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SENATE ORDERS INVESTIGATION INTO ZAMFARA LEAD POISONING

By NBF News

The Senate yesterday ordered investigation into the lead poisoning in Zamfara State, which claimed 160 lives, most of whom were children below the age of five. The Upper Chamber's resolution to investigate the incident came in the wake of a motion moved by Senator Sahabi Ya'u and supported by 27 other senators on the outbreak of the lead poisoning in the state and the need to forestall future occurrence.

The lawmakers also commiserated with the families of the victims and observed with grave concern the poisoning incident in the villages of Anka and Bukkuyum Local Government Areas.

After observing a minute silence in honour of the victims, the senators described the incident as avoidable and that with proper sensitisation of the people on the danger of illegal mining, the sad event would have been avoided.

They expressed worry that the deaths were caused by the activities of illegal mining of iron ore by villagers who ignorantly took crushed rocks home from the mine to extract precious stones thus resulting in contamination of the soil being contaminated by lead and resulting in deaths. The Senators feared that the poisoning, which had both social and economic effects on the lives of the citizens in the different ways especially in the areas of inability to procreate and loss of livestock and crops.

Underlining the need for a drastic action to be taken to avoid a repeat in near future, the senators said the lead poisoning was a medical condition caused by increased levels of heavy metal lead in the body, causing damage to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidney, the nervous and reproductive systems.

The lawmakers expressed happiness that the government had already banned the activities of illegal miners in the area and was carrying out environmental clean-up exercise and clinical tests on all the people in the affected communities.

Debating the motion in the plenary, Senator Adego Eferakeya noted that children were particularly affected by the poisoning as a result of their immature brain which easily absolved the poisoning, adding that children died of lead as a result of consequent convulsion.

Senator Sulayman Adokwe lamented that mining in the country was dominated by illegal activities regardless of the laws on ground, unlike what obtained in European countries. Senator Patrick Osakwe, on his part, observed that the state government had not done enough and ought to have done more, stressing that the state government took things for granted.

In his submission, Senator Joy Danlami pointed out that the Federal Government was not handling the issue with the sense of urgency that it deserved, adding that till date government had not inaugurated the committee it set up to look into the issue. Senator Ahmed Yerima called on government to declare state of emergency around the area, stressing, 'up till now Federal Government has not done anything by sending relief to the affected people.'

Ruling on the motion, the Senate observed a minute silence in honour of those who lost their lives as a result of the lead poisoning and directed the Committee on Solid Minerals, Environment and Health to carry out a holistic investigation into the crisis. It also urged federal, state and local governments to embark on sensitisation campaign on the danger of illegal mining.