Deaths by electrocution – Thisday

The regulatory authority should sanction erring companies for wilful neglect

The recent death by electrocution of a popular Nigerian dancer has yet again brought to fore the rate at which lives are being lost to this menace. In its report for the second quarter of 2019, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) lamented that no fewer than three persons were electrocuted every week. In the last quarter of 2018, there were 136,393 complaints from customers about the negligence of the electricity distribution companies (Discos) but by the first quarter of 2019, the complaints had jumped to 151,938. While the body counts continue to mount, the regulatory authorities have not been able to provide any solution.

Last December, six inmates serving various prison terms at Ikoyi Correctional Centre, Lagos, died of electrocution following electricity surge that led to an explosion of cables. Several inmates were also injured. Although the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola visited the centre in the aftermath and made some promises, no action has been taken since then. And up till now, Nigerians have not been provided any explanation for what exactly happened.

That such a tragedy continues to recur raises serious questions about how the authorities in the power sector take the issue of safety. There is hardly a day without a case of electrocution, mostly due to negligence on the part of the operators in the sector. The incidence of death by electrocution has indeed become so rampant that the electricity 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.

Indeed, this is necessary as many cases of electrocution result from a lackadaisical attitude of the electricity company workers who 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 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.

In several places across the country, 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 live in constant fear of instant death. That is why we reiterate our call on the authorities in the power sector to develop a habit of quick response to complaints about fallen electricity poles and exposed live wires.

In one particular incident a few years ago, a high- tension wire snapped off a pole, electrocuting a staff of a power distribution company, and a security guard who had lived and worked in the area for about 30 years. In yet another shocking incident, a middle-aged woman and her son were electrocuted in Osogbo, also in Osun State by a cable felled by rain. Mother and son reportedly stepped on live electric cable as they attempted to escape from the electric shocks that reportedly affected their homes when the cable fell.

What the foregoing says clearly is that we place little premium on human lives and if we are to develop, that culture has to change. We therefore 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.

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