time frame for completion of the project,” said a press statement signed by Hamzat Lawal, co-founder of Follow the Money and made available to newsmen in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
“It is important to mention that NGN 256,688,000 was appropriated in the 2016 budget for Characterization & Remediation of Lead Poison Contaminated Communities’ that was signed my Mr. President. This is important, so as to enable us effectively participate in monitoring the process and provide the public with all necessary information they may require,” said the statement.
The statement further thanked the global medical charity, Doctors Without Borders, MSF, for their relentless willingness to render free medical services to the victims as soon as the clean-up is completed.
It, therefore, urged Nigeria’s health ministry to work closely with MSF in “fulfilling this critical task and initiate collaboration, especially in the area of knowledge transfer to strengthen her manpower capacity to handle such issues in the future”.
“The sad story of Shikira is just one in a million,” according to the statement “It would be recalled that in 2010, 400 children lost their lives and over 1, 500 others were infected due to a similar occurrence in Bagega, Anka local government area in Zamfara State. And this is highly pathetic because the incident occurred long after the release of a report by OK International warning of an impending lead poison explosion in the affected communities including Shikira.”
The Follow the Money Team, therefore, called on the country’s solid minerals ministry to revisit the OK International’s report as well as ensure its various recommendations were implemented in subsequent interventions and plans to avert future recurrence of such incidents in mining communities across Nigeria.
It could be remembered that the remediation of Shikira commenced recently after series of advocacies by various NGOs, only began over 15 months after the devastating outbreak of lead poisoning that killed 28 children and left over 300 hundred other under-fives with high level contaminants in their blood.
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