We are simulating something closely resembling the spiritual term ‘omniscience’ by being able to share vast amounts of information over tremendous networks. Nineteenth century concepts of what was called a ‘billiard board universe’ has dissolved into relativity and the more recent so-called ‘principle of uncertainty.’ As a result, the atom has split, atomic and nuclear energy are being tapped to increase by a vast degree the availability of physical power which has already leapt over great barriers. Yet the general feeling is that we have been able to chip away only a few fragments from the mountain of knowledge. Looming ahead of us, practically intact, lies a huge mass of fundamental facts any one of which, if uncovered, could change our civilization in a manner never before known.
Whereas these developments portend of high economic gains, political superiority amongst equals, security advantage, et cetera, one cannot loose sight of the adverse consequences that could result from a misuse or deliberate abuse. Fire, they say, is a good servant, but could be a very stubborn master. In Nigeria, gas, a by-product of oil exploitation, is being burnt off because oil companies neither utilize nor recycle it. The Nigerian National Petroleum Company says that about 40 percent of gas produced in the country -- almost 23 billion cubic metres -- is burned annually. The World Bank estimates that Nigeria loses about 2.5 billion dollars annually to gas flare. This is the same gas successive governments have pledged to pipe down to factories and kitchens across some four countries within the West African sub-region, to wit, Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana and Senegal. During an interview with one of Nigeria's past President, I was told that agreements have been signed and that laying of the pipes would start in ernest. That was some five years ago, but the project still remains a pipe-dream. In addition to oil, Nigeria also has gold reserves and arableland suitable for commercial exploitation. These resources, if properly harnessed, will make Nigeria less dependent on oil which accounts for more than 90% (ninety per cent of her total revenue).
Only recently, it has been reported that Uranium deposits have been discovered in some six states of Nigeria by the Atomic Energy Division of the Geological Survey of Great Britain. This silvery-white radioactive metallic element was first discovered in the Liruai hills in Kano state and in the Kigo hills near Dorowa on the Jos plateau. Other states where the find have been reported are Adamawa, Cross River, Taraba and Bauchi respectively. This indeed is a heart-warming news not only to the federal government but to the people of the concerned states. At least the derivation revenue accruing to mineral-based states is going to boost the coffers of the states’ Treasury. To the country at large, this means a drastic shift from the problematic crude oil sector to some less competitive enterprise.
According to studies, not many countries of the world are endowed with the radioactive mineral which makes Uranium highly priced and of high value. It is obtained from the ore uranite which occurs in small bodies of granite containing pyrochlore with 3.3 per cent uranium oxide, 3.3 per cent thorium oxide and 41.1 per cent niobium and tantalum oxides.
However, uranium mining being an area of significant interest in the world at present, it is necessary to inform and assist the resident communities (potential victims of radiation) identify the key issues and rights associated with uranium mining. It is important that while the named communities are counting their Dollars that will come by way of derivative allocation, they should also consider and properly understand the USES, GAINS as well as related health HAZARDS of this highly priced mineral deposit and that the determination of their future should be arrived at soberly and appropriately.
It should be known and properly understand that uranium mining has stimulated immense distress in respect to environmental and radiation aspects over the last three decades around the globe.
Indeed, from the economic perspective it is clear there might be an opportunity for countries endowed with this mineral deposit to profit immensely from its exploitation. However, it is necessary to raise this supreme and most fundamental question whether or not the economic benefits outweigh the social concerns and hazards considering that the life span could only be between 10-12 years.
The government and the general public should be aware that:
Uranium mining carries the danger of airborne radioactive dust and the release of radioactive radon gas and its decay products which is hazardous to the general public and workers.
Uranium has radiological consequences for employees if not well protected risking development of lung cancer and other pulmonary diseases.
There will be contamination of water resource use with the toxic chemicals used in the separation of the uranium ore.
Mismanagement of uranium disposal waste from leaching ore can have long term health and environmental consequences.
Environmentalists and Environmental protection Agencies as well as Human Rights Organisations and other concerned Non-governmental organisations might not achieve every goal and may concede to lack of scientific and legal authority to realize the necessary goals immediately but, assistance and assurance from the relevant authorities that fight to preserve and monitor the environment for posterity will certainly come. With the visit to China of President Yar'adua last February, it is expected that Nigeria should be able to diversify her mineral exploitation to include URANIUM. Moreover, the electricity crisis which has become almost the country's middle name could be laid to eternal rest if the potentialities of uranium are fully exploited.