An estimated 400 children died in a lead poisoning situation two years ago.
The remediation (environmental clean-up) of the Bagega community in Zamfara State, affected by lead poisoning, has commenced after two years of waiting.
The Advisor, Nigerian Youth Climate Action Network, NYCAN, Hamzat Lawal, said this on Wednesday in Abuja.
Bagega Community, with a population of about 7,535 people including 1,500 children, had anticipated urgent treatment for the latest lead poisoning incident which occurred in September.
In 2012, an estimated 400 children died while thousands were poisoned from the inhalation of lead poison in six communities in Zamfara due to improper mining practices.
Mr. Lawal, who is also the co-founder, `Follow the Money Team’, an NGO, claimed that the Federal Government had on January 28, 2013, approved the release of about N850 million from the Ecological Funds.
He said the money is to be distributed among the relevant ministries mainly for the remediation of communities affected by lead poisoning in the state.
The ministries are Environment, Health, and Mines and Steel Development.
He further said that the state government had this month released three vehicles and nine staff from the Zamfara Ministry of Environment to proceed with the preliminary remediation activities.
He said that the “Follow the Money (FTM) Team, a non-profit group, which had been advocating for the release of funds to remediate Bagega since October 2012, had enjoined stakeholders to keep up with the momentum of the remediation project.
“As much as we are grateful to the Federal Government and everyone that ensured the release of funds and the start of clean-up, accountability and transparency should be upheld.
“Otherwise, remediation might be stalled and we will have to start all over again,” Mr. Lawal said.
While commenting on the issue, Tirima Simba, a consulting partner for the remediation programme, reiterated the need for institutional control on artisanal mining.
Mr. Simba, the major consulting partner of Terragraphics Environmental Engineering, however, discouraged a total ban on artisanal mining, stressing that control was the only long- term solution to the lead poisoning crisis in Zamfara.
“We would not want to be called again in five years for the remediation of a community in Zamfara.
“As such, the three arms of government should come up with a policy framework that will encourage safer mining practices among the artisanal miners,” he said.
Mr. Lawal noted that Ivan Gayton, the Head of Mission, ‘Doctors Without Borders’ in Nigeria, had confirmed that the medical team of doctors also known as “Medecins Sans Frontieres”, would start moving into Bagega to prepare for the screening of children under five years.