The authorities in the power sector must develop the habit of quick response to complaints about exposed live wires

From employees of power distribution companies to ordinary consumers and innocent passers-by, the rate at which many Nigerians are being killed through electrocution has become frightening. Against the background that the Network for Electricity Consumers Advocacy of Nigeria (NECAN) raised the alarm that no fewer than 366 Nigerians lost their lives in 2017 as a result of negligence and defective systems in the distribution arm of the industry, it is important that the electricity power authorities come up with a sustainable solution to remedy the problem.

According to NECAN National Secretary, Uket Abonga, statistics of the fatalities reveal that 86.8 per cent of the victims were electricity consumers while the remaining 13.2 per cent were officials of the electricity companies. Abonga said investigations carried out by NECAN revealed that many of the accidents that occurred in the preceding year in the sector could be attributed to man-made factors which included inadequate knowledge, information and ignorance on the part the consumers and operators, system protection equipment failures, in some cases total absence of protection devices, poor and aging transmission network lines, aging distribution networks which used to be replaced, poor response to complaints of faulty facilities and lines by staff of the transmission and distribution companies.

That the number of casualties from electrocution is high is an understatement. Yet most of them result 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. In several places across the country today, 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 passers-by live in constant fear of instant death. What compounds the problem is that from available records, the time lag between when a fault is reported and it is fixed goes up to one month. There are also times when there would be no response from the authorities thus leaving residents with no other choice but self-help with all the attendant risks.

Indeed, the harvest of deaths by electrocution raises serious questions about how the authorities in the power sector take the issue of safety. For instance, when, following the heavy downpour some electric poles and cables fell two years ago, blocking the major road that led to Olokuta community in Ogun State, it took more than a week for the management to respond despite repeated announcements on the local radio. We also recall the tragedy three years ago in Ilesa, Osun State which claimed the life of a two-year-old boy. Prior to the incident, a woman who lived in the area had reported 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.” In the event, a two-year-old boy stepped on the live wire and was electrocuted.

What the foregoing says very clearly is that we place little or no premium on human lives in Nigeria and if we are to develop, that culture has to change. We implore the management of the power sector to come up with stringent policies to deal with this negligence that has sent thousands of Nigerians to untimely deaths. The authorities in the power sector must also develop the habit of quick response to complaints about fallen electricity poles and exposed live wires.