The Senate, on Tuesday, summoned the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, to brief it in plenary on his Ministry’s mining roadmap and implementation framework.
The upper chamber, said Fayemi should brief it on steps by his Ministry to ensure protection of residents of host communities, where mining activities are carried out. The Senate mandated its committees on Environment and Solid Minerals to visit communities affected by lead poisoning in Zamfara State to ascertain the level of damage areas.
It further mandated the committee to investigate the activities of the Ministry of Environment, with special focus on the mining sector. The committee was asked to urged the minister to ensure the adoption of safer mining methods by mining concerns operating in the country.
The positions of the Senate, followed the adoption of a motion entitled, “Update on lead poisoning in Zamfara State and the need to prevent further propagation of the resource curse theory.”
The motion was sponsor by Oluremi Tinubu and eight others. Tinubu in her lead debate, said she received with great distress, updates on lead poisoning which occurred in 36 villages and communities in Zamfara State.
She recalled that in 2014, 38 villages including Anka, Abare, Bagega, Bukkuyum Dareta, Duza, Maru, Sunke, Tungar Daji, Tungar Guru, and Yargalma were reported to have been affected by the effects of artisanal mining, unwholesome mining practices and the resulting processing of gold.
The lawmaker noted that with varying effects ranging from blindness, infertility, neurological defects, over 400 children casualties were recorded with many others needing treatment.
She added that sequel to this, a motion was moved by Senator Sahabi Ya’u in the 7th Assembly and also recalled that in June 2016, Senator David Umaru moved a motion on ”Urgent Remediation of Lead Poisoning in Shikira Community of Niger State, Nigeria”.
She further recalled that the motion prayed amongst other things for the Federal Government to urgently approve and release needed intervention funds from the Ecological funds office for urgent remediation of areas affected, and the Committee on Solid Minerals to review the 2007 Mining Act to reflect present realities in the sector as it affects local communities;
The lawmaker said that she is disturbed that reports show that only eight of the 38 affected communities in Zamfara State have had any remediation carried out with the effect that too many Nigerians are suffering, unable to access effective medical treatment for the resulting ailments, losing loved ones and suffering deformities of varying degrees;
She referred to the report of Medecin sans frontier (MSF) which said that thousands were reported to have been affected and in need of treatment. Tinubu also noted that due to paucity of funds, the MSF and several other Civil Society Organisations have had to pull out of the area.
She said that she is aware that Bagega, the largest community affected in Zamfara State has been remedied, “however, with no alternative source of livelihood for these artisanal miners, a repeat scenario is in the offing.”
She observed that besides Zamfara, mining host communities in States like Kogi, Niger and others have also been affected by the negative effects of mining practices.
Nigeria, she noted, does not qualify as a mining state especially with the the 2016 Gross Domestic Product breakdown shows the mining sector’s contribution to the nation’s GDP to be abysmal.
She added: “Further notes that the nation’s mining sector is almost redundant, that the Honourable Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Fayemi, is working to resuscitate the sector; and that the Ministry has approved a mining road map.
“Worried however that even though mining is yet to make economic impact, symptoms of the resource curse have begun to be evident particularly in the communities blessed, or cursed if you will, with these natural resources and mineral ore;
“Further worried that if we do nothing, we may well be on our way to creating a ‘Niger delta‘ situation except on a larger scale as nearly every state of the federation will be affected;
“Mindful that these environmental abuses negate and breach the rights of citizens to life, dignity of person and other fundamental rights as enshrined in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”
Magnus Abe who seconded the motion, said that rules promulgated to guide the extraction of mineral resources should be enforced in the interest of the country. Abe said that the problem is the rules that govern the extraction of mineral resources in the country are hardly enforced by agencies created to enforce the rules.
The Rivers State lawmaker insisted that to avoid the creation of another Niger Delta, “we should enforce the rules that guide the extraction of minerals be it oil or solid minerals.”
By Ehisuan Odia…
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