Despite danger to life, residents of Lagos live and trade under high-tension wires as local government officials sell land illegally, writes BAYO AKOMOLAFE
More than 1,500 people are currently trading under the high voltage power lines on Ipaja Road at Abesan, Lagos, despite the inherent dangers posed to their lives and those of their patrons. This came two years after the state government ordered owners of structures under the high voltage power lines to remove them within seven days.
Also, at Ayobo community, about 100 residential buildings, including churches, are under the high voltage power lines. Miffed by the huge number of people living under the high voltage power lines, government had in 2016 said that buildings on the Right of Way of high tension electricity lines were dangerous and illegal.
The state Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law 2010 not only prohibits building under the centre-line of overhead electricity wires but it also specifies the distance to be observed between a property and high voltage line. “The required setback for buildings from the centre-line of over-head wires and horizontal distance between such buildings of not less than six metres for 11KV wire lines, while nine metres is the recommended distance for 33KV wire lines. “Furthermore, the recommended setback for 132KV wire lines is 15 metres, while a 22.5-metre setback is recommended for 330KV power line,” says the law.
However, close to two decades now, the traders at Abesan claimed that the land which they built their shops were sold to them by government.
Also, Ayobo residents said that their property under the land acquired by government still belonged to them in as much as nobody had been compensated. Investigation revealed that from Water to Mosan and Ayobo bus stops are over 600 shops constructed by some people who claimed that the land was sold and approved by the officials of Mosan Okunola Local Council Development Area in Alimoso Local Government Area.
The shops, located between Gowon and Shagari estates at Abesan, are mainly occupied by furniture makers, plank sellers, saw millers, provision sellers, foam distributors, building material sellers, tailors, spare part dealers, mechanics and some other artisans. The traders said that they had no option than to sell under the high tension wires when government was reluctant to provide space for them.
It was learnt that some people decided to grab the long expanse of land when there was no provision for market by the Mosan Okunola Local Council Development Area. According to Mrs. Godwin Eva, a book vendor, who obtained a space in the place recently through an agent, people are selling and buying under fear in the place.
She said: “We get scared each time we remember that we are trading under the dangerous wires because an incident occurred in Ikeja were a high tension wire fell on a boy and he died instantly.” Also, Mr. Ifeanyi Emeka, a paint seller, said he purposely rented his shop there because it was an open place where people could make money. He said: “I know it is bad to stay under the high voltage line because of the radiation which is unhealthy to human beings but I have to make ends meet.”
Another trader, Mrs. Bukola Edun, said that since the economy was bad and government could not make necessary provisions for the people, there was no option than to stay there for her daily business not minding the radiation of the high tension wire. After all, she said that the land was leased to people by the LCDA, saying that government officials who allocated the place to them were from the LCDA and they were not complaining. She explained that the council was generating revenue from the shops. Also reacting, the Chairman of the shop owners in the area, Mr. Opakeye, explained that people were looking for how to take care of their families in respective of the inherent danger and the risk involved. He said: “We need money to take care of our family. We know that if the power lines should come down the entire environment is in trouble but God will forbid that in this our environment.
“If government does not want something like this then they should stop collecting store fees and they should not have sold the land out to people in the first instance.” Opakeye noted that the place was generating money for the local government because the allocation given to them by the Federal Government and the state was not enough.
At Mosan Okunola Local Council Development Area (MOLCDA), an official, who said his name should not be mentioned, confirmed that the shops under the high tension spanning over one kilometre from Federal bus stop to Water bus top was sold to people. He said that the land was illegally transferred between the officials of the council and the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing during the then President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime. He said: “This is the reason why nobody is talking. Actually, the land belongs to the Housing Ministry, since it is under the high tension wires; the officials collected money and transferred the land illegally.
“At least, there are over 600 shops both front and back and new ones are springing up, the council is generating a lot of revenue from the place.” Also, a resident of Ayobo, Somuyiwa Oyewole, said the people living under the high voltage wires in the area did not get compensation from government when the land was acquired by the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). Recounting his experience, Oye- CONTINUED FROM PAGE 19 wole said that in the night, the noise coming from the high tension wires was so terrible that they hardly sleep for fear of being electrocuted.
He said: “In the night the wires will be humming and when it rains, the water dropping is usually hot to the extent that one would think it was boiled. “I have to relocate to another place in the early 1990s because of the noise from the wires but because of the economic situation in the country I have no option than to come back to this place.”
Speaking on why government refused to evacuate the inhabitants, Oyewole said that the defunct NEPA failed to meet their terms and they too were tired of pressing for compensations. He said: “From the look of things, government is not bothered about people’s welfare in this place and the residents here seem to be comfortable. Nobody is disturbing them and no death has been recorded despite the fear.”
However, the Head of Communications, Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKEDC), Mr. Kweku Adeyanju, explained that issue of erecting buildings and shops even trading under power lines, was of great concern to the organisation. He said: “We have tried to sensitise market leaders in Lagos and residential houses because of the inherent risks and destructions posed to those living under power lines. We have written letters across Lagos, such that if anything happens, we shall not be held liable.
“We have included in our radio jingles; we have communicated to communities through their various Community Development Authorities (CDAs). We have written to local government chairmen on this issue. It is not when destructions come then they will start running to the Distribution Companies (DISCOs).”
Meanwhile, a research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has explained that the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) radiation from high voltage power lines could cause headaches, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, prickling and/or burning skin, rashes, muscle pain and other diseases. The research added that the radiation from high voltage power lines was something that could affect the health of people in urban and rural communities.
It said: “Strong, artificial EMFs that radiate from power lines can scramble and interfere with your body’s natural EMF, affecting everything from your sleep cycles and stress levels to your immune response and DNA!” Already, hundreds of studies worldwide have shown that living next to high voltage power lines and other parts of the power transmission network increases risk of cancer and other health problems. It added: “The closer you are the more you are bombarded with dangerous EMFs.
The electrical power grid uses a step down system of distribution, highest near the generating station and substations, lowest at the end. Increasingly, the medical community is recognising the danger to health these power lines can cause. “For example, a variety of studies suggests that living close to high-voltage power lines can increase the incidence of several kinds of cancer, as well as other diseases. “Power lines are virtually everywhere. However, SafeSpace offers a range of effective, affordable products that can help you protect yourself and your loved ones against the dangers from hallmarks of the modern world.”
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