Former German Head of State, Horst Koehler, was on Wednesday appointed UN envoy for Western Sahara. UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, appointed Koehler to succeed Christopher Ross of the United States who ended his term in the role at the end of April. Koehler brings more than 35 years of experience to the role, including…
ω How haphazard electric installations expose Nigerians to avoidable daily risks
By Vincent Kalu
Last month in Calabar, Cross River State capital, several football fans were electrocuted while watching a UEFA Europa League quarter-final match between Manchester United and Anderlecht on satellite TV, when an electric transformer near the television viewing centre located in the Iyang-Esu area of the metropolis, exploded.
A high-tension cable dropped on the viewing centre, made of zinc sparking off a fire and stampede in which the victims perished, while many were injured.
In many parts of the country, there are many such tragedies caused by disregard for municipal laws regarding the siting of residences and recreational centres around electric installations waiting to happen. Tenements are seen sited under high tension wires or near electric poles, or transformers, exposing residents living in the often densely populated areas to danger in cities and towns.
Life has no duplicate
For instance, pedestrians and vehicles have been passing on the armoured cable connecting an electric transformer mounted directly on the motorway at Ajangbadi bus stop in Ojo Local Government area of Lagos State for years now.
Residents express concern at the scant attention the authorities and the electricity distribution company in charge of the area give the dangerous setup, wondering if they are waiting for it to claim innocent lives before they take action.
The area is always a beehive of activities as the bus stop adjoins a market that faces the transformer, with some stalls and a mosque located behind it.
Although, it was fenced with concrete blocks when it was first mounted, the fence had since broken down, due, perhaps to vehicles frequently hitting it. Despite the obvious danger it poses, people in the neighbourhood mill around it as if they have duplicate lives.
A trader who sells wares close to the electrical installation told Saturday Sun she chose the spot, because business boomed there, even though she admitted that she was always apprehensive.
She said the audible humming of the transformer, or when there was power surge that sent sparks flying usually heightened her anxiety and fears.
She condemned the location of the transformer on the main road, noting that it should have been on the other side of the gutter. “I keep on praying every day that tragedy will not happen here, that is, either a vehicle ramming into the transformer or its exploding as a result of power surge. My brother, there is business here, I would have relocated to some other place, but, we stay here till 12am, trading, we are in God’s hands,” she said.
Also in another suburb of Lagos, on Aka road, Okokomaiko, about four electric poles, on which are spawned high tension cables, stand swaying on the road.
A motorist told Saturday Sun that the area should have been included in the global index for tragedy. According to him, there was a particular day a driver in high speed hit one of the poles forcing it to discharge both the high tension and service lines on many fully loaded commercial buses and pedestrians.
The only saving grace, he said, was that there was no current on both the 33KVA lines, as well as, the service lines, as there was a cut of power supply to the area some minutes before the incident.
At Jakande area of Ajangbadi, an electric pole carrying both the high tension and service lines is no longer erect, but hangs precariously. Residents say they live in fear, as no heed had been paid series of complaints to the distribution company to rectify the fault.
“Every week, you see them with their ladders disconnecting consumers who failed to pay their electricity bills, they also pass this place to post electricity bills, but they are waiting for this pole to fall and cause some incalculable damages. The attitude of this distribution company is bad. We thought there would be a change, when they changed from NEPA to Eko Distribution Company”, lamented Jude Omai.
Town planner weighs in
Prince Eme, a town and regional planning expert, decried the haphazard installation of public utilities in residential areas, noting that he had observed the spate of confusion in almost all parts of Nigeria.
“We build houses before thinking of creating roads, and when the roads are created, they become narrow that the necessary setbacks for public utilities are no more there. Since the residents desire electricity, the power providers must mount the transformers and erect the poles where they see spaces, without considering inherent dangers,” said the town planner.
“Second, it is not only electricity we should concern ourselves with. Everywhere, especially Lagos, you see petrol stations sited beside residential buildings. It is not supposed to be. Safety is of essence. Somebody gets money today, he buys the next house and demolishes it and constructs a petrol station there. But, somebody in the local government planning authority gave approval for it, because he or she didn’t live within that neighbourhood.”
“Drive on our major highways, you see open manholes. If a speeding driver runs into any of them, the vehicle somersaults and the accident may be fatal. We are the architects of our problems. Why should people build under high tension? We are even told that the electromagnetic emission from it is hazardous to life. We should change our orientation. There is nothing that stops the government from demolishing buildings under high tension cables,” he submitted.
Maybe, the authorities will hearken to the warning signal, all over to check the solitary and mass deaths arising from these situations, many of which go unreported.