Anxiety over fatal accidents in Nigeria’s Power Sector

The level of fatalities in the nation’s power sector has continued to raise serious concerns among the stakeholders in the sector in Nigeria.

Besides, stakeholders are worried that almost five years after the privatisation of the successor companies of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) by the Federal Government, the hundreds of accidents witnessed in the sector hitherto was needless.

The Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA), said it recorded 366 deaths of largely members of the public and some electricity workers in 321 electrical accidents between 2016 and 2017 in the country.

“While 86.8 per cent of the fatalities occurred among members of the public, 13.2 per cent happened to electricity workers. The electrocutions took place across states, towns and villages. Injuries are even on the higher side’ ’the agency added

Sadly, the number of deaths in the power sector has not shown any sign of reduction this year as the agency revealed that between January and March, six employees of five distribution companies and 16 other people were electrocuted as a result of one or more defective systems in the distribution arm of the industry.

Of the 11 DisCos in the country, NEMSA said eight recorded fatalities that involved either an employee or a third party during the period under review.

Network issues in Benin, Eko, Enugu and Ibadan DisCos resulted in the untimely death of five, one, one, and four persons, respectively in the first three months of this year.

Distribution system issues at Yola, Jos, Kaduna and Kano DisCos led to one, four, three and three fatalities, respectively during the same period.

The Abuja, Ikeja and Port Harcourt DisCos, as well as the TCN, however, recorded no fatality in the first quarter.

The Ikeja Electric (IE) attributed the zero fatality record attained by the company in Q1 of 2018 to its highly effective safety policy and programmes.

Speaking on the notable record achieved by the company, Engr. Jamiu Badmos, Head, Health, Safety and Environment (HSE), explained that safety is a non-critical.

He said: “Safety is in our DNA and it has become a lifestyle. We have a well-qualified team that constantly stresses on global best practice at all times, and while we are thankful that we did not record any fatality, we do not take it for granted. Sometimes accidents occur even when you think they should not. This is why we introduced the target Zero campaign that continuously trains and retrains staff, especially those in high risk areas to ensure that nothing is left to chance”.

Besides, eighty two persons including employees of electricity distribution companies, Transmission Company of Nigeria, as well as power consumers were reported to have died in various accidents in Nigeria’s power sector between January and July  last year

Fourteen employees of both TCN and the Discos, and 68 other victims, who were classified as third party individuals, lost their lives during the period under review.

The agency explained that the power sector had also witnessed 37 accidents with only injuries, adding that 59 persons were injured in the process.

It added that 24 people among the injured persons were workers of both the Discos and the TCN, while 35 were third party individuals.

Besides, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt Discos recorded the highest number of fatalities or deaths in the sector since the beginning of 2017.

While 20 individuals lost their lives in the locations covered by the Abuja Disco, 11 persons died in each of the areas under the electricity supply and distribution management of both Kano and Port Harcourt Discos.

The Benin, Eko, Enugu, Ibadan and Ikeja distribution companies recorded seven, one, three, eight and two fatalities during the period under review.

Jos Disco recorded 10 fatalities, while each of Kaduna and Yola Discos had situations that claimed four lives in their coverage areas between January and July 2017.

The TCN lost one employee during the period under review, which was why it was grouped among power firms that recorded fatalities arising from electricity accidents in the sector.

Experts in the sector blamed recurring fatalities on the defective networks of power distribution companies in the country

They also identified poor termination and maintenance of ageing networks, right of way issues, non-adherence to safety rules and regulations, poor response to monitored networks, use of substandard materials, and inadequate knowledge on the part of operators or consumers as causes of the mishaps in the sector.

But, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing has expressed Federal government’s commitment to minimise accidents in the power sector that have led to loss of lives in the country.

He said that government was not unmindful of the need to ensure that all safety measures were strictly adhered to in order to guarantee safety of lives and properties.

He said: “There is need to put in place a robust Health Safety Environment policy framework in line with International best practices.

“In order to minimise the incidence of electricity accidents across the country, arising from the monthly meetings of power sector operators, a committee was set up to look into frequent incidences of electrical accidents. The report as a safety document recommends close collaboration with the state governments particularly with urban planners in discouraging erection of illegal structures within the rights of way of power infrastructure.

“It is in recognition of these that government has repositioned Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency, NEMSA for better and effective performance of its statutory safety and standards enforcement responsibilities.”

At a recent stakeholder’s forum, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, urged stakeholders in the power sector to treat the issue of safety very seriously.

“I also implore our legislators to come up with a law on energy theft that will criminalise offenders. Energy theft does not only affect the power sector business owners but also affects us all. When people steal energy or do not pay for the service, the company’s capacity to provide superior service is imperilled.

“The DISCOs complain of difficulty of getting right of way to put their cables because people build homes under power lines. Let me again implore the legislature to make laws that will ensure that power lines are built at the right places and safely too.’’

In his opening remarks earlier, Mr. Matthew Edevbie , the Managing Director, 4Power Consortium Limited, said recent accidents in the power sector that led to loss of lives triggered the need to review how safely the sector should be operated.

But the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA) said it has begun proactive efforts to reduce the disturbing spate of accidents in the power sector

Last year, the agency increased the campaign o quacks by ensuring that electrical contractors were duly certified and those genuinely practicing had their certification renewed. It has also heightened inspections and monitoring/surveillance of installations.

To nip the incidences, the agency said it has taken stringent measures including the sanctioning of defaulting Generation Companies (GenCos) and Distribution Companies (DisCos) in many cases. Some of the directives the agency issued in 2017 include the following:

Engr. Peter Ewesor, its Chief Executive Officer, has since  directed DisCos to disconnect all houses, trading points, under high tension power lines, even as he  has written to state governors on advocacy to stop building under high tension lines.

Besides, the agency is strengthening the certification scheme in line with the law to ensure that no person, irrespective of who he is, will be allowed to handle electrical installation works in Nigeria without having certification.

NEMSA, he said, is setting up taskforce to monitor networks and checkmate quacks, adding that with the development the once moribund meter testing stations are now up and running across the country, certification of electrical contractors is institutionalised and certification of electricity installation is effected as a law.

The flag off is nationwide of Technical Monitoring and Evaluation of the primary 33 kilovolt (KV) feeder lines and associated 33/11KV injection substations with supply source from 330/132/33KV transmission substations.

The exigency of the exercise, the agency stated, is to identify constraints militating against quick realisation of the Federal Government’s policy and efforts for sustainability of the incremental, steady and uninterrupted power supply.

This is so as such objective is only attainable through the 33KV primary feeder lines to the 33/11KV injection substations and subsequently through the 11KV feeder lines and associated distribution transformers and finally to the consumers to identify the high risk and technical loss points along the 33KV feeder lines, he added

He said: “The importance of the exercise cannot be overemphasised in light of the spate of increasing number of electrical accidents and incidents, power failures/outages at the downstream of the power value chain (power distribution networks) even when there is a huge increase in power generation in the grid system.

“The exercise will identify high risk defective networks that pose serious threat and danger to operators’ operational staff and the general public and highlight these for immediate attention and correction/rectification by respective DisCos and TCN”.

Stakeholders in the sector have implored the NEMSA and other institutions of the government saddled with the responsibility of upholding standards to redouble their efforts in ensuring that level of fatalities in the power sector is nipped in the bud.

Source: Independent