THE Managing Director of the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency, NEMSA, Engr. Peter Ewesor has, once again, announced the Federal Government’s commitment towards demolishing all structures built around the Right of Way (RoW) of high tension electricity cables throughout the country.
While inaugurating 70 NEMSA engineers at a capacity building event in Abuja recently, Ewesor disclosed that to demonstrate government’s resolve towards implementing this gargantuan-scale policy, the eleven Electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs, in the country have already started disconnecting all houses around designated RoWs in cities nationwide. The problem with this sort of routine government announcement is that it is generally not taken seriously by those concerned – owners of such structures and their tenants – because they are hardly followed through concrete action.
In the past one year alone, three state governments – Anambra, Lagos and Plateau – threatened to commence immediate demolition of such structures because they violate state laws and pose great health risks to those who live around them. Apart from frequent incidences of electrocutions and fires, these lines are known to emit signals that are dangerous to the human body. But, which state government is ready to cast the first stone? The Jos Metropolitan Development Board, JMDB, in November last year disclosed that in the Plateau State capital alone, 400 houses built under power lines would be brought down, but nothing has happened till date.
The reason for this policy lethargy is not far fetched. If NEMSA or any other federal or state body decides to make good its “threat”, the scale of human misery in the country will be akin to devastation wrought by war. Which government, especially under a democracy, will risk such?
The matter is further complicated by the fact that in most cases, these electricity power structures pass through family and private lands, especially in the cities. It is either government did not sort out these families before running the power lines through private property, or officials simply compromised the integrity of their offices and issued illegal permits for people to build. Even if all the structures under power lines are successfully demolished, people will still rebuild them unless government firmly asserts its authority and strictly forbids such henceforth.
There is no doubt that we need to sanitise the electricity RoWs throughout the country if we are to be taken seriously as a developing nation. But the Federal and State governments must harmonise efforts and see how this can be done with a human face to minimise suffering. Any law or policy that has no human face has no place in a democracy. Government must muster the necessary funds and implementation plans to deal with the humanitarian component before proceeding with the, albeit, laudable policy.