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On the trail of illegal miners

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In its war against economic sabotage and illegal mining, the Ebonyi State government has embarked on sting operations, which have resulted in massive arrest of illegal miners. UCHENNA INYA, in Abakaliki, reports

Ebonyi is blessed with various mineral deposits. Some of the minerals are lead, Zinc and limestone, which in recent times have become precious commodities, attracting all manner of illegal miners from within and outside the country.
Investigations reveal that while at least, ten truck load of lead and zinc depart various mines in Ebonyi State every week, the state government gets only N96 million annually as its 13 per cent derivative.
Angered by the activities of the illegal miners, the state government embarked on sting operation in some communities in the state which resulted in the arrest of over 30 suspects, including six Chinese. It ordered the closure of Zinc and Lead mines in the state.
At one of the mining sites, a tunnel was discovered. The tunnel was created by the illegal miners with which they operate underground mining. Security agencies could not enter the tunnel as they were afraid.
It was gathered that the miners are not alone in the illegal business as some Community Leaders and politicians always go into phony agreement with them and consequently short change government in revenue generation.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Security matters, Dr. Kenneth Ugbala, who led a combined team of security agents, made up of policemen, soldiers and DSS to arrest the suspects in Abakaliki and Ivo Local Government Areas of the state, explained that the state government was not aware of the sites while a tunnel they dug measuring hundreds of metres away did not go through Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA.
He expressed shock on the activities of the miners which he said has created environmental problem to the state.
“The future of this state is at stake because of the activities of these illegal miners. I have the privileged of being in China and Chinese don’t temper with their environment no matter what the problem may be. With the type of problem created here in the name of mining, it is possible that this tunnel they created must have passed to underground to Government House and every other places that Ebonyi people are living.
“So, what do we expect? A total collapse! When we are living up, another road is in the ground in the name of mining and there is no society and there is no environment, states that this type of thing
is seen. It is not as if they pay IGR and when you come to IGR, what type of IGR will even be more important than the future of our children and the entire people of the state. We will make sure that we fish-out all these people. As SSA on Internal Security, I am seeingthis thing for the first time. It is threat to our environment”, he said.
On her part, Special Adviser to Governor Umahi on Solid Mineral Development, Mrs. Nwakaego Nworie, said that she had visited the site with Geological experts and that the miners only allowed them to see the premises and prevented them from going round the whole site.
“I became very curious and insisted that I must see the whole site. I moved down inside the site. I got to a place a soldier blocked me and threatened to shoot me if I pass him. The soldier told me, don’t go to that extreme. That day, I saw the tunnel even though I was prevented from going closer to it.
“Today, I am overwhelmed that I have seen the tunnel of mining for the first time in my life. I made investigation to know if our office is aware of this tunnel and no one could give me information. Before an underground mining can take place, there must be a bye-law and mutual agreement between the host state and investor. But now, we are not aware of underground here and it is worrisome”, she said.
One of the suspects, Nnamdi Peter, who hails from Enugu State, said he has worked in the mining tunnel for three months.
“In the first place, I don’t know this is illegal mining. If I knew it was illegal, I wouldn’t have been working here. The company should have carried out Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) with NESRA before embarking on this type of mining.”
The President General, Ebonyi State Association of Town Union Presidents, Chief Ugochukwu Akpa, said illegal mining activities were part of the crisis rocking some autonomous communities in the state and called for concerted efforts to curb the menace.
On his part, Chairman Miners Association in the state, Dr Sunday Chukwu, expressed worries over revenue leakages in the sector but assured the state government of its cooperation to address illegal mining.
Governor Dave Umahi had at a meeting with all the stakeholders in the mining sector explained that the decision to seal all Zinc and Lead mines was to issue miners with environmental permit and beef up the state revenue.
Umahi also announced the reactivation of mineral buying centre in the state while a task force would be set up to enforce government policies on mining.

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Health

National hospital receives 2nd cancer treatment machine

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The National Hospital, has taken delivery of the second Radiotherapy machine for Cancer treatment,  in Abuja on Monday. The Elekta machine for Linear Accelerator (LINAC) is made up of several components to be coupled and installed soon.

Speaking in a brief interview at the hospital, the Chief Medical Director (CMD), National Hospital, Dr. Jeff Momoh, said the Abuja Radiotherapy centre would be the only centre in West Africa running two Linear accelerators at the same time. This, the CMD explained, was to avoid running down the 1st machine which has currently treated over 200 patients.

Describing the arrival of the 2nd machine as a major breakthrough for the country, the CMD said its installation would further check medical tourism as patients who travelled abroad for cancer treatment would return home to receive treatment at the centre.

In his words, “A cancer patient has returned from India for treatment at the centre and we will soon see patients from other sub-regions receiving cancer treatment in the hospital because with the state of the art equipment available, it will be the best Cancer treatment centre in West Africa”

Commending the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, for seeing to the delivery of the machine, Dr. Momoh informed that the procurement of the second machine was made possible by the unflinching commitment of the minister who had earlier made a pledge to the hospital in that regards.

According to Momoh, similar machines would soon be installed in each of the six geopolitical zones in the country.

On the maintenance and optimum functionality of the Cancer machine, the CMD said the Hospital has fully trained the First set of Nigerians on the maintenance and supervision of the Linear Accelerator under the supervision of Engr. Ikede John, a Deputy Director in the National Hospital, Abuja, to ensure its proper use.

To ensure safe delivery of the machine was, the representative of its manufacturer, JNC International Ltd, Engr. Wale Akinola.

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Health

UNICEF says world is failing newborn babies

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Global deaths of newborn babies remain alarmingly high, particularly among the world’s poorest countries, UNICEF said today in a new report on newborn mortality.

Every year, 2.6 million newborns around the world do not survive their first month of life. One million of them die the day they are born.

Globally, in low-income countries, the average newborn mortality rate is 27 deaths per 1,000 births, the report said. In high-income countries, that rate is three deaths per 1,000.

“While we have more than halved the number of deaths among children under the age of five in the last quarter century, we have not made similar progress in ending deaths among children less than one month old,” said Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF’s Executive Director.

“Given that the majority of these deaths are preventable, clearly, we are failing the world’s poorest babies.”

The report notes that eight of the 10 most dangerous places to be born are in sub-Saharan Africa, where pregnant women are much less likely to receive assistance during delivery due to poverty, conflict and weak institutions. With the newborn mortality rate of 29 deaths per 1,000 births, the global estimates rank Nigeria as the 11th highest on newborn deaths.

In the recent Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) conducted by the Government of Nigeria in 2016/17, the rate of newborn deaths per 1000 births is 37. This national average hides the differences between the 36 states and the slow progress in some of them.

“A fair chance in life begins with a strong, healthy start. Unfortunately, many children in Nigeria are still deprived of this,” said Mohamed M Fall, UNICEF Nigeria’s Representative. “MICS data tells us that the trend is improving but urgent action needs to be taken for Nigeria to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It cannot afford to fail its newborns today.”

More than 80 per cent of newborn deaths are due to prematurity, asphyxia, complications during birth or infections such as pneumonia and sepsis.

These deaths can be prevented with access to well-trained midwives during antenatal and postnatal visits as well as delivery at a health facility, along with proven solutions like clean water, disinfectants, breastfeeding within the first hour, skin-to-skin contact, proper cord care, and good nutrition.

 However, a shortage of well-trained health workers and midwives means that thousands don’t receive the life-saving support they need to survive.

This month, UNICEF is launching Every Child ALIVE, a global campaign to demand and deliver solutions on behalf of the world’s newborns. Through the campaign, UNICEF is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, health care providers, donors, the private sector, families and businesses to keep every child alive by:

Recruiting, training, retaining and managing sufficient numbers of doctors, nurses and midwives with expertise in maternal and newborn care;

Guaranteeing clean, functional health facilities equipped with water, soap and electricity, within the reach of every mother and baby;

Making it a priority to provide every mother and baby with the life-saving drugs and equipment needed for a healthy start in life; and

Empowering adolescent girls, mothers and families to demand and receive quality care.

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Buhari must order the arrest of Ango Abdullahi over his Fulani herdsmen comment – Deji Adeyanju

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A pro-democracy and good governance group, Concerned Nigerians, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to order the immediate arrest of Professor Ango Abdullahi, a former vice-chancellor, over his recent comment on herdsmen that sparked outrage and drew condemnation, especially from the Southern leaders.

In an exclusive interview with Sunday Vanguard last week, Prof. Abdullahi had said that the kidnap of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Chief Olu Falae, was nothing extraordinary, even as he accused Southern leaders of a covert plot to split the unity of the north.

Adeyanju However, in a statement issued by its Convener, Deji Adeyanju on Tuesday, the group said it was surprised and disappointed in what it described as Professor Abdullahi’s brazen justification of the wanton killings of innocent Nigerians by herdsmen.

It said the Department of states Services, DSS, should invite the professor for questioning, maintaining that Abdullahi’s statement was hate speech capable of shattering the unity of the country.

According to the statement, “We have read Prof Ango Abdullahi’s alarming interview with the Vanguard Newspaper and are appalled that someone of his age, stature, education and professional qualification would provide brazen justification for the wanton and senseless murders of thousands of Nigerians by herdsmen.

“In his interview, Prof Abdullahi likened the killings of Nigerians by Fulani Herdsmen to a politically motivated ruse by “… the South…” to destroy the political unity of the North. He also made several other comments that are too incendiary to repeat here. “It is distressing that there are people who continue to politicise these senseless killings and who continually provide justification, and nuance, for them.

“It is also distressing that the political elite in the parts of the country continue to refer to colonial era grazing routes that involved the forceful acquisition and ceding of the ancestral homes and lands of the Nigerians in parts of the country, to cattle herders for use as grazing routes and continue to use such colonial-era machinations as justification for the disregard and disrespect for the constitution and laws of an independent Federal Republic of Nigeria and the human rights of her citizens.

“Shielding this brazen disregard for the property rights of whole peoples in intellectual garb is dangerous and provides a distressing setting for continued killings.

“In fact, Prof Abdullahi’s condemnable comments indicate more than just a passing knowledge of the killings, its organizers and what their objectives are. They indeed indicate a deep-rooted knowledge of these unfortunate events.

“We call on the Directorate of State Security (DSS) to invite Prof Abdullahi to reveal the extent of his knowledge behind the rationale for the killings. This is in keeping with similar invitations extended to others by the DSS to explain comments perceived by the DSS to be hate speech. “You will recall that the DSS even invited the spokesperson to a former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, for issuing a statement on behalf of his boss. “

Anything less will prove the fear expressed by many people across the country that there is institutional support for herdsmen to be true,” the statement concluded.

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