DEATH BY ELECTROCUTION

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The regulatory agency could do more to curtail the lapses in the power sector

While it is gratifying that the electrical fault that led to the death of no fewer than 14 persons at a particular section on Ikorodu Road in Lagos has reportedly been fixed, that such a tragedy would happen in the first place raises serious questions about how the authorities in the power sector take the issue of safety. Even if we discount that criminal neglect spanning months, there is hardly a day without a case of electrocution across the country, mostly due to negligence on the part of the operators in the sector.

The incidence of death by electrocution has become so rampant in the country that the power authorities ought to come up with a sustainable solution to remedy the problem. That would necessitate putting in place a structure for rapid response. For instance, when, following a heavy downpour, some electric poles and cables fell last year, blocking the major road that led to Olokuta community in Ogun States, it took more than a week before the power authorities responded, despite repeated announcements by a local radio station.

Indeed, in several places, there are many old and broken down wooden and concrete electricity poles, some with naked wires dangling overhead. It only takes a serious rainfall or heavy wind to blow off some of the poles. In such a situation, inhabitants of the affected areas or even passersby live in constant fear of instant death. In one particular incident a few years ago, a high tension wire snapped off a pole, electrocuting a staff of the PHCN, and a security guard who had lived and worked in the area for about 30 years. In yet another shocking incident, last Monday, a middle-aged woman and her son were electrocuted in Osogbo, in Osun State by a cable felled by rain. Mother and son reportedly stepped on a live electric cable as they attempted to escape from the electric shocks that reportedly affected their homes when the cable fell.

Perhaps the most pathetic incident happened in Ilesa town, also in Osun State, where a two-year-old boy died from electrocution. Prior to the incident, a woman who lived in the area had reported to PHCN officials that a live wire had fallen on the ground inside her compound. Rather than take action, the officials reportedly advised the woman to “look for someone to fold the live wire pending a time the company would come to fix the fault.” The fault was not fixed before the two-year-old boy stepped on the live wire and was electrocuted.

It is thus clear that most of these deaths resulted from a lackadaisical attitude of the electricity company workers, who most often ignore early warnings and appeals from residents about faulty wires in their neighbourhoods. From available records, the time lag between when a fault is reported and when it is fixed could be up to one month in some cases. There are also times when there would be no response from the authorities, thus leaving residents with no other choice but to resort to self-help with all the attendant risks. That is why we reiterate our call on the authorities in the sector to develop a habit of quick response to complaints about fallen electricity poles and exposed live wires.

For now, it is obvious that we place little or no premium on human lives. Death is cheap. But that should not be allowed to continue. We therefore implore the regulatory agency of the power sector in our country to come up with a stringent policy to deal with this negligence that has sent thousands of Nigerians to untimely death.