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Electrocutions underscore weak regulatory framework

The tricycle in which the passengers escaped death

The tricycle in which the passengers escaped death

As the day broke, nothing warned told 24-year old nursing mother, Yewande Busari she would not return to her number 32 Thomas Street, Ebute-Meta, Lagos, alive that May 6, 2016.

But she did not return.

She was electrocuted and died immediately when she unknowingly made body contact with live electrical wires sticking out of a streetlight pole while trying to cross the highway in the Island.

Her baby girl, Pamilerin, who was strapped on Yewande’s back miraculously survived.

Similarly, it was a sad day for residents of Abuja suburb – Tudun-Wade recently, when a 750kV transformer exploded killing a pregnant mother and three persons and injuring five.

The explosion was traced to faulty power infrastructure and inadequate maintenance of electricity cables in the community by the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC).

Not long ago, four-year-old Ademola , who playfully touched a transformer mounted along Aerodrome Road, Apapa was electrocuted and flung to the ground several metres away. He survived but lost an arm .

Like Ademola,, passengers in two tricycles at Oriyomo Street, Ikeja were lucky to be alive to tell their stories when an electric pole fell on their vehicles.

Recently, two workers of Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IEDC), identified as Aloma and Bode, were electrocuted while installing a transformer at Kogberegbe Street, Isolo, Lagos.

Also, just few days ago, a 37-year-old official of the Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KERDCO), Usaini Usman, lost his life after his head made contact with a high-tension power line at the Federal College of Education, Kano.

He was rushed to the Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital where he was confirmed dead.

This litany of tragedies is happening despite various regulatory agencies, which are supposed to monitor the activities of electrical generation, distribution and installation in the country.

The Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), which is one of the regulatory agencies, has been doing more of prescribing fines to errant Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs).

For the second time in about two months, NERC fined the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) about N18.1 million as compensation for the electrocution of a seven-year-old minor at Kabusa, a suburb within its distribution network .

NERC said in a statement from its Head of Public Affairs Department, Dr. Usman Abba Arabi, in Abuja that the decision to fine AEDC was taken after its accident investigation team had looked into the unfortunate incident.

The team discovered that the DISCO failed in its responsibilities to respond to complaints by Kabusa residents that a snapped 0.415kv aluminum conductor was hanging dangerously close to the ground.

It explained that the DISCO failed to respond to the complaint until the deceased minor accidentally came in contact with it and got electrocuted.

NERC said it has directed all the 11 DISCOs in the country to renew their comprehensive insurance as provided under Part 5 Section 5.2 of the Health and Safety Code for the Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry (NESI). It said its acting Chairman, Dr. Anthony

An energy analyst, Solomon Ayodele told The Guardian that the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA) has failed in its responsibility of regulating electricity firms.

He said that despite the various policies regulating the installation of electricity equipment, the operators still engage in unprofessional practices resulting to the death of the individuals.

According to him, NEMSA should ensure that all major electrical materials and equipment used in Nigeria are of the right quality and standards; the power systems and networks put in place have been properly executed before use, such systems are capable of delivering safe, reliable and sustainable electricity supply to consumers nationwide.

Ayodele argued that if NEMSA had been enforcing these rules and regulations, deaths and accident connected to electricity equipment would be greatly reduced.

But, Chief Executive Officer of NEMSA, Peter Ewesor, said the agency would ensure that distribution companies uphold international best practice in the installation of electricity equipment nationwide.

He identified some of the inherent problems, which regularly lead to electrical accidents and electrocutions to include: allowing networks to pass dangerously over and in between buildings, structures and market places without safety clearances.

Others include, lack of regular monitoring and evaluation of networks for preventive maintenance purposes by the distribution companies, the use of substandard or adulterated materials like undersize and un-stranded conductors.

He said: “The spate of electrical accidents and electrocutions leading to unwarranted loss of lives and property as well as down time of the supply to consumers nationwide is unacceptable, condemnable.”

The Director, Press at the Federal Ministry of Power, Timothy Oyedeji, said in a statement that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, is committed to stamping out sharp and unethical practices which had hitherto characterised the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), stressing that henceforth only certified, suitably qualified electrical installation contractors are to operate in Nigeria as it is now mandatory that only those issued with graded licences by NEMSA will be allowed to practice in the system.

“Our safety will not be compromised, as government will sanction defaulters as we do not wish to loose lives of our citizens anymore, so also the loss of properties, due to someone’s negligence and poor judgment” he said.

Head of Corporate Communications, IEDC, Felix Ofulue, disclosed that the power firm has launched a Network Safety Monitoring initiative, which allows for round-the-clock electrical asset surveillance across its network by teams specifically set up for this purpose.

Ofulue stated: “The teams, made up of Safety Specialists and Technicians is divided into monitoring units, which patrol the entire network armed with multimedia gadgets which allow them to capture damaged assets and imminently dangerous connections in real time.

The data captured is then relayed to a central Control Centre from where it is passed on to the nearest Undertaking at which point the Network Operations logs the information and ensures resolution within the shortest possible time

Ofulue explained that safety in a high-risk sector like electricity cannot be over-emphasized because if standards are compromised, the resultant effect could be disastrous leading to damage to property and loss of human lives.

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