Deaths and electricity generator fumes
Aside from terrorism, threats to our lives are ceaselessly coming left, right and centre, and we still seem uncertain as to when the next will hit us. If it is not HIV/AIDS pandemic, it is the dreaded Lasa fever spread or bird flu. If it is not Lasa fever or Bird flu, it is the ravaging viral haemorrhagic fever, otherwise known as Ebola virus disease; and for some time now electricity generator fumes occasioning deaths.
Electricity, as a form of energy supplied through cables and wires for lighting, heating, and driving machines, helps to power our technology and drive national development. Electricity generation over the years has been from public sources. With perennial inefficiency in power management over these years, and epileptic power supply that has bedeviled our public power systems, Nigerians could not stand still but settle for alternative sources. Electricity power generating sets become that ready option open to most people for home comfort and business productivity. Abused usages of these generators have had life-threatening consequences and deserve attention to avert occurrences.
Generators come in different sizes and makes for varying purposes. Smaller sizes are mostly used by households, small businesses and some praying centres. These different sizes and brands come from countries like China, Japan, Germany and America, who have located Nigeria as a big generator market.
Economic situation has made the smaller or portable sizes a preferred alternative serving families, cluster settlements, smallholder churches, and market stalls usefully, and small businesses very productively.
Positioning of these generators in these places and various social settings endangers lives through asphyxiation that results from the inhalation of the generated fumes. Families have woken up to the bizarre sight of deaths of some members or relations due to suffocation from inhaled fumes. Neighbours have been jolted to the horror of sight of their co-tenants choked to death by smoke from generators stationed in airtight enclosures. Churches have been alarmed at the death of members through generators placed dangerously within the precincts of their worshipping centres. The fumes from exhaust pipes of generators cluster in the lungs and block air passage leading to the death of victims.
The installation of giant generating sets is less likely to kill as the siting is usually planned for suitable location and housing. This is contrary to the reckless stationing of portable generating sets which makes them a major killer as they are positioned at every available space irrespective of hazards to life. Apart from their killing tendencies, their noise levels are so high that it may lead to loss of sleep, low concentration, impaired hearing, possible raised blood pressure, and other health challenges. These, no doubt, can breed ill-feelings among neighbours who are also always on the receiving end.
Government has allowed this epileptic power supply to have endured for too long in the face of serial mismanagement of power resources. These failings in public power provision over the years have resulted in this total reliance on the use of personal or corporate generators for electricity supply source, instead of serving as standby. From Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN), National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and now the unbundled regime, under Public Private Participation, the situation is not yet very cheery. People are still lamenting this consistent erratic power supply and estimated high billing for periods of darkness. Projected raised megawatts achievement of electricity still vacillates at best making us see some smaller West African neighbours realising relative power stability.
Since the end of our precarious power situation is only but contemplated, generating sets positioned suitably outside residences must be switched off before bedtime. Positioning of newly acquired generators in shared residences must receive the approval of neighbours for safety sake. Market stalls’ owners should not place generators right in front of their stalls and even opposite nearby shops as people breathe in the generated fumes with less regard for their consequences to health. Asthmatic patients and people with various respiratory problems are the worst hit. We cannot be so careless as to kill ourselves and endanger our neighbours through a reckless display of generators. We must learn to position our generators properly to serve us properly.
Inventors of electricity, and manufacturers of generators meant electricity to be labour-saving, powering our gadgets and home appliances, transforming lives, bridging electricity supply gap by standing by in case of outage from public power source, not to snuff lives out of us; not to make us bereaved, not to wipe out entire household and by extension a generation. We should handle generators in ways that they should not be our bane but be truly useful servants. We cannot be so careless as to kill ourselves and endanger our neighbours through a reckless display of generators. We must learn to position our generators suitably to serve us beneficially.
Regular reports of deaths occasioned by generator fumes have presented generating sets as very deadly basically because of our lack of pro-activeness in safely handling them. Averting this regular deadly recurrence lies in us as the disaster is clearly man-made. Most festivities have left affected families in mournful mood. Every gory picture of deaths through generator fumes published in our various daily newspapers is usually a sad reminder of worse cases that abound. Government has all it takes to enforce compliance on proper handling of generators including charging perpetrators of generator-related death for manslaughter. Essentially, sensitisation should focus national attention on generator fumes as potential cause of death that has largely been under-reported.
For as long as epileptic power supply persists due to vandalisation of power installations, shortage of gas supply, and general mismanagement in the power sector, so long will the use of generators be inevitable, and so long will caution be expected to be exercised in handling electricity generating sets to avoid further resultant loss of lives through their emitted fumes.
Stabilising our public power supply, under whatever name, will avert these frequent deadly mishaps in the long run, and deepen national development as a result. This is a responsibility of government and relevant stakeholders.
Obasi wrote from Federal College of Agriculture, Ishiagu, Ebonyi State.