Kasim Sumaina in Abuja

As part of efforts to ensure the success of the second International Conference on Lead Poisoning in the country, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD) is collaborating with stakeholders and relevant ministries in putting together an action plan that will bring about the eradication of lead poisoning in Nigeria.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Abdulkadri Mu’azu, during a courtesy call on the Permanent Secretary of Environment, Dr. Shehu Mahmud Usman Ahmed, on Thursday in Abuja, said it is important that the stakeholders come together to fashion out ways to deal with the issue of lead poisoning in totality.

Mu’azu, in a statement by the Ministry’s Director of Press, Mr. Opara, said that the sector is dominated by artisanal gold miners who are exposed to risks, adding that the unfortunate cases of lead poisoning which resulted in fatalities and affected about 400 children in Zamfara State in 2010 and Niger State a few years later, needed to be addressed.

The Permanent Secretary said: “There’s the need for critical stakeholders to come together and come up with strategic plan. In view of the ongoing exposure of the children to lead and the fact that you cannot eliminate artisanal mining, it is important to put heads together and come up with strategic preventive measures in the form of a national action plan or a national programme which is the basis for the international conference.”

According to him, “To ensure the success of the conference, it is expedient to involve stakeholders like the Ministry of Environment in order to get the buy in, so as to develop a holistic plan of action in the form of a national programme.”

Speaking in a similar vein, the Country Director, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Co-Chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the 2nd International Conference on Lead Poisoning, Dr. Simba Tirima, said: “Nigeria is capable of responding to the problem of lead poison and needed to be reminded that lead poisoning is preventable.”

While noting that Artisanal Gold Mining takes place all over the world, he acknowledged that the children are the most vulnerable to lead poisoning.

“Children bear the brunt of this problem because their bodies are developing and their central nervous system are extremely sensitive to lead poisoning, if it does not kill you as a child, it causes damages that are irreversible including a precipitant loss of IQ (Intelligence Quotient),” he explained.

Dr. Tirima said the occurrence of the Niger lead poisoning episode after Zamfara, clearly indicated that the country’s efforts are not sustainable, and call for a different approach, adding that it is important that various ministries responsible for aspects of the issue come together and come up with National Action Plan that would bring succour to the affected communities while preventing re-occurrences.

Earlier in his opening remarks, the Permanent Secretary of Environment, Dr. Shehu Mahmud Usman Ahmed, extolled the initiative of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development for collaborating with other ministries in bringing about solution to the issues of lead poisoning in Nigeria.

He assured LOC of the conference led by Dr. Mu’azu of the Ministry of Environment’s commitment and cooperation.