Posted by Odimegwu Onwumere, Port Harcourt | 31 March 2013 | 4,894 times
It takes the whole body to weep, but the eyes to cry, at a tragedy. The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) has made a lot of comedy of the citizens, and their deaths. Without gainsaying the fact, the company is egotistical. The company’s rapacious actions have become the first tragedy to the citizens’ coexistence and mutual understanding. Its actions and words are merciless. It has made and regarded the people as unimportant. The citizens’ different worlds are going blank. How long shall the people then continue to believe in this philosophy as said by the Dalai Lama XIV: “There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilised as a source of strength’ ”?
For how long?
Barely 12 years old, and a junior secondary school student of Government Secondary School, Oroworukwo, Rivers State, Uchechukwu Ewurum had gone to be with his mother who went to condole with a relative at a neighbouring compound from their No 8 Ojoto Street, Port Harcourt, when he was nearly killed; he touched a wire with haughty electric current which had rested on the handrail of a building.
The story of the young Ewurum in the March 30, 3013 edition of Saturday Sun, and the picture that accompanied that unappealing story, were all irritable and quick-tempered.
The story demonstrates another shameful achievement of the PHCN. The poor son to Peter Ewurum was full of life till he met the sad event from the careless PHCN that would keep him incapacitated and in melancholy all his life.
In the words of the father: “As my wife got there, she met my cousin’s wife downstairs and they started discussing. Uchechukwu, who heard that his mother was there, ran to the place to join her. On getting there, he went to my cousin’s room upstairs. Unknown to him, there was a death trap, a dangling high-tension wire that was touching the handrail. According to experts, the current in the wire was more than 11,000 KVA. As soon as my son held it (handrail), to beckon on his mother to come upstairs, he was electrocuted.”
This is how Uchechukwu met the sad story of his life that led to the amputation of his right hand from near the throat. So the report said: “Uchechukwu was thrown down by the power of the electric current. His right hand was damaged instantly. Also, his tummy was severely burnt. The lad was rushed to the hospital unconscious, where doctors battled to save his life. After fruitless efforts at restoring the badly damaged hand, doctors amputated it on March 4, 2013, following the discovery of decay.”
The father cried: “My son is maimed for life, incapacitated throughout his life. If life is difficult for people with two hands, what about someone who has only one hand? His education is now stalled and under threat. I want justice. PHCN is liable for my son’s plight. The company should be held responsible. My wife is now devastated, because of the present condition of her son, who was full of life before he came out to welcome her. Please, tell the government, human rights organisations and concerned Nigerians to come to my aid. They should compel PHCN to pay compensation for the damage they have caused my son.”
Now, the unexpected has happened to Uchechukwu, and the expected has set in for the father. The report went further: “When the hospital told him to make an initial deposit of N50,000, he had only N6,000 on him. To save his son’s life, he had to borrow not less than N90,000 so far.... The sad dad said that officials of the PHCN had, out of neglect, exposed residents of the area to danger. He revealed that when the company was notified of the cut high-tension wire, its officials had engaged themselves in heated argument on who should climb the electric pole to disconnect and replace the damaged accessories. ‘As a result, the repair work was not carried out’.”
This is also how on Saturday morning of February 13, 2010, countless people were roasted like flies, when a high tension wire belonging to the same careless PHCN landed on two commercial buses in downpour, killed and injured all the passengers on the spot, and the charred bodies were deposited at the morgue of Braithwaite Memorial Hospital (BMH).
While Uchechukwu met his tragedy at Ojoto, the innocent passengers met their untimely deaths around Oginigba, very close to Slaughter at Trans Amadi area of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, Rivers State.
Many people then said that it was the same careless attitude of PHCN to work that nearly killed Uchechukwu that also took the lives of the unsuspecting passengers and injured some.
Residents’ hopes were raised that respite was coming then, and another tragedy won’t happen again.
What the residents got from the authorities are as follows:
The state police public relations officer said: “For now, we have barricaded the place and our men are everywhere to prevent people from moving around there so that they will not get hurt. However, we have contacted the PHCN and they are already doing something. They have already come there to remove the wire. Very soon everything will come back to normal.”
PHCN spokesman said: “The incident resulted from a wire cut, which fell on top of two buses loading under high tension wires. In 2005, 2006 and even in ongoing campaigns, we have been warning the people against trading and loading under high tension cables, which are risky ventures.”
Secretary to Rivers State Government (SSG) reportedly “in company of some commissioners, later visited the Braithwaite Memorial Hospital where some of the survivors were rushed to. The SSG assured them of government support. He also appealed to residents of the state to avoid building or doing business under high tension cables.”
The government’s contribution: “Five days after some people died from the electrocution, the Rivers State Government ordered that all structures, both permanent and makeshift close to high tension wire, be immediately demolished.”
It was not certain whether the government buried or assisted to pay the hospital bills of those who were rushed to the hospital from the electrocution in 2010, but here in 2013, Peter Ewurum, the father of Uchechukwu, is not only worried that his son has been rendered debilitated for life by a PHCN’s unguided cable, but also, “worried that he would not be able to pay the medical bills, as the emergency came suddenly.”
The man has been sleepless!
The citizens are not too sure what to make of this PHCN that embarks on empty strike at will, when its products are killing Nigerians. The citizens are also not too sure what to make of this firm that has been severally alleged present the citizens with bloated monthly levy.
In different treatises commentators had cried with anger.
“The law should compel PHCN to pay damages to this family and adequate punishment to the unit or persons for negligence of duty,” one said.
“My heart melt for this country called Nigeria. In a developed world the father of this young lad doesn’t need to be talking about money to pay for the treatment,” another said.
•Odimegwu Onwumere, Poet/Author, is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV). Phone: +2348032552855 (OR) +2348057778358. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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