Nigeria: Senator Saraki Welcomes President Jonathan's Release of Funds to Save Children's Lives in Zamfara State

Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki welcomes President Goodluck Jonathan's approval to release promised funds for the remediation of Bagega Community in Zamfara State, saving the lives of up to 1,500 children in the area.

In his capacity as Chairman of Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, Senator Bukola Saraki yesterday visited the Bagega Community, to review how best to enable relevant agencies including the Ministry of Environment and the Federal Government to deal with the environmental challenge of lead poisoning currently ravaging Bagega. Senator Saraki was accompanied on his trip to Bagega by Commissioner for Environment for Zamfara State.   On this trip, they visited the   Emir of Zamfara to assure him that work will soon commence to   remediate the land.

In early December 2012, the Committee received a delegation from a non-governmental body MSF (Doctors Without Borders).   The MSF came to brief the committee on the state of affairs in the area and the need   to take immediate action to avert further death of children. Their   report suggested that over 400 children have died already and another   1500 are at risk of death due to the effects of lead poisoning.

Speaking during the visit yesterday, Mr. Ivan Gaydon, Country Director for Doctors Without Borders sincerely thanked Senator Saraki for meeting with them in Abuja just few weeks ago and keeping to his promise to immediately open communications with the Federal Government on the matter. He said he was highly impressed by the fact that the Committee Chairman did not just stop at bringing the issue back on the front burner with the Federal Government but followed it up with this visit to a very difficult terrain to see things for himself.

Senator Saraki asked the doctors and terragraphics working on the remediation efforts not to rest on their efforts. He also remarked   that he is impressed by the show of genuine concern for the people of   Bagega from the President Goodluck Jonathan. He said while reacting to   a question on the delay in the remediation efforts that he believes   that the President and the ministry have been working behind the scene   to fast track the remediation process but sometimes government   processes are delayed. The chairman assured all that he has it on good   authority that in the next couple of days, the President will release   the necessary funds for work to commence toward the remediation of the entire area.

Mr Ivan Gaydon while thanking the Chairman reinstated the commitment   of his organization to stay the course and help the children of Bagega gain their lives back. He said they have all the drugs and equipment necessary and on ground to begin immediate treatment of the children once remediation of the area is complete. According to them, without remediation, treatment will be ineffective.

Senator Saraki inspected sites where the lead level was recorded at   ten times higher than the international lead poison level.   He   sincerely thanked the agencies that have been on site for the care   they have so far given to the people and assured them of his   continuous support.

Senator Saraki also visited the local processing area, the delegation saw primitive processing and need for safer technique and modern equipment. Senator Saraki was highly impressed by the women of Bagega and held a brief meeting with them, encouraging them to form cooperatives and donated 500 Thousand naira to get them started.

A national 'Save Bagega' campaign urging the Federal Government to cleanse the village of Bagega before the rainy season begins and exposes up to 1,500 children to lead poisoning for another year, has successfully ended with President Goodluck Jonathan approving the immediate release of promised funds for the remediation of the   impacted area.

The release of funds from the Federal Government for the environmental cleanup in Bagega is great news for the local community as well as for the thousands of people that added their voice to the campaign. However, Senator Saraki has urged that the release of funds is just   the beginning.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology encourages Nigerians   to join in monitoring the progress of work to ensure that money   allocated to the remediation process is fully accounted for and used   for the purpose of saving the lives of the sick children of Bagega   through the remediation process and the training of the local miners   on safer mining techniques.

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