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27 Oct 2017

Living Under High Tension Wires: How Nigerians Keep Dwelling With Looming Death

This is an evaluation of many Nigerians keep living directly under high tension wires, apparently endangering their precious lives.
File photo
It is no doubt a disaster waiting to happen. But even with the palpable risk of electrocution lurking above their heads, many Nigerians have continued to erect their homes directly under high tension power lines.

Despite successive governments’ warnings against the unhealthy habitation, those guilty of the act have continued to display sheer resistance.

Many cities and suburbs are decorated with mansions and makeshift homes directly under the power lines. The electricity networks are in sharp conflict with human settlements.

Indeed, if you listen carefully, one could clearly hear the unending hums from the high voltage lines. And physicians have explained that this is capable of causing a breakdown of air particles that are a clear danger to health.

An analyst, Ogundele Ogunbi Ogundele, expressed concern over why those in authority would continue to fold their arms and watch citizens risk their lives without doing anything to stop the looming deaths.

In the past, governments in different states have been demolishing structures illegally constructed under power distribution lines. But sooner than expected, more houses have sprung up on the spots where those houses had been standing, even as state officials have continued to look the other way.

In April, scores of football fans were despatched to their graves after they were electrocuted while watching a Europa League match between Manchester United and Anderlecht. Many others also sustained injuries during the incident that took place in Nyagasang area of Atimbo, Calabar Municipality Local Government Area of Cross River State. The cables snapped and fell on the building while the match was on, and many were those burnt to death.

Last month, there were protests and legal threats in Benin City, Edo State, when the government moved to demolish all houses and structures built under the power lines, which spread across many communities.

Some owners of the houses revealed that they had lived in those places for decades without experiencing any calamity, while others claimed that the plots and buildings were allocated to and approved for them by past governments. They demanded to be compensated if they must vacate the danger zones.

Daily Sun gathered that the conflict between man and electricity cables can be seen everywhere the power lines exist, including parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Unfortunately, many of the residents living under this dangerous condition are unperturbed as they see nothing wrong with the danger that hangs above their roofs.

Mrs. Eribo Ero said it is a great disservice for any government department to approve the construction of houses, workshops and other business activities under overhead transmission lines. She simply described it as trading with human lives.

Why structures must be demolished

Explaining why the structures must be removed, the Assistant General Manager, Technical Services, Transmission Company of Nigeria, Mr. John Madufor, said the move was for the benefit of the residents. He said government ought to have been commended rather than being condemned.

“Once you are outside the right of way, you are protected but anything happening within the right of way is a pending disaster, especially if the line comes down,” he said.

Other experts have warned against future disasters if proactive steps were not taken to clear power lines from encroachments. They pointed out that it was more dangerous for places that experience rainfall regularly, insisting that a power cable snapping onto a wet neighbourhood is a disaster of high magnitude.

Health dangers

An expert in Radiation Biology and Radiotherapy in Lagos, Mr. Adeosun Babalola spoke on the biological disorders for people living near the lines, asserting that there were different potential health dangers for such residents. He, however, added that the linkage between magnetic and electric fields around high tension wires in relation to biological changes was still unclear.

He said different researches done about five years ago in the United Kingdom shows that there were differences in cardiac rhythm (pulses generated by heart beat) between subjects exposed to the electric field as opposed to those not exposed to it.

While warning residents to desist from the danger zones, he listed a number of neurological and cardiovascular disorders the cables could cause. According to him, it could reduce sperm count in the workers who regularly service the line and he stressed that fewer number of children were born to high tension wire workers compared to other people who work in safer environments.

Babalola explained that the higher the number of years of exposure, the more other diseases could crop up, such as childhood cancer and suicide attempts.

Residents speak

at Meiran, Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos, a resident, Innocent Kalu told the reporter that he saw no danger in living under the high tension cables near Baale Bus Stop.

But another resident, Garuba Adamu admitted to having been warned on several occasions by different agencies and friends on the dangers of living close to the high tension power line, regretting that his inability to rent a decent house had hindered him from leaving.

In his words: “At night, I always hear the cables vibrating and I will be praying for it not to drop on our roof, especially when it rains. If l have the money to rent a house in another location, l will relocate immediately with my family members.”

Also at Alahu Osumba Street, around Mazamaza in Oriade Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Lagos is a high tension power cable with houses and makeshifts spreading underneath. But among the houses is a new two-storey building, which has been a source of worry to concerned residents in the area. The roof of the building is almost touching the high tension lines.

The reporter gathered that in 2016, the Lagos State government had demolished over 350 illegal structures built on the right of way of high tension power cables at Oba Wahab Ayinde Balogun Modern Market, Isheri-Olofin, in Egbe-Idimu LCDA of Alimosho LGA.

Past warnings

As far back 1985, a Professor of Electrical Engineering, University of Lagos, R. I. Salawu had offered scientific explanations on what he considered a dance with death.

He advised residents not to, no matter their financial plight, live or do business near transmission lines. He described such as seating on a time bomb.

Said he: “Unlike cables used in homes or those buried which are covered with insulating materials (non conducting materials), the insulation for erected high tension transmission lines is the air around it. This air insulation can go down through a natural course and what follows is electrical charging of reinforcement in buildings and a consequent electric shock and loss of livf.”

The professor revealed that a continuous flow of water from lines to iron roofs or any iron object could result in electric shocks and ultimate death.

How does this happen? “Water conducts, so also is iron. Rain water is thus an electric current link between high tension lines and iron objects which if touched, shocks, and may result in death,” explained C.C. Okoro, a senior lecturer of the same department.

***
Via The Sun News

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