TRAGEDIES like the one in Port Harcourt last week, where at least 10 people died – four from one family – by electrocution are very sad comments about our country, made sadder because they point to the extent of poverty in a country that struts the global stage as if it cared about its peoples.

Nigerians are used to people dying from the carelessness of those who serve the public. The Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, whose cables snapped and electrocuted those who died in Port Harcourt, has failed in its primary duty of supplying electricity.

If it was alive to its responsibilities, PHCN should have trimmed the tree branch that snapped and hit the wire that sparked off the dangerous fire and waves of electric current.

The incident in Port Harcourt is not the first where PHCN’s cables have electrocuted people. Poorly maintained transformers, poles and wires explode, fall, set off fires and people die. PHCN would blame the people for not heeding its warnings to keep off its facilities.

In the Port Harcourt incident, the tragedy occurred at a bus stop. The woman had done business there for years, selling food. Being a Saturday, three of her kids, who were students, possibly maintained from the proceeds of their mother’s toil, were at the bus stop, ironically named Slaughter — to assist their mother – they all perished.

Poverty is well at the centre of this. Had government taken care of the people, and relieved Nigerians of some of the burdens they bear just to access minimal opportunities in life, the woman and her children could have been spared.

The same government attitude with the roads has seen thousands die in road accidents that reflect the state of Nigerian roads. Only last November more than 70 people perished in a road accident in Anambra State.  An oil tanker over-turned at a bad spot and set vehicles around it on fire.

Nobody was held responsible for the waste. The road is still in the same bad shape, waiting for its next victims. When next it happens, the usual outrage would pour out, referenced on inattentiveness to similar incidents.

Organisations like the PHCN put the public in harm’s way with their poorly maintained facilities. Government’s refusal to attach any importance to the lives of Nigerians, contrary to Section 14 2 (b) which states, “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”, reflects in the quality of life of Nigerians.

The normal response to this tragedy would be to chase away all street traders, as if the passengers who died in buses at Slaughter Bus Stop had no right to be there.

Compensation to the families of the dead and appropriate measures to secure dangerous facilities round the country are the least government should do after this incident.


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