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Lead Poisoning: Concern grows over committee’s failure to deliver promises

By Joseph ERUNKE

ABUJA – Three years after being grievously hit by a lead poisoning incidence, Zamfara state is still struggling to come to term with the development.

The disaster which led to the death of many men, women and children whose, livelihood depends on mining and breaking of stones, took the state government in particular and the Federal Government in general by surprise. For, such incidence was the first of its kind in Nigeria’s environmental history.

Both the Federal and Zamfara State Governments on noticing the development, swung into action, with a view not only to assisting the community and its people involved, but, to ensure that such ugly incident was averted in future.

The Federal Government inaugurated a committee to handle the issue. But three years after it was inaugurated to look into problems associated with lead poisoning in Zamfara State, the body which was christened “Inter-Ministerial Committee on Lead Poisoning in Zamfara, has failed in some of its assignments, a development which may have contributed to the resurgence of the incident.

The committee recently hinted that it had not only concluded its report, but, that it would round it up with a visit to the troubled area to review the situation, but the promise was later jettisoned for reasons yet unknown.

The report of the committee which had some far-reaching recommendations, according to the committee, was expected to be forwarded to President Goodluck Jonathan for urgent attention and speedy implementation in two weeks.

An employee of the French non-governmental Organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Border – MSF) giving medicine to a child suffering from lead poisoning at Bukkuyum General Hospital in the town of Gusau in Nigeria’s northwest Zamfara State. AFP PHOTO/

But three months after the disclosure, neither a trip to Zamfara state to review the situation nor submission of the report to the President had been carried out.

Although, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mohammed Sada could not confirm the real issue that lead to this shoddy assignment, a source in the committee who did not want his name disclosed told SWEETCRUDE that the committee was not allocated enough money to carry out its assignment, a development, he hinted, frustrated the efforts of the committee to carry out a diligent assignment to its logical end.

Reports from Zamfara State have suggested that the state may have again, been hit by the re-surgence of the disaster. This time,  in four villages, identified to be in Gusau Local Government Area of the State.

Lead poisoning which was first reported in Anka and Bukuyyum Local Government Areas of Zamfara state around March 2010, was blamed on unregulated gold mining. Over 400 persons, mostly children, died at the time.

Emir of Gusau, Alhaji Mohammed Kabiru Danbaba, while disclosing the resurgence, said medical experts have confirmed the development to be lead poisoning.

“We have confirmed that, what happened in Anka and Bukkuyum two years back, where many people died from a strange disease confirmed as lead poisoning is discovered in Gusau Emirate as a result of the processing of gold ore within some communities,” the Emir said.

“Lead poisoning has affected many persons in four areas of my emirate. Medical officials have certified that it was the outbreak of lead poison. Many villagers are now having diarrhoea and are vomiting blood because of the poisoning .We have also received reports from Magami ward that some children were reported to have been affected by a disease which doctors confirmed as lead poison”, he cried just as he urged people of his emirate to report any person processing gold ore in their area to government officials.


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