‘Ra­di­a­tion has been killing Adamawa vil­lagers for years’

Ba­bies born de­formed in Michika ar­eas

Weekly Trust - - News - Kabiru R. An­war, Yola

Ef­fects of sus­pected ra­di­a­tion from ura­nium de­posits has been caus­ing death and de­for­mi­ties among vil­lagers in north­ern Adamawa, say res­i­dents who spoke to Daily Trust in Michika. A num­ber of them claim to have wit­nessed cases of de­for­mity in new­borns, and even an­i­mals around the af­fected vil­lages.

The Di­rec­tor of Ge­ol­ogy at the Min­istry of Solid Min­er­als who is the for­mer Man­ager of Adamawa Min­ing Com­pany, Dama Zira, had a few weeks ago dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion at the Gov­ern­ment House Yola, dis­closed that ra­di­a­tion has killed many vil­lagers in spe­cific cer­tain lo­ca­tions.

The vil­lages in­clude Garta, Fu­tu­dou, Himike, Sina-Kwande Nkala and Ghumthi, all in Michika area.

Zira, a ge­ol­o­gist from one of the af­fected vil­lages, drew the at­ten­tion of his au­di­ence com­pris­ing of a group of Amer­i­can in­vestors, sci­en­tists, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and jour­nal­ists to an un­no­ticed en­vi­ron­men­tal disas­ter that he says has been go­ing on for sev­eral decades.

In the late 1950s when Zira was a pri­mary school pupil, he­li­copters con­duct­ing aero­mag­netic sur­vey to search for ura­nium hov­ered above the rocks, fright­en­ing him and the an­i­mals he tended to. By early 1980, as a young ge­ol­o­gist, he wit­nessed the ex­plo­ration ac­tiv­i­ties in the vil­lages by the de­funct Nige­ria Ura­nium Min­ing Com­pany (NUMC). He of­ten ob­served that the trees and grasses on the rocks were yel­low­ish and poorly grown, one of the ef­fects of ura­nium on the en­vi­ron­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to him, there were sev­eral deaths from strange ill­nesses that caused mi­gra­tion from com­mu­ni­ties near the ura­nium de­posits while the vil­lagers sac­ri­ficed an­i­mals to ap­pease deities, as they at­trib­uted the prob­lem to evil spir­its.

Zira said: “The peo­ple of the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties for many years sac­ri­ficed hun­dreds of goats to ap­pease a de­ity, seek­ing for pro­tec­tion from evil spir­its which they be­lieve are caus­ing uniden­ti­fied ill­nesses, and sud­den death in the com­mu­ni­ties. Lit­tle did they know they are sit­ting on, and drink­ing, wa­ter from a huge ura­nium de­posit which was iden­ti­fied by ra­di­a­tion ex­perts as the cause of ill­ness and ram­pant deaths among them.”

His pre­sen­ta­tion drew the at­ten­tion of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and on Wed­nes­day sci­en­tists from the Nige­ria Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity went to in­spect the area. The geo­sci­en­tist, who took a med­i­cal trip to Dubai in 2015, said he is him­self a vic­tim of ra­di­a­tion, an af­ter-ef­fect of sev­eral field trips to the var­i­ous sites.

When ap­proached by our cor­re­spon­dent, Zira de­clined to be in­ter­viewed on the is­sue, say­ing he had no per­mis­sion to speak to the press.

Re­act­ing to me­dia re­ports on Zira’s claim, the Com­mis­sioner for Solid Min­er­als, Bar­ris­ter Shanti San­shi Vic­to­ria said an ex­pert team from the nu­clear agency from Abuja had al­ready ar­rived the state to in­spect the site of pos­si­ble ra­di­a­tion. She how­ever de­nied re­ports that ra­di­a­tion had re­cently killed sev­eral peo­ple in five vil­lages, say­ing only the out­come of the sci­en­tific tests by the ex­perts could pro­vide a clue as to the pos­si­ble health prob­lems in the area as there was still no proven sci­en­tific ev­i­dence upon which to draw con­clu­sions.

Cor­rob­o­rat­ing Zira’s claim, a re­tired jour­nal­ist from the af­fected area, Em­manuel Y. Kwace said vil­lagers sought spir­i­tual in­ter­ven­tion against high rate of death, mis­car­riage and de­formed ba­bies. He ex­pressed fear that Boko Haram bomb at­tacks in the vil­lages may have ag­gra­vated en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions and health prob­lems in the vil­lages.

“Ura­nium was dis­cov­ered a long time ago, but we did not know the ef­fect. Chil­dren were born with four legs, four eyes, with no eyes or with an en­larged head. An­i­mals were born with six legs. Be­cause the res­i­dents were il­lit­er­ate, they thought it was the in­flu­ence of some de­monic forces. Even churches prayed to cast out the evil from the com­mu­ni­ties. The ear­lier the gov­ern­ment ver­i­fies the quan­tity of the ura­nium, the bet­ter. There are Im­pro­vised Ex­plo­sive De­vices in the area, which I be­lieve may com­pound the ra­di­a­tion prob­lem,” he said.

Re­cently, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment com­menced moves to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity from nu­clear ma­te­ri­als, par­tic­u­larly through the ex­plo­ration, exploitati­on and util­i­sa­tion of ura­nium. Min­is­ter of Solid Min­er­als Devel­op­ment, Dr. Kay­ode Fayemi, stated that it was im­por­tant for Nige­ria to ex­ploit avail­able re­sources in or­der to meet its power needs.

In March, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment an­nounced that it

work­ing to­wards gen­er­at­ing 4,000 me­gawatts of elec­tric­ity us­ing nu­clear en­ergy.

The Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral/Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of the Nige­rian Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity, Pro­fes­sor Lawrence Dim, when asked about the safety of ex­plor­ing ura­nium across the coun­try, replied: “Ura­nium ex­plo­ration in Nige­ria is quite safe. We have not had any cause to find out that there is any high level of ra­di­a­tion or ex­po­sure re­lat­ing to that.”

Dim added: “The is­sue is that the ura­nium we get in our soil is the nat­u­ral ura­nium; al­though it has ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial, the con­cen­tra­tion is low. So we don’t have any sit­u­a­tion where the level of ra­di­a­tion com­ing out from it is de­tected to be harm­ful.”

A ti­tle-holder from Garta, Yakubu T. Tumba, the Chi­roma Garta told Daily Trust that ex­plo­ration ac­tiv­i­ties have started at Mbororo in Michika in 1983 by a team of for­eign sci­en­tists. “They drilled eight bore­holes and con­ducted some tests at Mbororo, where we be­lieve they ex­ploited the re­source. They set up camp two kilo­me­ters from the site and were flown in by he­li­copters and other ve­hi­cles. One day, they as­sem­bled rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the com­mu­ni­ties and in­formed us that when min­ing started sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties would be re­lo­cated. The site is 10 kilo­me­ters from Michika,” he stated.

A med­i­cal worker at the Gen­eral Hospi­tal in Michika who sought anonymity be­cause she is not au­tho­rised to talk to the press, con­firmed that the hospi­tal had on a few oc­ca­sions in the past recorded cases of ba­bies born with a sin­gle leg, or with­out eyes or nose.

“Al­though we have not re­cently wit­nessed cases of strange sick­nesses from ra­di­a­tion or of chil­dren born with de­for­mi­ties, in the late 1990s a baby was born with a sin­gle leg, just like a fish, with no pri­vate parts, so it was not clear whether it was boy or girl and an­other baby was born with a smooth, fea­ture-less face, with no eyes or nose,” the worker stated.

Joseph Tak­wale, the first coun­cil chair­man of the old Michika lo­cal gov­ern­ment area com­pris­ing of Michika and Mada­gali dis­tricts said he was aware of ex­plo­ration ac­tiv­i­ties by a for­eign com­pany at Mbororo in the early 80s when sam­ples were taken by for­eign sci­en­tists who flew he­li­copters over the rocks. He called on fed­eral and state gov­ern­ments to take com­pre­hen­sive assess­ment of the area with a view to guar­an­tee­ing safety of the pop­u­la­tion. “Gov­ern­ment should bring ex­perts to as­sess the quan­tity of the min­er­als and give ad­vice on the min­i­mum dis­tance the com­mu­ni­ties need to set­tle from the ura­nium de­posits,” he said.

The Vil­lage Head of Michika, Abubakar Li­man, also the Mukad­das of Michika, said he knew about the ura­nium de­posits and ex­plo­ration ac­tiv­i­ties in the 80s but was not aware of the said health prob­lems.

Ura­nium is among the of­fi­cially listed min­er­als found in Adamawa State in North East­ern NIge­ria. Ex­perts have ex­plained that the ura­nium de­posits ex­tended from Cen­tral African Repub­lic and sank un­der­ground across Cameroon only to rise again be­tween Michika and Mada­gali in Nige­ria, and parts of Niger Repub­lic.

Ura­nium is the heav­i­est nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring el­e­ment on earth and is a me­tal. Canada is the first coun­try to pro­duce and process it, and pro­vided the ma­te­rial used to pro­duce nu­clear ex­plo­sives for the atomic bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Na­gasaki in 1945. The be­gin­ning of the nu­clear weapons pro­gram marked the be­gin­ning of the ura­nium in­dus­try. The com­mer­cial value and the dan­gers of ura­nium are based on two char­ac­ter­is­tics which it has: It is ra­dioac­tive and fis­sion­able.

In the late 1990s a baby was born with a sin­gle leg, just like a fish, with no pri­vate parts, so it was not clear whether it was boy or girl and an­other baby was born with a smooth, fea­ture­less face, with no eyes or nose

Yel­low Cake Ura­nium

In­te­rior of the Michika hospi­tal

PHO­TOS: Kabiru R. An­war

Hospi­tal in Michika

Women go­ing back to their vil­lages af­ter mar­ket in Michika

Sign post lead­ing to the Solid Min­er­als Pro­gramme Con­tin­ued from page 10

For­mer Michika LG Chair­man, Joseph Tak­wale

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