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Artisanal Mining And Lead Poisoning In Nigeria

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On many occasions, stakeholders have criticised the activities of artisanal gold miners with an observation that they process their gold ores within areas where citizens, especially children, are exposed to lead-laden dust.
In one of such occasions, in 2010, lead poisoning occurred in Zamfara State which claimed lives of no fewer than 500 children of five years old and below.
The incident occurred in the three local government areas of Anka, Bukkuyum and Maru, comprising eight villages.
Surveys conducted in the eight villages showed that no fewer than 17,000 people, mostly children less than five years of age, were affected by the poisoning.
Public health officials in the areas recorded sudden high number of children that suffered from vomiting, abdominal pain, headaches and seizures — possible symptoms of lead poisoning.
In May 2010, public health officials learnt that hundreds of children became sick in Zamfara; reports stated that the children suffered from vomiting, abdominal pain, headaches, and seizures.
They also got reports that many children died but the cause was unknown and such a large number of childhood deaths and illnesses became public health officials’ concern.
A team of medical experts was sent by the Federal Government to one of the affected villages to find out the cause of children’s deaths. The experts observed that the lead poisoning outbreak in Zamfara in 2010 was attributed to the activities of artisanal miners that processed their gold ores at homes and village squares where children were exposed to lead- laden dust.
Surveys conducted in the eight villages by the experts showed that more than 17,000 people, mostly children below five years, were affected by lead poisoning.
The team members were drawn from the Federal Ministry of Health, the Nigerian Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program, the World Health Organisation, and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) known as Doctors Without Borders, among others.
The team discovered high level of lead inside most of the homes, wells and in the children’s blood. They noticed that artisanal miners would bring rocks inside their homes to extract gold which contained lead and when the gold is extracted, the lead dust spread throughout the house.
The experts say lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal found in the earth’s crust; a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.
With this discovery, MSF began procedures to save the lives of lead- affected patients. It came up with effective response to the crisis such as medical care therapy, health education, environmental remediation and safe mining practices.
Further to this, in 2012, the Federal Ministry of Health, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, MSF and other stakeholders organised the first international conference on lead poisoning in Abuja. The conference covered technical aspects of environmental remediation and case management in Zamfara. Stakeholders at the event pleaded with the government to release funds for environmental remediation of the affected villages.
In response to this, the affected eight villages were remediated by the United States Hazardous Waste Removal Protocols and the remediation lasted for more than four years in three phases.
Huge amount of contaminated soils and mining waste were removed from 820 residences and ore processing areas in the villages.
In spite of these efforts, lead poisoning recurred in Niger State in 2015 where no fewer than 2,500 children in two villages — Unguwar Magiro and Unguwar Kawo in Rafi Local Government Area were affected – resulting in the death of 30 children.
The Niger government said that in as much as it could not stop artisanal mining completely, it would make efforts to promote safer mining in the state.
It said that it would train staff on laboratory analysis and management of lead poisoning, deploy more staff to health outpost and upgrade Kagara General Hospital to treat lead poisoning cases.
The state government also said that it would cooperate with MSF, the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, WHO, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, the Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme, among others, to curtail lead poisoning recurrence.
So, in 2018, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, in collaboration with relevant agencies, organised the second international conference on lead poisoning. The conference was organised to share lessons learnt from Zamfara and Niger and to proffer ways of mitigating future lead poisoning outbreak.
MSF, key international and national stakeholders, came together during the conference and called for a federal programme for the prevention of lead poisoning associated with artisanal gold mining in Nigeria.
Stakeholders, therefore, suggest a long-term strategy, identifying and mapping possible areas of future outbreaks by engaging the local community to promote safer mining and environmental health.
Oluyole writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

 

Francisca Oluyole

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Discovering Your Life’s Purpose

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What is Purpose?
Discovering one’s purpose is discovering what one needs in life. Discovering what you are meant to be in life. Not what you want to be but what God wants you to be in life. You can never discover your purpose without the help of God.
Ask Yourself Some Questions
You can discover your purpose when you start asking yourself some questions and give answers to such as “what do I need in life?” (Your purpose in life) by finding your purpose, you will know what you need in life and life will be easy for you. Sometimes, we want every good thing in life but what really matters is not what you want but what you need in life. People respect you when you discover your purpose and start making serious decisions. God is your creator and what he needs from you is your purpose. Discovering your purpose on time makes you more successful in life, you need to focus on the present, look forward, think big, do what you love, stay positive, be persistent, get the job done, fight for something you believe in. To be a successful being in life, you also need to manage your time effectively.
Sometimes, people find themselves doing or studying what they don’t need. Your potentials determine your purpose in life, don’t feel bad on yourself because, with the right information, your purpose is sure. You will get to a place in life and these things will be very useful to you.
Nothing happens as a mistake; they all have their purpose to fulfill in life. Spend at least one hour or thirty minutes every day to do what you have passion for.
Time Management
Time management has a very big role to play in discovering one’s purpose in life. Why most people suffer a lot in life is because they waste too much of their time doing nothing. We sleep too much; we rest too much; let’s make every moment to be useful. Sleeping too much won’t do us any good. Push yourself because no one else is going to do it for you. The fact that you are not where you want to be should be enough motivation.
Life without purpose is time without meaning. It is useless to keep ample time if there is no end towards which we are moving. God calls you in this world for you to discover your purpose and work towards it. Your plans cannot change God’s purpose. What God calls for, he provides for.
Sometimes people will say I want to be rich in life. If you said so, fine, then learn how to manage your time and discover your purpose in life. Most times, our parents do destroy our destiny by forcing us to study what we are not meant to just because they had a dream of studying it but were not opportuned to. Parents should ask knowledge from God so as to know what their children need in life.
Procrastination can damage you from going far in life. To be successful and fulfill your purpose in life, you need not to postpone what should be done now. Procrastination is a grave in which opportunities are buried. In life, many people have missed their chance of success because of postponement.
All the pain of yesterday can be forgotten tomorrow if we know how to manage our time effectively and discover our purpose in life. For your management of time not to be in vain, you need to concentrate on one thing such as what you love to do, because it is no good to do everything at the same time (he who is everywhere is nowhere).
Everybody wants to go to school, have their certificates, and be a hard worker in life. But is that all there is in life? Imagine if everyone in the universe goes to school, have their good certificates and work in very good places in life, then who will be the cleaner? Who will be the security guard? Who will be the house maid? How you see life is much more than you think. Purpose is only found in the mind of the creator. Only God knows the purpose for your life.
Now you can see why everybody cannot be rich in this life; neither will everyone be poor in life. The term rich would not exist if there are not poor people existing in this world. The terms rich and poor are given because people have and people lack.
You can never change how you have been created and what you have been created for no matter what. You being a cleaner is because there must always be someone dusting up the place. If there is a man to dust, there will always be a man to clean up also. If your purpose is to be a cleaner, be the best cleaner ever. Cleaning is not just ordinary, you can achieve excellence in cleaning. Excellence in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.
Every product is produced by purpose, for a purpose, and all things begin and end with purpose. Your existence is an evidence that this generation needs something that your life contains.
The reason why you exist in your family is because there is something that has to be done in your family and it’s only you that can do it; no one else. If you are born into a poor family it’s not your fault, but it will only be your fault if you remain there, because you have been born in to a family to make great things happen by managing your time and discovering your purpose in life.
You can start by having a time table in your house such as time to study, time to do what you love, what you have passion for. And in the process of studying, anything you seem not to understand, you do well to ask someone that knows it more than you. Don’t feel shy to ask because no one knows everything but everyone knows something.
You can also help others to discover their purpose by changing your mindset, especially with the way you think and the way you communicate with them. Let people see you as a person that really knows your purpose in life. Let people see your good lifestyle and try to build theirs also.
Always do things at the right time. Or better do something even if it is late than not to do it at all. Conclusively, a man can’t exist without having a purpose in life, your existence is an evidence that God has a purpose in you and this purpose can be discovered with the help of God, and also by management of time. I know we can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone. We can change the world by fulfilling our purpose in life. Nothing is impossible.

By: Endurance Osadebe
Osadebe wrote in from Eastern Polytechnic, Port Harcourt.

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Re: Wike, Combat And Cant: Negative Criticism Taken Too Far

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Our attention has been drawn to the article published in the “Hardball” column of The Nation Newspaper on Tuesday, September 28, 2021, titled: “Wike, Combat and Cant” and we cannot help but laugh once again at the manic obsessiveness, which the author of this particular ‘Hardball’ segment, has with everything that has to do with Governor Nyesom Wike.
However, what is rather very disturbing in this constant display of professional mercantilism and the unrestrained effort to mislead the people and misinterpret every action and comment of Governor Wike.
One must say, it is rather shameful for a journalist to resort to the penchant of subtle, yet crude and dangerous slander, to attack anybody who dares to challenge the status quo.
Governor Wike’s remarks at the Interdenominational Thanksgiving Service in commemoration of the Nation’s 61st Independence Anniversary, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Diobu, Port Harcourt, on Sunday, September 26, 2021, represents the heart cry of every patriotic Nigerian.
Those who listened to his comments, will also agree that the summary of what Governor Wike said was that enemity, hatred, division have become the definining indices of Nigeria today at 61 years.
He said Nigeria is a dysfunctional nation, where the judiciary has been intimidated, children are not in schools and doctors not in hospitals as a result of endless strikes. According to him, credible elections cannot be conducted and the National Assembly has become a place where anything goes in favour of the government in power, even if it is not in the interest of the people.
Sadly, only Nigerians who are feeding fat from such a country and indeed journalists like the author with his obvious anti-libertarian counter progressive propaganda, which promote and protect the interest of these individuals, will disagree with Governor Wike’s observations and even go ahead to cast puerile aspersion with pedestrian examples on his comments.
Suffice it to say that at a time when majority of Nigerians have been numbed into a development hiatus by the overwhelming suffocation of poverty, censorship, insecurity, nepotism, administrative ineptitude and a certain form of political autocracy which have all been elevated dangerously to statecraft and existential norm, a journalist who should professionally serve as the voice and conscience of the people has become the very instrument to justify these anti-development onslaught on the people.
What is even more worrisome is the realization that the author, rather than raise alarm over the deliberate polarization of the country along all the major incendiary fault lines of ethnicity, religion, partisan seclusion, intimidation and persecution, selective inquisitions and all the divisive tendencies which have sadly reversed all the gains made over 61 years, has now embraced the fifth column business of hounding those who speak up against these ills.
To even describe Governor Wike’s comments during that interdenominational church service, as “combat and cant’ as the writer did with misplaced elitist authority, is so unfortunate that it shamelessly exposed the real hypocrisy of a journalist and his sponsors, who are not only living in regrettable, unpardonable denial, but are the very dangerous ilk who are constantly and deliberately subverting national consciousness and turning the glaring truth of what Nigeria has become, on its head.
It is indeed a crying shame that we have in the last six years, transformed quite pathetically, into a nation where for example, state Governors, whose voices ought to be resonating loudly against the impunity that undermines our democratic federalism, have been brow-beaten into a complicit silence, as we watch in helpless horror, the systematic regression and overhaul of a nation’s development garnered painstakingly over 61 years.
Nigeria has never been more divided at any time in its 61 years history than it is today. The country is presently in a dangerous connundrum of identity crises stoked and fuelled by the continued endorsement and justification of leadership impunity and docility by the likes of the writer. Is it any wonder therefore that Governor Wike’s voice is the only one resonating loudly, clearly and independently against these manifestation, as we celebrate the auspicious occasion of our independence as a country that is 61 years old?
Ironically, even many of the leaders who have chosen to couch these desperate times in hopeful platitudes, celebrate the reversal of national essence with choice phrases and pretend with motivational innuendos that a nation which totters precariously on the brink of self implosion and immolation, is making progress, know deep down in their hearts that they are lying to their people.
Governor Wike has proven time and again that he is a courageous, bold, focused and determined leader, who will say a thing like it is and not address it by any other name, just to sound politically correct and please some people.
By the way, at the end of his exhortation, Governor Wike called on the congregation, with the permission of the Church, to join him and the choir to sing the first and last stanzas of the Hymn, SSS 577: “I need Thee Every Hour”. This was indeed quite apt and poignant, to capture the mood and state of affairs in our country today.
There’s definitely no doubt whatsoever that Nigeria needs help at this time in our nation’s evolution, as we celebrate 61 years of Independence.

Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

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Soot: Can N’Delta Escape Doomsday?

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A popular saying in Nigeria’s ‘Pidgin’ English states: ‘Monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’. It simply means that while the monkey (which is usually smaller in size than the baboon) is working very hard to eke out a living for itself, the baboon uses its larger figure to intimidate the monkey and survive from the proceeds of the monkey’s efforts. This, in a nutshell, explains the plight of the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The import of this popular saying in the context of this discourse is that while the Niger Delta Region produces the crude oil, which has been the mainstay of the country for over sixty years, and also bears the brunt of oil exploration and exploitation activities, the northern part of the country, which views leadership of the country as its birthright, enjoys more from the proceeds of crude oil.
Much have been said and written by different people, including scholars, about the plight of the people of the Niger Delta in Nigeria, such that at some point, one may easily feel saturated, and possibly irritated, out of a feeling of over-information that now sounds hackneyed.
But the truth is that, from the point at which crude oil was first found in commercial quantity at Oloibiri, in present-day Bayelsa State, in Nigeria, till today, the life of the people in the Niger Delta region has never been the same. Rather than be a source of development to the people in all spheres as it is with the advanced climes, some of which do not have the quality of crude oil the region has, it has been a source of clear dehumanisation of the people.
The apparent euphoria that greeted the discovery of crude oil in the Niger Delta region of the country in anticipation of its implication in terms of what the people stand to benefit as host communities, at inception, soon gave way to nostalgic chronic acrimonious feelings as the days turned to weeks, months, years and now decades.
Perhaps what would amount to an inkling of what is now the fate of the people of the region today was the February 23, 1966 declaration of the Niger Delta Republic in what has become known as The Twelve-Day Revolution’ by the late Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, nicknamed Boro.
Boro’s grouse was the exploitation of oil and gas resources in the Niger Delta areas which benefited mainly the Federal Government of Nigeria and, at the time, the Eastern Region with capital in Enugu, while nothing was given to the Niger Delta people. He believed that the people of the Niger Delta deserved a larger share of proceeds from the oil wealth.
Consequently, he formed the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF), an armed militia with members consisting mainly of his fellow Ijaw ethnic group. They declared the Niger Delta Republic on that day and fought with Federal forces for twelve days before being defeated. Boro and his comrades were jailed for treason.
They were, however, granted amnesty by the Federal regime of General Yakubu Gowon on the eve of the Nigerian Civil War in May 1967 on the condition that they fight for the Federal Government against the Biafrans. Boro, and some of his comrades, most prominently Owunaro, his second in command in the NDVF, subsequently enlisted in the Nigerian Army.
Boro was commissioned as a Major in the Nigerian Army. He fought on the side of the Federal Government, but was killed under mysterious circumstances in active service in 1968 at Ogu (Okrika) in Rivers State.
But the struggle Boro started has taken different dimensions in the Niger Delta ever since, with seemingly less impact as far as the Federal Government’s response to the demands of the region is concerned. It’s such that after over sixty years of oil exploration and exploitation in the region, all the people have to show is what amounts to deliberate and planned, but gradual destruction of their sources of livelihood, leading to a life of penury, underdevelopment, and currently a possible end to their lives through endemic illnesses such as cancer and like ailments warranted by their exposure to the ravaging soot in the region.
Soot is a mixture of very fine black or brown particles created by the product of incomplete combustion. It is primarily made up of carbon, but it can also contain trace amounts of metals, dust, and chemicals. It is different from charcoal and other by-products of combustion because it is so fine. These tiny particles may be under 2.5 micrometers in diameter which is smaller than dust, mold, and dirt particles.
Beyond artisanal refining, possible causes of the soot also include emissions from asphalt factories, indiscriminate burning of mixed waste, burning of tyres and vehicular emissions, according to a Report by a technical team set up by the Rivers State Government in 2019, to generate preliminary air quality data in Port Harcourt. However, none of these has so infested the region’s cloud with soot as illegal oil bunkering.
Experts say that the small size of soot is what makes it so dangerous for humans and pets, because it can easily be breathed deep into the small passageways of the lungs, which is why repeated exposure to soot is linked to respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and cancer. Soot is, therefore, more than just an unsightly nuisance. It is a danger that cannot be left in the home or environment.
In 2017, a reporter, Yomi Kazeem, wrote, “Across Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger-Delta region, environmental pollution has long been a part of daily lives. But while residents have become used to multiple oil spills which have damaged livelihoods and farmlands, they currently face a new kind of danger: rising black soot particles in the air. Since November, residents of oil industry hub city, Port Harcourt, are complaining about increased soot residue on surfaces in and out of their homes”.
Back then, Nigeria’s Ministry of Environment declared an air pollution emergency in the affected areas. The Ministry claimed that preliminary test samples of the soot indicated it was caused by incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons as well as asphalt processing and illegal artisanal refinery operations.
In a bid to curb the pollution, Kazeem stated, the Ministry shut down an asphalt processing plant operating in the area. The State Government has also sealed off a Chinese company in the city for what it tagged ‘aggravated air pollution, and breach of environmental laws’.
On their part, residents petitioned the United Nations Environment Programme to intervene by investigating the problem while they subtly protested the increased pollution on social media, through the “#StopTheSoothashtag”.
Since then, the best that has been heard about addressing the issue of soot in the Niger Delta had been what can be easily dismissed as subtle complaints on social media by few concerned individuals and organisations involved in environmental health pursuits. Thus, the quantity of particles forming soot that is emitted into the air on a daily basis has increased almost unabated.
For the Federal and State Governments, their efforts so far had been at best mere media hypes in a make-belief establishment of modular refineries in the Niger Delta, which the Federal Government also wants established in the north that does not produce oil, like it did in building refinery in Kaduna State, an act widely viewed as misplacement of priority as far as establishment of modular refineries as a solution to soot is concerned.
In 2013, scientists found out that dirty air caused more premature deaths than unsafe water, unsafe sanitation, and malnutrition in Africa. The obvious implication is that if the Niger Delta is increasingly infested with soot and genuine necessary steps are not taken to check it, the region will most likely go extinct in years to come. The form this will take, and how soon it will manifest are the questions that currently prop up in critical analyses.
During one of such analyses, an environmental toxicologist with the Department of Animal and Environmental Biology, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Dr. Emmanuel Oriakpona, hinted that the most likely consequence of unchecked increase in soot infestation in the Niger Delta is loss of the region’s ecosystem and human health.
“We shall experience loss of our ecosystem and loss of our health. This is the summary of what will happen to us: major loss in our ecosystem. If you go to the mangroves and see the devastation by crude oil, and you also go and see what the people actually carrying out the refining process are going through, you’ll appreciate this better,” he said.
According to Dr. Oriakpona, the situation is worsened by the fact that there is an obvious collaboration between those involved in artisanal refining of crude oil and authorities vested with the responsibility of stopping it. The reason is that such authorities are rewarded with huge financial benefits accruable from the business. This is further buttressed by some key players in the illegal oil refining business whose locally made boats and products were at some points burnt by security agents who felt that their exploitation of the people involved in the illegal trade was challenged.

By: Soibi Max-Alalibo

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