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Alternative power source causes more deaths

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By Abraham Adekunle

As power supply worsens, generator fumes fuel deaths and climate change.

As power supply worsens in Nigeria, households and business continue to use alternative power sources to power their homes and businesses. But this has had more devastating effects not only to the homes and businesses but also to the environment. For instance, a family of four who newly moved into a rented apartment at the Apapa area of Lagos State were found all dead in their apartment a few days after. One of the family’s relatives had told the news correspondents that the family had been using a generator, which was inside the house, and the windows were closed. There was no proper ventilation and the family died of generator fume inhalation.

This incident, among many others, occurred because of the current situation of power supply in Nigeria. Nigeria’s electric energy is derived from hydropower or hydroelectric and thermal or fossil fuel plants. The hydropower is a renewable, clean, non-fossil fuel form of electricity generation from stored and regulated rivers or dams. Data from Statista shows that in 2020 electricity was generated more from the thermal plants with 22 terawatts hours, while production from hydropower plants was 6.1 terawatts hours.

A lot of Nigerians are still not connected to the national grid.

Despite all the energy generated, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (UNFCC) has revealed that about 25 million Nigerians are not connected to the power grid. Supporting the UNFCC’s report, the World Bank has also stated that over 80 million Nigerians do not have access to electricity. This constitutes 43 percent of the country’s population. A breakdown of the reports by Climate Score Card stated that only 56.5 percent of Nigerians had access to electricity in 2018, due to the poor public infrastructure in rural areas and other factors. These reports have shown without a shadow of doubt that Nigeria has inadequate national power distribution and supply.

Apart from the inaccessibility of electricity, it is also expensive. The International Gas Union, in collaboration with Hawilti Limited, revealed in its February 2023 report that the available energy in Nigeria, Cameroon and Egypt, as well as many other African countries, was expensive, inefficient, polluting and unreliable. There is also the fact that the power grid collapsed four times just between January and September 2022 alone. In the last seven years, the grid has collapsed more than 100 times. With all these, people will by default switch to an available and maybe cheaper and easily accessible power source. The most popular of this is using generators that run on fossil fuels. Households popularly use a mini-size generator popularly called “I better pass my neighbor.”

Deadly generator fumes cause more deaths and degrade environment.

Hardly does a year elapse in Nigeria without reports of generator fumes killing people. Many of these deaths were caused by “I better pass my neighbor” generators. For instance, ten wedding guests died in 2019 at the traditional wedding ceremony in Imo because this mini-size generator was turned on overnight and kept in a kitchen, while the doors and windows were closed. By morning, neighbors made a forceful entrance into the house and found ten of 50 guests dead, while the others were rushed to a hospital. Reports like this are often in the news.

People die due to negligence or ignorance of the harmful nature of these fumes, known as carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a harmful gas formed as a result of the incomplete burning of fuel. According to DieselNet Technology Guide, diesel exhaust gas contains increased concentrations of water vapor, carbon dioxide and decreased oxygen. So, since humans breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, persons staying in an environment saturated with generators tend to breathe in increased concentrations of carbon dioxide and decreased oxygen.

Generators result in polluted, unhealthy cities.

An air quality report group,, stated that as of 2021, the air quality in Lagos State was poor and classified as unhealthy according to the World Health Organization standard. The group noted that the major source of air pollution was vehicle emissions, industry and domestic energy use. It also added that generators supplied half of Lagos total energy needs and were another source of air pollution. The poor combustion of the gasoline and oil used to power the generators pollutes the air and could cause huge health issues. In 2022, Nigeria was ranked 18 out of 131 countries with the worst air quality globally.

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