Most Important Safety Lesson Nigerians Can Learn From the Viewing Centre Electrocution Incident in Calabar – panorama

 

Multiple persons were electrocuted while watching a Europa League football match between Manchester United and Anderlecht at a viewing centre in Nyaghassang Community, Calabar, Cross River state. The fatality figure is however under contention, with figures ranging from 7 to 30 dead being bandied. According to reports, the incident occurred after a high-tension wire snapped and fell on the building, killing fans who attempted to escape. What are the safety lessons to learn from this incident? Safety professionals speak…

 

Barr Oluwakemi Eboda, CRO of Event Basics Limited

It’s rather unfortunate that such a tragedy occurred at a viewing centre. I commiserate with the family of the victims. However, it does have to do with vast knowledge of safety, negligence on the part of the DISCO and the government as well as the viewing centre. Everywhere people gather, they must prepare themselves for potential risk elements. We need to be proactive in our approach and not deliberately cause harm. Thorough investigations should have been carried out to check the exact cause of the incident in order to forestall a reoccurrence. Safety must be embedded into all that we do all the time. So the government needs to understand that viewing centres should be licensed because it’s a business. Whoever wants to operate such has to be licensed by the state government to operate that business and in obtaining the license, necessary safety requirements must be met, because now you are having a gathering of mostly youths who will be excited because of the football match. So even if it is not a high-tension cable falling on the roof, too much excitement could lead to some other fatal harm. So we have to realise that safety is very important and we should not compromise.

Mrs. Monica Nwosu, Principal Consultant, Fresh Fountain Consulting Ltd

It is really an unfortunate incident in the sense that we have a system that is not properly organised. We have a bad system. The government on their own side are not doing what they are supposed to do. It is very wrong and unsafe to have such a building under Right of Way (ROW). That is number one. If you are trying to carry out a root-cause analysis, if that building had not been under Right of Way even if there is a snap, it will not fall on any building and in this case, the government had a role to play in terms of all these buildings that are under Right Of Way. They come up with an enforcement. They have the right for demolition. All these other regulatory agencies can do their own part but they are limited except the government intervenes. There should be a strict measure. Everything under Right of Way should be removed if you are really concerned about the safety of the citizens.  It’s a failure from the government by not enforcing all these things the way they ought to. They should drive it. They should do it as duty of care they owe the citizenry. So that is just basically the key. Inasmuch as I understand that we have a poor network which I will also attribute to the government because it is a carryover bad system from PHCN to the DISCO. This thing cannot be rectified in one day. It is a continuous thing which I know that they are also trying to see that this entire bad network is corrected. But had that building not being under Right of Way, this wouldn’t have happened.

Mr. Segun Bakare, Health and Safety Advisor, Petrolex Oil and Gas Ltd

Ignorance is not an excuse for the people watching a football match and staying under power line. The standard is that 9.5 metres must be maintained away from high tension. So the take-home there and the lesson learnt is that ignorance is not an excuse when it comes to safety. People need to know and people need to be aware of some of the hazards and the risks associated with power line and I believe the DISCOs should try as much as possible to communicate electrical hazards, the control and mitigation, to people using any electrical gadget or maybe using any power connection and some people that are staying around power line. The government should do well to demolish any building that is close to power line because the distance should be 9.5 metres. Any house or any structure within that power line area should be demolished – that’s the take home there. DISCOs should do well to communicate safety hazards associated with power line. You can’t say that people should be wearing Personal Protective Equipment under power line. PPE is the last line of defence. Prevention is the best cure here so people should be coerced. If they cannot do it willing, then people should be forced to leave that area or the vicinity of power line. The government should have punitive measures in place, imposing a law that anybody found under power line we will not only have their structures demolished but will also be sanctioned. So if there is a sanction scheme in place, it will deter people from building structures under power line. Although it is a very sad event – 8 people were confirmed dead and 21 injured – but we should not wait until such a thing happens again. Government needs to take drastic decisions to ensure that such an event is averted and doesn’t occur again.

Mr. Harold Echendu, Former Financial Secretary, Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria, Lagos Branch

Government is involved in everything but there is a limited involvement in certain things. The government makes laws, creates regulations, and there are bodies (charged) with their responsibilities. But most times, our culture – the way we live in this country, we throw aside the most important thing and tend to forget the consequences of what we are doing. Now what happened didn’t just happen, it must be a fault that was neglected by somebody that is responsible for that particular maintenance and it has happened. So the role of government, again, is to prosecute whoever failed to perform his or her duty. And where the government fails to prosecute the person, the government has then failed. Hazard is all over the place. When it doesn’t happen we feel it will never happen. So the government also has the role to investigate the case.  Whoever does not comply with the safety standard is culpable and should be punished.

Mr. Ehi Iden, CEO of Occupation Health and Safety Managers (O.H.S.M)

That building did not just come up there in one day. That building was erected under the watchful eyes of the government and town planners of that state. Nobody said a word and they knew it was under the high tension wire. The DISCO in that state wouldn’t say that they didn’t know that they saw that building under the high tension wire and they won’t say they didn’t know the safety implication. Everybody kept quiet until we had up to 30 persons that have died, then everybody comes back to do what is right. It’s such a sad issue because when you are designing a building, we have what we call urban and regional town planners in every state. Their responsibility in collaboration with power holding companies  is not to allow that building to be there in the first place and that building was popular because people go there to watch match and they knew that every match day, there would be crowd in that place. They shouldn’t have even allowed that building to be there. We have lost 30 lives. Now the building is going to be moved eventually. Why did we wait for lives to be lost before deciding about removing the building?  Government has not been found to be proactive in Nigeria and that has been a problem. We wait for issues to happen, we start counting our losses, and then we now start reversing to what we would have done 4-5 years ago that we didn’t do. We’ll now start looking for how to do those things.

Mrs. Fayo Williams, Executive Director, Rely Supply Ltd

We will be calling on all stakeholders to be more aware of public health. Public health is an issue that stakeholders must be aware of – government, the community and the citizens. So we should join hands to put pressure on the regulatory authorities to maintain infrastructure and then as a community, they should be more observant. It was alleged that a similar incident occurred last year. So this was really a recurrence. So if it was really true that a cable snapped, we expected the DISCO to step in and do good maintenance and also create awareness and also public awareness. And also on the part of the government, the issue of building under high tension cables should be stopped. It should be taken more seriously by the government. While those under such cables should be willing to relocate for the safety of everybody.

Ms. Ike Aigbogun, Safety Blogger and School Administrator

I think it is more of the government because electricity, all these power lines, is the responsibilities of PHCN or PHEDC, not the citizens. They are the ones responsible. They are supposed to do regular checks and monitoring. Just like we are in a school now, before we resume we get the electrician to look at all the fans to make sure that they are properly sealed to the ceiling. We don’t want an issue whereby the fan will be rolling one day and fall. Everything needs to be checked. You cannot just have wire there and think they can be there forever. They could come loose and I won’t really say it’s the (fault of) Nigerian citizens. It’s the government and all these bodies that are responsible for it. These DISCOs have safety officers. They have a safety manager. What are they doing? Are they just sitting in the office doing nothing? It is their responsibility. They are supposed to be going around. I know that they’ve started this thing: that where if you see a loose wire or something, you should report. But you know they actually need to be going around. There is a check list. They should have their timetable on what areas to visit. They should make sure they are going round regularly.

Mr. Emmanuel Okudor, Principal Consultant, DM Sheffield Ltd

Majorly in health and safety, there is always the employers’ responsibility on duty of care. However, the incident that happened, this people are not under the employment of anybody. In other words, in the regulation of the industry, there is minimum tolerance in the area of residential building under high tension. The regulators – which are the different DISCOs or the NERC – for example, this accident happened in their domain. There is need to carry out an intensive campaign in the areas of enforcement. Not just campaign; there is a need to enforce it. There are so many buildings that are very close to, and some are even under, high-tension cables. Things like this incident will certainly happen. I am not pessimistic but the truth is that it is the tendency for as many buildings as have encroached on the aforementioned tolerance to have issues. Don’t forget that these high-tension wires deteriorate in terms of strength. Over a period of time, they are not as strong as they were at first. We are lucky because I can imagine if the high tension wires constructed today are like the ones constructed before with high substandard of engineering incompetence and all that. Then I will want to say that the occurrence will be much. Then there is really no enforcement in terms of meaningful clearance of residential buildings or activities. It’s not just buildings because there are temporary shelters there. They are there 24 hours, some of the car parks that are used; shopping malls, among others. If that can be looked into properly with a drastic action taken in terms of enforcement, we will reduce that.

Then secondly, other than duty of care by the DISCOs, Nigerians also need to adhere to rules and regulation. They say ignorance is not an excuse. At some point some are ignorant about it but the truth is that I know of a safety engineer that built his house close to a pipeline. These are the encroachments we are talking about. Some people know it but because it has not happened for so many years and because there is no strong enforcement, people start encroaching and this is why all these things are happening. It was a preventable incident but it is so unfortunate and in our country everybody will start crying. There is so much noise; there is no safety regulation but the thing is- the people in charge what have they done? What did they do during a previous incident? The right thing must be done in terms of enforcement. Nigerians need to adhere to safety regulations for their own good and for the safety of every Nigerian.

Mr. Kayode Fowode, CEO of Kevron Consulting Ltd.

It’s unfortunate that innocent lives are lost due to gross negligence both from the building owner and PHEDC. This reminds building owners of the risks of locating their buildings directly under high-tension cable. This is dangerous and put people residing in such buildings at high risk. Viewing centres must consider different access and egress rather than depending on one entry point as this would not be sufficient to allow free movement out of the building during emergency situation. The power providers such as PHEDC also have a duty to ensure their equipment are in a goof state of maintenance and repair and does not pose danger to people. Explosion of transformer is a dangerous situation that should be avoided so PHEDC must justify that they have done all that is reasonably practicable to prevent such dangerous occurrence from happening. Otherwise, they might be exposing the company to litigations and potential case of corporate manslaughter and corporate homicide act.

Chief Achilike E.I., Chairman, Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria, Anambra Branch

It is wrong to stay under high tension wires. Residents should know this. It is against the law to stay under power line cables. No building or shop should be built under high tension or shop. It is the responsibility of the government to demolish such buildings. See what staying under high tension cables has caused for people. They have died because of this. It is unsafe to stay under high tension. It will only lead to unsafe incidents.

Multiple persons were electrocuted while watching a Europa League football match between Manchester United and Anderlecht at a viewing centre in Nyaghassang Community, Calabar, Cross River state. The fatality figure is however under contention, with figures ranging from 7 to 30 dead being bandied. According to reports, the incident occurred after a high-tension wire snapped and fell on the building, killing fans who attempted to escape. What are the safety lessons to learn from this incident? Safety professionals speak…

 

Barr Oluwakemi Eboda, CRO of Event Basics Limited

It’s rather unfortunate that such a tragedy occurred at a viewing centre. I commiserate with the family of the victims. However, it does have to do with vast knowledge of safety, negligence on the part of the DISCO and the government as well as the viewing centre. Everywhere people gather, they must prepare themselves for potential risk elements. We need to be proactive in our approach and not deliberately cause harm. Thorough investigations should have been carried out to check the exact cause of the incident in order to forestall a reoccurrence. Safety must be embedded into all that we do all the time. So the government needs to understand that viewing centres should be licensed because it’s a business. Whoever wants to operate such has to be licensed by the state government to operate that business and in obtaining the license, necessary safety requirements must be met, because now you are having a gathering of mostly youths who will be excited because of the football match. So even if it is not a high-tension cable falling on the roof, too much excitement could lead to some other fatal harm. So we have to realise that safety is very important and we should not compromise.

Mrs. Monica Nwosu, Principal Consultant, Fresh Fountain Consulting Ltd

It is really an unfortunate incident in the sense that we have a system that is not properly organised. We have a bad system. The government on their own side are not doing what they are supposed to do. It is very wrong and unsafe to have such a building under Right of Way (ROW). That is number one. If you are trying to carry out a root-cause analysis, if that building had not been under Right of Way even if there is a snap, it will not fall on any building and in this case, the government had a role to play in terms of all these buildings that are under Right Of Way. They come up with an enforcement. They have the right for demolition. All these other regulatory agencies can do their own part but they are limited except the government intervenes. There should be a strict measure. Everything under Right of Way should be removed if you are really concerned about the safety of the citizens.  It’s a failure from the government by not enforcing all these things the way they ought to. They should drive it. They should do it as duty of care they owe the citizenry. So that is just basically the key. Inasmuch as I understand that we have a poor network which I will also attribute to the government because it is a carryover bad system from PHCN to the DISCO. This thing cannot be rectified in one day. It is a continuous thing which I know that they are also trying to see that this entire bad network is corrected. But had that building not being under Right of Way, this wouldn’t have happened.

Mr. Segun Bakare, Health and Safety Advisor, Petrolex Oil and Gas Ltd

Ignorance is not an excuse for the people watching a football match and staying under power line. The standard is that 9.5 metres must be maintained away from high tension. So the take-home there and the lesson learnt is that ignorance is not an excuse when it comes to safety. People need to know and people need to be aware of some of the hazards and the risks associated with power line and I believe the DISCOs should try as much as possible to communicate electrical hazards, the control and mitigation, to people using any electrical gadget or maybe using any power connection and some people that are staying around power line. The government should do well to demolish any building that is close to power line because the distance should be 9.5 metres. Any house or any structure within that power line area should be demolished – that’s the take home there. DISCOs should do well to communicate safety hazards associated with power line. You can’t say that people should be wearing Personal Protective Equipment under power line. PPE is the last line of defence. Prevention is the best cure here so people should be coerced. If they cannot do it willing, then people should be forced to leave that area or the vicinity of power line. The government should have punitive measures in place, imposing a law that anybody found under power line we will not only have their structures demolished but will also be sanctioned. So if there is a sanction scheme in place, it will deter people from building structures under power line. Although it is a very sad event – 8 people were confirmed dead and 21 injured – but we should not wait until such a thing happens again. Government needs to take drastic decisions to ensure that such an event is averted and doesn’t occur again.

Mr. Harold Echendu, Former Financial Secretary, Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria, Lagos Branch

Government is involved in everything but there is a limited involvement in certain things. The government makes laws, creates regulations, and there are bodies (charged) with their responsibilities. But most times, our culture – the way we live in this country, we throw aside the most important thing and tend to forget the consequences of what we are doing. Now what happened didn’t just happen, it must be a fault that was neglected by somebody that is responsible for that particular maintenance and it has happened. So the role of government, again, is to prosecute whoever failed to perform his or her duty. And where the government fails to prosecute the person, the government has then failed. Hazard is all over the place. When it doesn’t happen we feel it will never happen. So the government also has the role to investigate the case.  Whoever does not comply with the safety standard is culpable and should be punished.

Mr. Ehi Iden, CEO of Occupation Health and Safety Managers (O.H.S.M)

That building did not just come up there in one day. That building was erected under the watchful eyes of the government and town planners of that state. Nobody said a word and they knew it was under the high tension wire. The DISCO in that state wouldn’t say that they didn’t know that they saw that building under the high tension wire and they won’t say they didn’t know the safety implication. Everybody kept quiet until we had up to 30 persons that have died, then everybody comes back to do what is right. It’s such a sad issue because when you are designing a building, we have what we call urban and regional town planners in every state. Their responsibility in collaboration with power holding companies  is not to allow that building to be there in the first place and that building was popular because people go there to watch match and they knew that every match day, there would be crowd in that place. They shouldn’t have even allowed that building to be there. We have lost 30 lives. Now the building is going to be moved eventually. Why did we wait for lives to be lost before deciding about removing the building?  Government has not been found to be proactive in Nigeria and that has been a problem. We wait for issues to happen, we start counting our losses, and then we now start reversing to what we would have done 4-5 years ago that we didn’t do. We’ll now start looking for how to do those things.

Mrs. Fayo Williams, Executive Director, Rely Supply Ltd

We will be calling on all stakeholders to be more aware of public health. Public health is an issue that stakeholders must be aware of – government, the community and the citizens. So we should join hands to put pressure on the regulatory authorities to maintain infrastructure and then as a community, they should be more observant. It was alleged that a similar incident occurred last year. So this was really a recurrence. So if it was really true that a cable snapped, we expected the DISCO to step in and do good maintenance and also create awareness and also public awareness. And also on the part of the government, the issue of building under high tension cables should be stopped. It should be taken more seriously by the government. While those under such cables should be willing to relocate for the safety of everybody.

Ms. Ike Aigbogun, Safety Blogger and School Administrator

I think it is more of the government because electricity, all these power lines, is the responsibilities of PHCN or PHEDC, not the citizens. They are the ones responsible. They are supposed to do regular checks and monitoring. Just like we are in a school now, before we resume we get the electrician to look at all the fans to make sure that they are properly sealed to the ceiling. We don’t want an issue whereby the fan will be rolling one day and fall. Everything needs to be checked. You cannot just have wire there and think they can be there forever. They could come loose and I won’t really say it’s the (fault of) Nigerian citizens. It’s the government and all these bodies that are responsible for it. These DISCOs have safety officers. They have a safety manager. What are they doing? Are they just sitting in the office doing nothing? It is their responsibility. They are supposed to be going around. I know that they’ve started this thing: that where if you see a loose wire or something, you should report. But you know they actually need to be going around. There is a check list. They should have their timetable on what areas to visit. They should make sure they are going round regularly.

Mr. Emmanuel Okudor, Principal Consultant, DM Sheffield Ltd

Majorly in health and safety, there is always the employers’ responsibility on duty of care. However, the incident that happened, this people are not under the employment of anybody. In other words, in the regulation of the industry, there is minimum tolerance in the area of residential building under high tension. The regulators – which are the different DISCOs or the NERC – for example, this accident happened in their domain. There is need to carry out an intensive campaign in the areas of enforcement. Not just campaign; there is a need to enforce it. There are so many buildings that are very close to, and some are even under, high-tension cables. Things like this incident will certainly happen. I am not pessimistic but the truth is that it is the tendency for as many buildings as have encroached on the aforementioned tolerance to have issues. Don’t forget that these high-tension wires deteriorate in terms of strength. Over a period of time, they are not as strong as they were at first. We are lucky because I can imagine if the high tension wires constructed today are like the ones constructed before with high substandard of engineering incompetence and all that. Then I will want to say that the occurrence will be much. Then there is really no enforcement in terms of meaningful clearance of residential buildings or activities. It’s not just buildings because there are temporary shelters there. They are there 24 hours, some of the car parks that are used; shopping malls, among others. If that can be looked into properly with a drastic action taken in terms of enforcement, we will reduce that.

Then secondly, other than duty of care by the DISCOs, Nigerians also need to adhere to rules and regulation. They say ignorance is not an excuse. At some point some are ignorant about it but the truth is that I know of a safety engineer that built his house close to a pipeline. These are the encroachments we are talking about. Some people know it but because it has not happened for so many years and because there is no strong enforcement, people start encroaching and this is why all these things are happening. It was a preventable incident but it is so unfortunate and in our country everybody will start crying. There is so much noise; there is no safety regulation but the thing is- the people in charge what have they done? What did they do during a previous incident? The right thing must be done in terms of enforcement. Nigerians need to adhere to safety regulations for their own good and for the safety of every Nigerian.

Mr. Kayode Fowode, CEO of Kevron Consulting Ltd.

It’s unfortunate that innocent lives are lost due to gross negligence both from the building owner and PHEDC. This reminds building owners of the risks of locating their buildings directly under high-tension cable. This is dangerous and put people residing in such buildings at high risk. Viewing centres must consider different access and egress rather than depending on one entry point as this would not be sufficient to allow free movement out of the building during emergency situation. The power providers such as PHEDC also have a duty to ensure their equipment are in a goof state of maintenance and repair and does not pose danger to people. Explosion of transformer is a dangerous situation that should be avoided so PHEDC must justify that they have done all that is reasonably practicable to prevent such dangerous occurrence from happening. Otherwise, they might be exposing the company to litigations and potential case of corporate manslaughter and corporate homicide act.

Chief Achilike E.I., Chairman, Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria, Anambra Branch

It is wrong to stay under high tension wires. Residents should know this. It is against the law to stay under power line cables. No building or shop should be built under high tension or shop. It is the responsibility of the government to demolish such buildings. See what staying under high tension cables has caused for people. They have died because of this. It is unsafe to stay under high tension. It will only lead to unsafe incidents.

Post Author: David Chibueze