Monday, 10 August 2015

I am the most experienced to rule Kogi State

A former governor, Abubakar Audu, in this interview says he is the best man for Kogi State’s top job as the November 21 gubernatorial election draws nearer. JOHN AKUBO reports. Ruling Kogi again
KOGI has not been the same since the past twelve years when I left office. Look at the township roads; they are in a very bad shape. No water and the supply of electricity is epileptic. No drugs in hospitals. Teachers and civil servants are not paid. Those that are paid are receiving percentage payment. So many things have gone wrong in Kogi State and this is most unfortunate. The state has been described as being very sick.
As the first Executive Governor of the state I am the father of the state. My baby is sick and I have the responsibility to nurse the baby back to good health. The characteristic of a good father is not to abandon the child. You can see that there have been hues and cries from every stakeholder. They have stopped me on the highway, young men who have been urging me to come and contest and several times I have declined because it is not a matter for highway.
Today again young men have invited me to the stadium. I did not want to go to there but they insisted that I should contest to be Governor in 2016. It is because the state is in a very bad shape and it requires a very experienced person.
Since I performed very well to the satisfaction of the entire electorate, they felt I should come and salvage the state to be what it used to be in 2003 and even go beyond.

Creating a million jobs in six months
I have done it before. What I did in 2003 was to ensure the establishment of Obajana Cement Factory which can boast of 15,000 staff strength when fully operational. I approached the Federal Government to release the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mills to me for us to run so that we can raise the working capital and make it a growing concern. When it becomes a growing concern, there would be mainstream industries and small-scale industries that will spring up from the billets being produced and that is how I want reduce the pressure on the labour market.
Within the first one year, I will produce a million jobs for the teeming youths and school leavers that are roaming the streets jobless. It is something I have done before and I will do it again. Even while I was in office those who were not gainfully employed were catered for through some monthly allowance. That will reduce the tension. I can do better than that by getting everybody employed. We have a vast land and we can create a demonstration farm where we can get people employed where food for local consumption can initially be produced. From there when the climate is healthy, nothing stops us from exporting food because Kogi could easily be made the food basket of Nigeria

Why Buhari won’t sell refineries

Port Harcourt refineries• Stakeholders’ expectations from new NNPC’s directors
• Want focus on self-sufficiency in petroleum products
STRONG indications have emerged in Abuja that President Muhammadu Buhari may not be in a hurry to sell Nigeria’s three refineries.
It was understood he may not do so because it may place the economy in the hands of the private sector and lay it open for possible exploitation which may bring hardship to poor Nigerians.
Meanwhile, expectations are soaring that Nigeria may begin to enjoy the benefits of crude oil resources following the leadership change and restructuring at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Stakeholders in the oil and gas industry are of the opinion that in order to make a remarkable impact, the new heads at the NNPC would have to vigorously pursue the Federal Government’s aspiration to transform the industry, especially the NNPC into an integrated oil and gas company by introducing policies and strategies that will improve crude oil production.
A source told The Guardian: “The thinking of this present government is to minimise waste through prudent management of resources and tame corruption. The appointment of Dr Emmanuel Kachikwu as Group Managing Director of the NNPC is meant to achieve his aim of zero tolerance for corruption in the operations of subsidiaries of the NNPC.”
The Guardian gathered that the President’s decision might have been buoyed by the feat of local engineers who successfully carried out the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the ailing refineries after the original manufacturer turned down an offer to rehabilitate them.
It was gathered that the President is convinced that corruption is at heart of the ailing refineries and that good and efficient management could return them to summit of their installed capacity. may be avoiding an early collision with Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), which has continually opposed the sale or outright privatization of the refineries.
Stakeholders fault past management of refineries
Speaking recently, the National President of Nigerian Association of Energy Economics (NAEE), Prof Wumi Iledare said the approach government has adopted to manage the refineries or seek investment have been wrong.
He explained that government ought to issue simple ‘permits’ as against making them buy licenses, which cost so much money.
Specifically, Iledare argued that building of new refineries would have a multi-dimensional layer in creation of jobs and business opportunities .
His words: “Government should not give license for building of refineries, but should give permits instead to people that want to build refineries based on environmental impact assessment, technical capabilities and financial resources. There should be a tenders board to evaluate the claims for that purpose and the Nigerian people must also know the owners of the planned refineries.
Above all, there must be consistency in policy by the Federal Government.
Those who got licenses did so because government said it was selling off the refineries and efforts were on to remove the subsidy, which was an incentive for the private sector to move in and take advantage of the liberalized environment.

Remediation Activities

Phase I remediation was an emergency response in the initial two villages (Dareta and Yargalma). MSF and ZMOH established village clinics and implemented treatment protocols. TG and ZMOE developed emergency remediation plans and protocol documents that could be implemented with resources available to the villages (von Lindern et al. 2011). Cleanup commenced in June 2010 and was suspended in mid-July due to the rainy season. The work was conducted by ZMOE with TG providing technical guidance. Funding and equipment came from Zamfara State, TG, Blacksmith Institute (BI), and MSF. Security and logistical support for the international remedial contingent were provided by the Zamfara State government and MSF. One hundred and forty-eight (148) compounds, resident to more than 2,100 community members, were remediated, allowing MSF to provide chelation treatment to over 100 children. By September 2010, the Phase I remediation together with the suspension and relocation of artisanal mining activities had reduced the average blood lead level of children entering treatment from 173µg/dl to 86µg/dL. 

Phase II remediation commenced in October 2010 with funding from the United Nations (UN) Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Zamfara State, TG, and BI. Phase II, also conducted by ZMOE with TG oversight, addressed five villages (Abare, Duza, Sunke, Tungar Daji, and Tungar Guru) resident to 6,385 people. An additional 1,277 children under age five years were identified as eligible for chelation treatment. Remediation activities were again suspended in March 2011, due to lack of funding and security concerns related to the Nigerian presidential election. During Phase II, further investigation by the CDC and Nigerian authorities suggested that artisanal gold mining was occurring in another 114 villages in three LGAs. Surveys of 74 of those villages found significant lead contamination in about one-half . Another study revealed water quality problems related to the mining activities (UNEP/OCHA 2010). Additional surveys conducted by TG and ZMOE found extensive mineral processing in Bagega Village, Anka LGA, with a population exceeding 7,000, including 1,500 children under age five at severe risk. An adjacent abandoned processing site (Industrial Area) had more than 8,700 cubic meters of high concentration lead waste extending into the main water reservoir serving the region. 

Phase II was followed by 18 months of advocacy encouraging the Nigerian federal government to complete the remediation. In February 2013, the federal government agreed to commence Phase III addressing Bagega. TerraGraphics International Foundation (TIFO), the non-profit humanitarian successor to TG, was retained to provide remediation oversight. Security protocols, TIFO logistics support, and all medical responses were provided by MSF. This third phase addressed a larger population and removed more contaminated waste than the combined Phase I and II efforts. Phase III included remediating 352 compounds and 54 common areas, rehabilitating the Industrial Area, and dredging the contaminated regional reservoir. Lead exposures were reduced for more than 7,000 residents; blood lead screening, medical surveillance, and chelation treatment were extended to an additional 673 children. Efforts are ongoing by the Nigerian governments and the affected communities to sustain the remedy and adopt safer mining techniques.

The Source of Lead Poisoning

The source of the epidemic was artisanal gold mining that became prolific in 2009-10. For several months, ore processing was conducted at numerous sites within the villages. Because local religious and cultural practices include the sequestration of married women, ore crushing, washing, and gold recovery were undertaken within the residential compounds to utilize the women’s labor. At some point during the rapid increase in mining activities, a dangerous ore exceeding 10% lead was introduced, severely exposing young children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers. By April 2010, with death and illness prevalent, the local Emirates ordered a temporary suspension of artisanal ore processing and later required that all operations be moved approximately one-half kilometer from the villages involved in mining. However, extremely hazardous exposures associated with residual waste and contaminated soils remained in the residential compounds and exterior processing areas.

Due to the continuing mortality, MSF/TG focused on emergency medical treatment and environmental response. MSF, ZMOH, and FMOH developed village chelation therapy clinics. However, all entities agreed that returning treated children to contaminated homes would compromise the treatment. Coupled with local resistance to relocation, this required the villages to be remediated prior to commencing chelation. Remediation continued over three and one-half years in three phases, encompassing 8 villages and 17,000 residents. More than 2,300 children under five years of age received chelation therapy.

Zamfara State, Nigeria

In March 2010, the international humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders, MSF) discovered an unprecedented epidemic of lead poisoning in a number of remote villages in Zamfara State, Nigeria. Subsequent investigations showed more than 17,000 people were severely poisoned and an estimated 400-500 children died as a result of lead absorption associated with artisanal gold mining/processing in residential compounds.  Several international organizations collaborated with Nigerian health authorities and local civil and traditional governments to provide emergency medical, environmental, technical, and public health response. Remediation activities, conducted in three phases from May 2010 to July 2013, were modeled on Idaho/U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) “Superfund” protocols. Post-cleanup activities included extended medical treatment in MSF-run village clinics, monitoring the sustainability of the remediation, and implementation of safer mining practices. 

Remediating the villages presented numerous resource, logistic, cultural, institutional, and technical challenges. The remote area is difficult to access and has little infrastructure. Village life is ruled by overlapping civil, tribal, and Sharia governments, exhibits gender-segregated social structure, suffers numerous endemic diseases with limited healthcare, and a workforce dependent on primitive tools and labor practices. The cleanup evolved from an emergency response initially developed and directed largely by international personnel from TerraGraphics (TG) to a multi-disciplinary program carried out by Nigerian federal, state, and local governments employing village workers. The epidemic has been characterized as unprecedented, and the ensuing cleanup one of the largest and most comprehensive ever undertaken by an African government. 

When villagers first brought children with high fevers and convulsions to makeshift MSF immunization clinics, doctors did not suspect lead poisoning and initially treated for severe malaria and meningitis. When the patients failed to recover, blood samples were sent to a German laboratory that confirmed lead poisoning. In May 2010, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) dispatched medical and environmental investigators to work with the Zamfara State Ministry of Health (ZMOH) and the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) to assess the extent of the epidemic. At CDC’s request, TG accompanied the mission to investigate the potential for remediation. The combined team conducted an extensive health and environmental assessment in two villages, Dareta and Yargalma, in Anka and Bukkuyum Local Government Areas (LGAs), respectively, documenting 163 deaths and noting that up to one-third of children under age five in each village had died in the preceding few months. Surveys of six other villages suggested that 250-350 additional children had died of lead poisoning during the height of the epidemic.