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‘Let communities manage environment to save lives, hold government accountable’

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As the dry season rolls in, government and other stakeholders have ample time to rehabilitate certain facilities that are in dire need of attention and pose a great danger to the people and communities.

Some of these facilities include faulty streetlight poles, uncovered manholes, gaping canals, and drainages, among others, which have claimed lives in the past.

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But in the face of seeming unwillingness on the part of the government to address the issue, what precisely can communities do to preserve lives and ensure that these don’t constitute any threat?

The immediate past Dean, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of Lagos, Prof. Timothy Gbenga Nubi, said though it is the government’s responsibility to construct and maintain manholes, canals, and drainages, communities should swing into action and repair these facilities to protect themselves if the government is reluctant or not forthcoming.

He said: “I remember clearly the case of the young accountant, who was an alumnus of the University of Lagos that died at Gowon Estate, after falling into a manhole. There are lessons to be learned from that incident, which is still fresh in our memory. That was a big loss, not just to the family, but also to the country. It is a big shame that we are in this kind of situation.

“Unfortunately, there is a very little precaution we can encourage people to take. We just have to hold the government responsible. All over the world, manholes are not left open. I hope the local government of that area and the government of the day have paid huge compensation to that family.”

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In his view, when people begin to hold the government accountable and take them to court, and they are made to pay a huge compensation for losses or damages suffered as a result of their negligence, they will sit up.

In the meantime and as the situation still exists and poses great danger, he advised that people should wear rain boots and ensure they use helmets, whenever it rains.

“Better still, they should stay at home when it is raining and everywhere is flooded. If individuals need to step out, then they should wait till the flood disappears. Also, parents should keep their children indoors, whenever it is raining heavily. Little children should not be sent on errands when the rain is falling,” he said.

On how communities can tackle the problem of uncovered manholes and canals in their areas since government appears unwilling to do so, he said: “People are expected to pay tenement rate and some other dues, which mandate that government should also fix certain things. These are expected of the government. It is very unfortunate that it was after the death of the young lady that they went to cover the manhole. That incident could have been averted if the right thing had been done.

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“But what does it cost the community to do something about the manhole? All they needed to do was to put wood over it and alert people that a manhole is there. Why wait until life was lost? There just must be a community responsibility. If you do not fix anything that portends danger to the community and people, then that is a problem.

“There are community development associations (CDAs) and landlords’ associations in every community. These two should come together to repair these small things to save lives in their communities, rather than wait for a government that is not ready to fix them. If the government is not awake to its responsibilities or not making any move to fix those manholes, then the community should rise up to repair them for their own sake and to safeguard the lives of their families.”

Noting that much of the floods usually abate within two hours, he urged people caught in the rain to stay where they are and ensure the rain and flood have subsided before proceeding on their journey.

On his part, Dr. Peter Olabisi Oluseyi, Senior Lecturer at the Department of electrical/electronic engineering, University of Lagos, said there should be danger signs on faulty streetlight poles to alert citizens.

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On how often streetlight poles should be checked to ascertain whether they are faulty or not, he said there are no hard and fast rules on how and when to do this.

“It is mainly dependent on establishing a reliability assessment of the facilities. However, different terrains would have diverse influences. In other words, the natural geo-scientific profile of an environment would surely contribute to this, especially if installation standards are duly obeyed,” he explained.

But how can faulty poles be detected?

“If it is generally with regards to the engineering aspect, this could be loose,” he said. “If the poles are faulty, due to electrical problems, this is definitely different from mechanical faults. However, if the problem is electrical, it could be at the site where the pole is installed, or it could be at the indoor control unit. The faults that are usually encountered in the streetlight circuit could be due to cable or control unit.”

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He disclosed that citizens could easily know when a streetlight pole is faulty, which is achievable through regular and scheduled spot checks.

However, since streetlights are meant for the dark period of the day, and a number of technical staff may not work at night, it might not be easy to detect a fault. So, it is essential that the streetlights be checked at intervals by the authority in charge to determine their state.

In his view, electrocution hardly occurs through streetlight poles, except power supply to it is not switched off, when some faulty conditions have been discovered.

Recommending some precautionary measures that can be taken to protect pedestrians from being electrocuted, he said: “The utility in charge of streetlight poles could be mandated to do a routine check on power conducting cables inside the poles regularly. And once the insulating property is compromised, such a cable should be replaced. Streetlight poles may be provided with insulated materials up to 1.5 metres from the ground to protect pedestrians from being mistakenly electrocuted, due to contact with poles.

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“Electrical symbols of danger signs should be placed on the poles to warn the populace against contact with streetlight poles. A very firm and well-secured concrete base for mounting the poles is highly solicited from the contractors that handled the projects.”

How can people be alerted to faulty streetlight poles, so as to avoid touching them?

He said: “As a matter of principle, there should be danger signs on the poles to alert people not to touch them; whether faulty or not. The general practice is to ensure that the awareness of the pedestrians is craved by pasting a sticker to give passers-by the needed awareness at all times.

“If you are wondering whether streetlight poles are liable to get faulty often, I would say it depends on the standards of installation. So, we encourage the contractors that are awarded contracts for street lighting to kindly put in professionalism in installation and follow best practices to ensure that the poles serve longer and safely.

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