On 22nd of January 2017 our team was informed of the expected visitation of the Minister of Environment to Shikira community to access the work done so far. To us, it was a surprised at first because it was on a Sunday, but also we think this is how the government should work which the Amina Mohammed Administration showed to us that the government could follow the money themselves too rather than doling millions out on a project without clear monitoring and evaluation criteria to assess the situation of the project.
Indeed between our last visit in August 2016 and 22nd of January, we have seen some changes in Shikira Community as the first phase of the remediation is finished and the second phase which was the last stage would be kickstarted in a matter of weeks.
The first phase includes the removing of contaminated top soils and spreading of clean soils to restore the soil to the way it was before the lead poisoning saga. The removed top soil was dumped in a temporary dumping site which will then be buried with clay soil coating in a low water level soil.
Observation on Phase One
- The lead-contaminated soil is in the dumping site for now and it will soon be buried at a site which will be identified in few weeks time after a deep geological test by the approved personnel.
- The compounds and soils that were once tested lead positive have been remediated with 400 – 405ppm lead level which the US EPA standard is 400.
- The children are already undergoing treatment by the MSF (Doctors Without Borders Team) and they have started playing around again; though the treatment is still ongoing.
- The only medical facility in the community has been renovated and it now has toilets, water, and medical personnel though none was found on the job when we visited.
- The MSF team and the State Ministry of Environment have started a safer mining training for the artisanal miners in the community.
- The community engagement is ongoing so as to avoid reoccurrence of such event and how to take precautionary steps towards lead poisoning.
What the challenge of the community is
They need water as they are presently fetching water in more than 20 miles away from their community and the water is not safer as it might likely be contaminated with lead too. Simba Tirima of the MSF said we cannot say we are remediating this community without providing them water as that was part of what cause the contamination in the first instance. If we are to be done finally with this remediation, we must provide water for them so they won’t have to go back to the water that was contaminated.
What is left to be done
- The community with the state Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Solid Minerals & Mining is to provide a plot (50×100) of land with low water level for the team to bury the contaminated soils.
- The site would be fenced with a restricted area inscription so that the people in the community won’t dug it up later after the contaminated soils have been buried.
- The community would be provided with water source/s
- There will be a geological test to identify a low water levelled soil to bury the contaminated excavated soils.
We are calling on the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed to consider handling the project to the hand of trusted officials as she will soon be leaving office so that the monies earmarked for the second phase which is as important as the first phase won’t go missing as there have been some cases of likely misappropriation of the fund by some cabals within the Ministry.
Also, the Follow The Money team is thanking the minister for her due diligence, professionalism and vigilance on the #SaveShikira Campaign, her actions gives us more hope that the government can be transparent and responsible when called on by the people. And we also congratulate her on her new position in the UN.