Dr Peter Ohiero, Head of Electrical Engineering Department in Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH), Nigeria, has stated that Town Planners are responsible for what he described as the disorderly and unstructured manner of siting buildings in Calabar, capital of Cross River State, Nigeria. He stated this while speaking with LinCornellah’s blog about electricity-related accidents, power blackouts and road accidents in Calabar.
Dr Ohiero explained that “There is something called ‘right of way’. It is usually two to six meters away from every building. Normally, government acquires it. The Town Planning Office is empowered to enforce it. It prescribes that every building should not be less than two (2) to six (6) meters away from an electric pole. Electricity contractors usually plant poles using ‘right of way’. However, our reality here is that people build on the ‘right of way’ Every line, distribution and transmission has a right of way.”
The University Don cited a drinking joint located opposite State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) headquarters, near Flour Mills junction, Calabar, as a place where “One hundred and thirty-two thousand (132,000) volts of high-tension wires fly above shops and business premises. That alone takes right of way by six (6) meters.”
He said that officials of the Town Planning office do not usually bother about enforcing regulations on buildings. Rather, “They come to these buildings and mark ‘X’ and the owner of the building will say take this…. They would just collect it and keep quiet, undermining everything at the expense of human life. Most of these problems and aftermaths don’t happen immediately. There are accidents waiting to happen.’’ The “X” mark is usually written in a red on the front wall of unsafe buildings as a warning sign.
Dr Ohiero added that when people build within the ‘right of way’, they usually remove ‘stay wires’ that are supposed to support and balance electric poles. He said “the absence of stay wires expose poles to cracks, sometimes making them to fall on buildings. If there is a problem, the fault goes straight to the nearest transformer and there would be a problem or blackout. But if there is earthing around the pole, the earthing would conduct that fault down.’’
It would be recalled that in April this year, several people lost their lives at a football viewing center in Calabar, while watching a Europa Cup match between Manchester United of England and Anderlecht of Belgium. That accident is attributed to an electrical fault that resulted from a fallen wire.
Speaking further on disregard of public safety rules, he said that road accidents are sometimes caused by indiscriminate siting of buildings, especially in junctions and intersections. According to him, “There should be a wide clearance from the road. By so doing, drivers coming from different directions can see one another. But here, that is not the case. Some people build in the middle of the road. Before you know it, cars coming from different directions collide. Also, the man or woman who sites his or her shop in the center of the road forgets that one day, a car may just run into the shop. My problem is with these Town Planners. Those that approve the sites need to be cross examined.’’
He recommended that there should be a uniform standard of buildings in Calabar, as obtainable in developed countries. According to him, “In developed countries, there are certain areas you go to and you have a particular standard of buildings. If not that type of building, nothing else. And you see them lined up like that, the same. I know that our economy is not as buoyant as the economies of some of those countries. But with regulation, we can achieve a lot.”
He also recommended that government should pay compensation to land owners so that roads could be expanded. In his words, “…Our roads taper somewhere, get wide somewhere, taper somewhere, get wide somewhere. If you must construct a standard road, pay compensation and relocate the people. Open up these roads, let them have the same weight from beginning to the end, for the sake of safety. A new driver who is coming to town as he enters, he assumes that the width of the road is the same to the end…. Again, we don’t mount road signs. There is supposed to be a sign about 2 kilometers away to show that there is a bump, that the road would taper and that you should slow down.’’
Dr. Peter Ohiero holds a Ph.D degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering (Power Systems and Electrical Machines) obtained from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. This blog’s findings suggest that no other indigene of Cross River State has similar qualifications in that discipline. He is certainly the only person from Yala Local Government Area (LGA) with such qualification.
- Cornelius Ellah