The Honourable Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, Hon. Abubakar Bawa Bwari has said that the Ministry is leaving no stone unturned to ensure total eradication of the challenge of lead poisoning in Nigeria.
He made this statement at the pre-event press briefing organized by the Ministry in collaboration with Medecin San Frontieres (MSF) in preparation for the 2nd International Conference on Lead Poisoning, Associated with Artisanal Gold Mining, coming up from Tuesday 26th –Wednesday 27th June, 2018 in Abuja.
The Minister affirmed that Nigeria has been battling with a public health emergency in the form of lead poisoning caused by unsafe practices by artisanal miners in the last eight (8) years and that the country has lost not less than 400 people mostly children while many more have suffered irreversible damage to their health as a result of it.
While acknowledging that lead poisoning is preventable, he said the treatment and environmental remediation are very expensive. He heldthat the only effective long term solution is finding ways to prevent the outbreak from happening.
Hon. Bwari said the upcoming conference is essentially about developing preventive framework that will ensure safer mining practices. “The idea is to bring key multi-sector stakeholders under one roof to underscore the need for collaborative approach in preventing lead poisoning”, he added.
“We understand that it will be impossible to stop artisanal gold mining altogether especially considering the manpower shortage in the ministry, we are therefore engaging miners by showing them how they can benefit more by getting registered and using safer mining methods,” he further explained.
While the 1st Conference focused on the technical aspects of environmental management and treatment of poisoned children, the Minister said the upcoming 2nd Conference would bring about a multisector, interdisciplinary and pragmatic national strategy to forestall future outbreaks of lead poisoning while preventing recontamination of previous remediated sites.
The Country Director, Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) and Co-Chair of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the 2nd International Conference on Lead Poisoning, Dr. Simba Tirima in his speech, disclosed that the conference would be attended by experts from different fields to map out a collaborative approach and sustainable way to deal with the problem of lead poisoning in its totality.
He said the conference would also bring together various Federal Ministries to enable them come up with National Action Plan that would bring succor to the affected communities while preventing re-occurrences.
“We have recognized along the way that different Ministries and Agencies like Health, Environment and others including MMSD have done a lot of work in trying to contain the issue but working in silos has not been very productive because this is a problem that cut across so many sectors,” he explained.
Dr. Tirima was hopeful that the outcome of the conference would make Nigeria become a reference point for other African countries on issues of lead poisoning and environmental pollution.
Earlier in his remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Abdulkadiri Mu’azu said the Ministry in collaboration with MSF who have been at the forefront of the response since 2010 is committed to addressing the issue of lead poisoning.
Noting that artisanal gold mining is prevalent, Dr. Mu’azu stressed the need for a safe mining technique which would put an end to the problem of lead poisoning in the country.
The 2nd International Conference on Lead Poisoning is scheduled to hold from Tuesday 26th to Wednesday 27th at the Nicon Luxury Hotel, Area 11, Abuja.
For: Director Press