General - July 2, 2016

Shikira: Global Rights urge Nigeria, Niger state to speed up intervention

Global Rights, the international human rights NGO, has again called for the immediate intervention of the Nigerian government in Shikira, a remote rural mining community affected by lead poisoning as a result of artisanal gold mining activities in the area.

Women of Shikira community
Women of Shikira community

“In May 2015, when the Federal Ministry of Health broke the news of the death of 28 children with 65 others critically ill from lead poisoning at Shikira, a remote community in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger state, the general assumption was that the government would immediately respond to curtail further deaths and remediate the community,” said a press statement made available to newsmen in Abuja by the rights organization, this week.

“In spite of concerted advocacy for over a year, Global Rights is appalled to note that the government other than to visit the community, has failed to live up to its obligation, notwithstanding the fact that new contaminations have been recorded.”

Global Rights said whereas it applauded the recent visit by Nigeria’s environment minister, Amina Mohammed, to the community and her subsequent declaration of the situation as a national disaster, however, it was yet to see “any concrete measures towards the swift implementation of the cleanup plan for Shikira and its neighboring communities”.

“We remind the government that time is running out and that once the heavy rains set in; access to the community will be completely blocked. Global Rights with regret, notes that in spite of the lessons learned in the Zamfara lead poisoning episode, the government has yet again failed to intervene in a timely manner in the Shikira lead poisoning outbreak,” said the statement.

The statement therefore reminded the Nigerian government that it was under constitutional obligation to “protect and promote the rights of its citizen”.

It categorically called on the government to immediately commence the remediation of Shikira community; situate a crisis center at Rafi local government area and dispatch a medical response team to initiate treatment for affected victims and actively regulate mining activities including promoting artisanal mining cooperatives in Niger state.

Amongst others, the NGO further called on the Nigerian government to provide safer mining equipment such as wet mining machines for artisanal cooperatives; regulate water sources used for gold processing; embark on educating mining communities on safer mining practices and regulations.

Global Rights also urged the government of Niger state, where the community is located, to immediately upgrade the medical facility at Shikira; provide more water borehole facilities to ensure the supply of portable water to the community; build an access road leading to the community; as well as provide alternative livelihoods for the rural communities in Niger state, amongst others.

Since the lead poisoning incident in Shikira, a remote rural community in north central Nigeria, over a year ago, which led to death of scores of children and left others critically ill, local and international NGOs have been calling on the Nigerian government to speed up the remediation of the community as well as come up preventive measures towards averting future recurrence of such incidents.

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