• Friday, April 12, 2024
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Heatwave worsens Nigerians’ suffering as blackout spreads

Methane emission could be major cause of rising heat wave in Nigeria – AfriTAL

Nigerians are facing a double whammy as scorching heatwave coincides with widespread power outages that have seen many areas experience total darkness for days on end.

In major cities including Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, residents are complaining about worsening power supply, which electricity distribution companies have attributed to low generation occasioned by gas shortages.

The blackout, which has persisted for weeks in some parts of the country, has disrupted daily life, affecting businesses, healthcare facilities, and households reliant on electricity from the national grid for necessities.

“We’re tired of empty promises,” said Sola Adebayo, a Lagos resident who runs a small electronics shop. “The minister keeps asking for patience, but our patience has run out. How can we run our businesses? How can we live comfortably when we have no power?”

The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company Plc (EEDC), on Tuesday, said the poor power supply currently experienced by its customers across the Southeast region was beyond it.

“We understand the inconveniences this situation has caused our esteemed customers and appeal for their understanding as it is beyond us,” Emeka Ezeh, head of corporate communications at EEDC, said.

“Efforts are being made by the various stakeholders in the power sector to address this issue, and we hope this yields positive results so that normal distribution will return,” he added.

Severe heatwaves, which experts have attributed to global warming and continuous depletion of the ozone layer, have combined with the steep drop in power supply to exacerbate the suffering of many Nigerians.

About half of the country is in danger of sunstroke, muscle cramps, and heat exhaustion as air temperatures hit 47°C over the north and 39°C over the south, according to the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet).

Its modelling model projections released on Wednesday indicate that temperatures will remain high in the coming days, particularly reaching a peak in some parts of the south.

The organisation, however, said the northern part of the country will expectedly experience more heat than the southern region, even as it suggested precautions.

In Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, residents have been enduring sweltering conditions with limited relief.

“The heat is unbearable, and with no power, we can’t even turn on fans or air conditioners to cool down,” lamented Adeola Okonkwo, a resident of Lagos. “It’s like being trapped in an oven.”

NiMET said as a result of the high temperature, people will experience dehydration, which could cause fainting, chickenpox disease, measles, and heat rash.

The agency also said people could experience weakness of the body, slight fever, and dry lips; heat-related illnesses; respiratory issues, and increased vulnerability to chronic conditions.

As part of the solutions to the challenges, NiMET advised people to ensure rehydration with adequate fluid intake.

“Seek shade, use fans, and wear light, breathable clothing to reduce exposure to high temperatures,” it said.

The agency warned that people should avoid strenuous physical activity during peak heat hours.

“Stay indoors as much as possible between 12:00 noon and 4:00 pm evening time,” it advised.

Some health physicians who spoke with BusinessDay said there has been an uptick in the presentation of heat rashes in adults and children, adding that people now easily get exhausted.

Adeleke Awolesi, secretary of the Association of Medical Officers of Health in Nigeria, Lagos Chapter, called on the government to explore alternative sources of energy that can service the country efficiently on a large scale.

While he urged Nigerians to increase water consumption and exposure to proper ventilation, Awolesi said the problem of power must also be treated as a key component of fostering health and good standards of living.

“Where are the hydro stations and gas plants? When last did we build a power station? Maybe during former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s period and that was on a small scale. Let us look at wind, methane gas from waste and various other things that we can explore. It’s very important. If not for the way we handle things in Nigeria, I would have said let us also look into building nuclear power plants,” Awolesi said.

Olufemi Oyekan, a Lagos-based health physician, said: “What is worse in our case is that the power supply is epileptic. People are not getting enough to power their fans and air conditioners and the cost of fuel is an added issue.”

BusinessDay findings showed public outcry over the diminishing availability of power supply increased sharply on social media, with many calling for interventions for the short and long term.

Iyabo Awokoya, a lawyer and politician, in a post on X directed at Bayo Adelabu, minister of power, on Wednesday, said: “We need to just wonder at the change in power situation from stability in the last administration to total instability that we are witnessing now and especially since about October/November 2023. This is my reality.”

She added: “Someone should explain to us what happened and what we are to expect for the next 6 months so that we can plan. Should we think of fitila (lamp) as our lighting alternative? Oh my! Even palm oil is expensive. Diesel is expensive. Petrol same, kerosene also. In the olden days we used to have these gas lamps that you pump, but I guess, the world moved past that. So what is our hope @BayoAdelabu?”

The Transmission Company of Nigeria had in January said that there was a gradual decrease in available generation into the grid due to gas constraints.

The company said this impacted the quantum of bulk power available on the transmission grid for onward transmission to the distribution load centres nationwide.

On February 8, Bolaji Tunji, special adviser on strategic communication and media relations to the minister of power, said in a statement that in a bid towards finding a lasting solution to the challenges, the ministry of power in conjunction with the ministry of petroleum resources (gas) set up a ministerial committee towards resolving the crisis.

He said the committee will consist of representatives from the two ministries, gas suppliers, the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission and stakeholders in the electricity value chain sector.

He said the two top government officials acknowledged the need for innovative thinking in resolving the gas supply challenge to the generation companies.

According to the statement, Adelabu said the two ministries should work together to find a lasting solution to the problem, wondering why the issue of gas supply to the power sector was not prioritised in view of the importance of the sector to economic development.

He also suggested that payment for domestic gas supply should be denominated in naira instead of dollars.

“If we are serious about the economic development of the country, we need to solve the problem of gas supply today. We should look at the possibility of mandating the gas suppliers to price in naira. The domestic supply is just a fraction of what the gas suppliers supply to the international market, so paying in naira should not be a problem,” he said.