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Why would anyone live Or Do Business under wires of death? (3)

It is hazardous to live under high tension transmission lines. Research has proved it accounts for reduced sperm count in workers who regularly service the line, that fewer children are born to high tension wire workers compared to other people.

  A recent study has also established a relationship between overhead transmission lines and childhood cancer; and another study indicates a higher incidence of suicide in homes around high tension lines relative to others. Big problem, yet Nigerians with stubborn spirit are not deterred; they still live under these wires of death despite the danger they know comes with it. How do we solve this problem? 

 SIAKA MOMOH concludes his report on the hazards associated with operation under high tension wires and highlighting solutions to the problem as proffered by stakeholders.

 The problem is a spin-off from the undefined ownership of land under the deadly high-tension lines in question. Nigerian Electric Power Authority (NEPA) now Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in 1985, wouldn’t discuss this subject; but Niger Power Review, an authoritative organ of the company, April – June, 2005 edition, gives a clue. The publication published an interview with W.O. Nakpodia, NEPA’s property department boss, an interview that helps to throw light on the issue of ownership.  Says Nakpodia, “Land matters have to do with acquisition of land for all purposes viz office and quarter sites, power stations, sub-stations and store sites. Acquisitions are carried out in accordance with provisions of Land Use Act of 1978; Leasing of houses for all NEPA purposes, that is offices, stores and quarters for staff and consultants; valuation of houses, usually required for purchase or where buildings under transmission lines are required to be relocated or demolished and therefore to be paid for etc.” 

 Nakpodia gives details of what it calls wayleave duties. These include the following: Service of notices (wayleave notices) on persons, farmers or institutions likely to be affected by the construction of overhead or underground transmission lines; Enumeration of   economic crops or trees to be damaged or destroyed during construction or transmission lines or power stations; arranging payment of compensation; obtaining necessary indemnities.

 NERC does not own land under high tension lines, if we go by the response of W.O Nakpodia as reported by Niger Power Review. According to him, “People are under the impression that NEPA owns the land under transmission lines. This is not correct. Prior to the creation of NEPA in 1972, the acquisition of land for transmission lines, to a large extent, involved the payment of compensation for both economic trees and crops together with the parcel of land under the lines. NEPA’s policy on acquisition for transmission lines has been limited to payment of compensation for economic crops and trees.”

 This means in effect that land is not included! It logically follows that NERC has no control over land under high tension lines. What is the talk of the company’s statutory power limiting erection of structures on either side of any transmission lines about then?

 Mukaila Sogbamu’s   paper, from the Information Department of the Lagos State Government, rightly strikes the point with its remark that house owners and government “would have been saved the undue expenses and embarrassment if the relevant town planning and NEPA officials had come up with required long term development plan and stuck to it”. The paper describes the high-tension problem as “a manifestation of decadence, shortsightedness and incompetence, which have continued to plague our society”.

 This is good argument because the process of plans approvals is slow and spiced with corruption. House-owners and government officials are guilty of misconduct – but government should take the blame for such misconduct. Houses marked for demolition have, inscribed on them, approved plan numbers whereas such numbers are process numbers for most of the houses with such numbers.  This fact is given credence by a senior official of the Lagos Land Use Allocation committee. He says what landlords do as soon as they submit their plans for approval is to dubiously collect their file numbers from the planning authority’s office, commence construction and inscribe such numbers on their buildings and claim they are approval plan numbers.

 Long term planning is required for national development. Government needs a long-term land-usage plan which will take into consideration NERC and other important institutions’ needs. One hopes the present Lagos State plan for a mega city must have taken this into account. At least, we should be wiser by now.

NERC stand on ownership of land under high tension lines as discussed above still remains unchanged, our investigation has confirmed. Our source at the company’s property department who prefers to remain anonymous says it is illegal for anyone to reside or do business under NERC’s high-tension lines. Compensation, he says, is paid for all economic crops, trees and buildings under these death wires and so anyone inhabiting the transmission lines right of way are doing so illegally and have themselves to blame.

 Lagos-Badagry motorway to the rescue

If house-owners along Lagos-Badagry Expressway whose houses were demolished in 1985 think they can continue to defy constituted authorities that say they cannot stay under high tension lines because the authorities believe and say it is dangerous to do so, they can now no longer continue with their defiance as a new and improved Lagos-Badagry expressway has come to give them matching orders. The bulldozers have gone to work and pulled down many of them from the Eric Moore end through Orile Iganmu, Suru-Alaba   to Mile Two Bus-Stop.  This is the first phase of a three-phased highway which forms part of the West African highway. Houses along the whole stretch of the two other phases have been marked down for demolition. So there is therefore no place to hide for anyone with stubborn spirit.

 The Lagos-Badagry motorway is being expanded into 10 lanes the first lot which is 7.5 kilometres stretches from Eric Moore to Mile 2, the second measuring 24 kilometres stretches from Mile 2 to Agbara in Ogun State , and the third from Agbara to Badagry. Construction work has , todate,gone past Ishasi junction. The project which is being executed under a World Bank-assisted programme is estimated at N220 billion.  The houses that went down with the 1985 demolition exercise were valued at over N2 billion. Francisco Abosede, Lagos State Commissioner for Urban Development then wouldn’t tell us how much it would cost Lagos State to pay compensation for houses that will be forced to give way to the ultra-modern 10-lane motorway because, according to him, “I don’t answer such questions”.

 Reports however have it that government will pay compensation to only those whose houses have Certificate of Occupancy (C of O). But the question remains if government would pay compensation to those who were compensated in 1985 and went ahead to rebuild. Could this be why Abosede wouldn’t “answer such questions?”

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