The heat wave currently being experienced across the country has been excessive, making the people uncomfortable. The mere thought of it literally sends shivers down the spine of many people, especially urban dwellers when there is electricity power outage and no other means to put on their electronic weather cooling system. In this report GEORGE OKOJIE, CHIKA IZUORA and UCHENUNU ODIRI examine the causes, effects and how people can handle the situation.
It is the season of the year when hot weather, heat and ailments associated with it make life miserable for people. With the hot weather, dry conditions and dusty environment, not a few persons would have come down with dehydration, heat rashes respiratory ailments, among others.
Though the nation’s hospitals are not filled with thousands of patients suffering heat stroke and heat exhaustion, medical experts say knowing how to handle the situation will avert a national state of emergency when effects of excessive heat wave strike the country.
The problem is not peculiar to Nigeria. In South Africa for instance, the authorities in Cape Town said that 11 people have died of heat stroke, with a loss $269 million due to severe drought in the country.
Very recently too, over 20 children were killed by a ‘strange’ disease that was later discovered to be measles in Eti-Osa area of Lagos State and Meningitis and measles are caused by serious heat and high humidity temperature in the atmosphere.
Thus, doctors say it is high time the government and stakeholders raised an alarm and create awareness of diseases associated with heat-waves such as Meningitis, measles and other heat related illness.
In northern part of the country that will be excessively hot, observers say there is urgent need to start creating awareness in schools, markets, places of worship on preventives measures to be taken against heat related diseases with the commencement of the hot weather leading to rise in high temperature and humidity.
Many Lagosians who spoke with our correspondents at separate interviews expressed concern over the hot weather in the state resulting from excessive heat in the day and night.
Mutiu Boye, a Lagos resident said,” The heat wave is too much. Everywhere is just too hot. I now spend a lot of money to buy petrol so that I can switch on the fan to sleep because electric power from the public main is not stable. The other day my generator had a fault, I could not sleep throughout the night.”
Another resident, Boniface Duru said,” The heat wave is serious, especially at night when there is no electric light, it will appear as if I poured water on my body and I would be sweating even though I just took my bath and I would not be able to sleep. I normally open my windows now despite the security situation to allow for ventilation.”
The heat wave episode has not entirely been a sad tale because as Lagos residents groan under the severe impact of hot weather, hot dealers in soft drink, chilled bottled water and sachet water popularly known as ‘pure water’ in the Lagos Metropolis and markets said the change in weather phenomenon has been a blessing to them in disguise.
According to Mrs Rita Adeoye, “I know there is heat everywhere, even I am feeling the hot weather too but I sell soft drinks and I have been selling a lot these days. There is no day I don’t sell five creates of mineral now. The bottled and sachet water can even be exhausted before 2 pm. To me the hot weather is good business for me.”
The Chairman, Clinic Governance Committee, Nigeria Medical Association, Doctor Joseph Ana told LEADERSHIP Friday that though the weather is hot, it is not the first time the country is experiencing it.
He said, ”The month of March is usually the hottest month of the year and the health implication of the weather is that it may increase the risk of heart attacks in people with heart diseases; albino children due to their skin; respiratory related illnesses; Meningitis, rashes all over the body and measles, among other things because of dehydration.”
Ana said since the beginning of the year, it has not rained because the rain normally comes in a circle; hence the need to wait patiently for the rain.
While we wait for the rainy season, he advised people,” To drink more water to replace what they are losing; take a lot of fruit juice; wear light attires; bath regularly; keep their rooms well ventilated at night; avoid over crowed places like rooms, markets and schools and do not cough or sneeze on someone’s face.
“Always open the window in the morning and at night to allow adequate ventilation; take a lot of water to replace the water and salt we are losing due to the weather; keep the environment clean; apply a lot of sun cream to prevent sun burn and sun glasses to protect the eyes.”
LEADERSHIP Friday checks further showed that the exasperating weather condition and the consequential power outage is further causing health hazards to the people.
Our investigation revealed that the current power situation in the country is significantly compressed with Africa’s biggest power station, Egbin located in Lagos shedding its generation capacity due to ongoing routine maintenance on one of its units.
The plant was originally designed to run on six units of 220 Mega Watts each but currently faces the challenge of maintaining its installed capacity over gas supply.
The company, after its takeover by Sahara group and its technical partner, has invested several billions of naira to revamp the once moribund plant.
Egbin in the last few months has generated and sustained 1100 MW of electricity boosting power supply in Lagos but unfortunately, the company last week shut down one of the functioning units forcing power generation to drop to 880 Mega Watts from 1100 Mega Watts.
“One of the units is undergoing routine clean up. There is some level of contamination due to rising tide and water level at the Lagoon from where we get water to cool the plant” a highly placed source told our correspondent.
She explained that the plant depends on water from the Lagoon which goes into the unit via a tube and dispenses through another channel.
“Now when the water due to weather condition and the rising tide brings in a lot of dirty substances and these enter the compressor, we have to shut down to do clean up and then restart the unit.”
Specifically, the Head of Corporate Communications of the company, Mr Godwin Idemudia said the company had repeatedly given reasons for the current power rationing and intermittent outage being experienced in areas under its coverage in the past few weeks.
Idemudia said the outages emanated from a drop in the national generation level as a result of incessant acts of vandalism on gas pipelines and transmission towers.
“The situation was not limited to Eko Electricity Distribution Company coverage areas alone since the problem has to do with low generation level. The situation has led to acute power rationing in all areas within the company’s operational territory,’’ he added.
According to Idemudia, the areas worst hit by the resultant power rationing include Surulere, Lekki, Ajah, Ibeju, Mushin, Apapa, Yaba and their environs.
As the heat wave takes its toll on the people, he appealed to customers to bear with the situation, assuring that the company was doing its best to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of electricity to all customers, pending the time there would be improvement.
Allaying people’s fears, the Director General/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Dr Anthony Anuforom has said the present high temperature being experienced in different parts of the country is not forever, saying it may continue till the end of April.
According to the DG, the weather phenomenon across the country was on a transitory phase, dismissing the fact that the high temperature as heat wave.
He said, “Usually around this time, February and March, we are in the transition period. I wouldn’t want to call the present high or hot temperature a heat wave.”
“At this point we are transiting from the harmattan to rainy season and so it is not abnormal to have February, March and April to be hot. Because at this time you have more moisture coming into the atmosphere and when there is a lot of moisture in the atmosphere, with the sun coming in, coupled with the absence of the rain, the temperature tends to rise.”
He went further to attribute the global atmospheric warming to the climate change, saying “And of course do not also forget that we are in an era of global warming and therefore we are in a period of more than normal temperature.”
“What is happening in many places in Nigeria from now will very likely continue till April with a higher temperature.”
Anuforom hinted that the minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, is likely to unveil Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) that would detail the likely trend of weather phenomenon in the country in 2016 very soon.