Negligent power distribution companies should be severely sanctioned

Announcing its readiness in Abuja to host a global power safety summit in October this year, the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) disclosed that it has recorded a total of 101 fatalities since inception in 2013. “On a minute by minute basis, man is exposed to one form of risk or the other but the least that can be done to reduce it is to talk about it, practice it and share knowledge”, said Managing Director, Mr Ernest Mupwaya. He added that most of the fatalities occurred due to lack of knowledge, complacency, carelessness and by compromising safety standards.

Against the background that a six- year-old child who went for a funfair with his parents was electrocuted at the Murtala Amusement Park in Minna on Sallah day, we must commend Mupwaya for bringing to limelight an issue hardly ever discussed even when it has claimed the lives of hundreds of Nigerians. From employees of power distribution companies to ordinary consumers and innocent passers-by, the rate at which many Nigerians are being electrocuted has become very alarming. Raising alarm earlier in the year, the Network for Electricity Consumers Advocacy of Nigeria (NECAN) said 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.

According to NECAN National Secretary, Uket Abonga, statistics of the 2017 fatalities revealed that 86.8 per cent of the victims were electricity consumers while the remaining 13.2 per cent were officials of the electricity companies. “The investigations carried out by NECAN reveal that many of the accidents that occurred in the preceding year in the sector can be attributed to man-made factors, which include 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,” said Abonga.

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.

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 therefore implore the management of the power sector in our country to come up with stringent policies to deal with this negligence that has sent thousands of Nigerians to untimely graves. The authorities in the power sector must also develop the habit of quick response to complaints about fallen electricity poles and exposed live wires.

To attain the vision of zero fatality incidents in the power sector, as envisaged by AEDC, it is important for the electricity power authorities to come up with a sustainable solution to remedy the problem.