Thursday, January 15, 2009

Deaths from generator fumes

Not quite long after the death of 13 members of a family in Imo State from generator fumes, another family of six in Benin City, Edo State, has fallen victim of the same incident. In the case of the Obile community in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State, 13 members of a family were reportedly choked to death by generator fumes.

Victims of the Obile incident include eight children, two pregnant women and three men. Among them were one Ethelbert John, his wife, maid and four children.

An eye witness account said that the victims were watching television at night and slept off while the generator was on. They were later found dead in the morning. An autopsy conducted and released to the officials of the State Ministry of Health linked the death to carbon monoxide arising from generator fumes. A similar incident was recorded in Obowo Local Government Area of Imo State in 2007 in which eight persons lost their lives.

In Benin City, Edo State, a 75 year-old man, Michael Aiwekhoi, his 50-year old wife and four other members of the family have reportedly died of fumes emitted from his generating set. The incident, which occurred at his Ihogbe Street residence in Benin City, claimed the life of the son of the deceased, Eric Aiwekhoi, who was to have completed his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme in February this year. It also claimed the life of a graduate of Auchi Polytechnic and three others.

According to a neighbour who witnessed the incident, the late Michael Aiwekhoi had put the medium-sized generator in the passage of his residence with the exhaust facing the wall close to the rooms and the main sitting room of the house before going to bed. Report had it that the poisonous carbon monoxide from the generator might have affected the respiratory systems of the affected people in the apartment as they were discovered dead in the morning.

These incidents are just a few of many that occur in Nigeria almost on a daily basis. It is a pointer to the fact that the nation’s power utility has failed to generate the needed power hence the masses have resorted to generating their own power with its attendant consequences.

In spite of government’s declared intention to increase power supply in the country, the total power generated in Nigeria has continued to decrease. In December 2008, power generation in the country dropped from about 2,600 megawatts to about 1,200 megawatts. The national demand for power is estimated to be about 10,000 megawatts. Increasing deaths by generator fumes is an indication of the government’s failure to tackle the energy problem.

We bemoan the situation where Nigerians are daily sent to early graves by no fault of theirs but the ineptitude of the government in providing power. We therefore call on the government to fast-track whatever it is doing to improve electricity supply in the country. However, the point must be made that people die from generator fumes not necessarily because we are having energy crisis, but due to the squalid settlements in which Nigerians live.

There should therefore be an enlightenment campaign on how people can install their generators without putting their lives at risk.
We have had enough of deaths emanating from generator fumes. Let the government be steadfast in ensuring that its power utility generates the quantity of electricity needed by all Nigerians.