DEATH AND THE TRANSFORMER

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MONDAY EDITORIAL

The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company should be sanctioned for its negligence

Lugbe, a satellite town in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), was thrown into mourning last week when a power transformer exploded and electrocuted five persons, including a pregnant woman. A six-year-old boy was among several others that were injured. “As I made to step out, the door shocked me and threw me against the wall,” said a survivor. “I shouted and made for the door again and I was flung outside where I hit my face on the ground. I later opened my eyes to find myself in the hospital.”

It is rather unfortunate that the criminal negligence of power firms and their officials are still sending many Nigerians to their untimely deaths. In the latest incident in Abuja the community’s chief security officer, Geoffrey Ukeje, blamed the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) for the tragedy, attributing the explosion to a wrong connection by the power firm. It is a familiar story, even as we hope the authorities will sanction and compel the AECD to pay heavy compensation to the injured and the families of the deceased.

The number of deaths by electrocution in Nigeria is frightening. Yet available reports indicate that most of these cases have resulted from the lackadaisical attitude of the electricity workers, who often ignore early warnings. Not too long ago, a woman and her visiting younger sister from Niger State were electrocuted in a Lagos suburb when a high tension wire fell on top of a residential building and sparked fire well after midnight. A few days later, three persons were also electrocuted at the Ifo township market in Ogun State when another high tension cable fell on them.

In several places across the country today, there are many old and broken down wooden or 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 passers-by live in constant fear.

It is noteworthy that based on the high rate of deaths from electrocution recorded in the power sector between 2012 and 2013, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) said it would sanction chief executive officers of power firms that treated safety issues with levity. By the commission’s estimate, 161 persons lost their lives during the period as a result of electrocution, with most of the fatalities due to the negligence on the part of the affected electricity firms.
Unfortunately, the NERC authorities have not done anything concrete to stop what is fast becoming an epidemic of deaths by electrocution. We therefore enjoin the NERC to live up to its responsibilities and bring to book any power officials whose company’s negligence leads to the death of innocent people.

Perhaps no incident exemplifies such tragedy than the electrocution of a two-year- old boy in Ilesha, Osun State three years ago. 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 the time the company would come to fix the fault.” Shortly after, the innocent boy stepped on the live wire and was electrocuted.

One noticeable trend is that even when faults are reported, officials hardly respond and in such a situation residents are left on their own to seek self help with the attendant risks. We therefore call on the relevant authorities within the power sector to develop a quick response mechanism to complaints about fallen electricity poles and exposed live wires. We cannot continue to lose lives due to the criminal negligence of some officials.