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Deputy Governor Ivara Esu (with glasses) and Betta Edu visiting victims at the hospital

The Calabar electrocution tragedy and government failure

On Thursday night as some fans in a “viewing centre” in Calabar, Cross River State were watching Manchester United play Anderlecht in the Europa League quarterfinals second leg, an electric cable fell on the house killing seven people and injuring about 15 others.  About 80 people were said to be at the venue.

It appears from reports that several lives could have been saved if the victims received adequate initial treatment after the accident.

Betta Edu, Director General of Cross River State Primary Health Care Development Agency, spoke to a Lagos TV station and she chose instead to shift the onus for responding to such tragedies to the public.  She said the public should be aware of “basic things” such as first aid and how to evacuate victims of an accident such as this.  She claimed her agency would start “sensitising” people on “life-saving skills” and that “if people could do some cardio-pulmonary resuscitation we would have recorded less than seven mortality recorded as present”.

While it may be useful for the public to have such skills, surely, emergency response is the responsibility of the government.  This tragedy happened in the state capital and not a remote corner of the state.  In any other country where a high premium is placed on the lives of its people, there would have been ambulances and fire crews at the scene within the critical hour after the incident to rescue people, provide first aid and initial treatment, and ferry the injured to hospital.

It is the state government that needs “sensitisation” about its responsibilities to its people. has tried on a couple of occasions to highlight the dangers of inadequate emergency response in Nigeria, using former Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi’s death and the heart attack suffered by politician Tony Anenih as case studies.

Was Stephen Keshi’s death avoidable?

Tony Anenih likely to have died if he was in Nigeria

Rather take the necessary and proactive steps to deliver this crucial public service to Nigerians, governments at state and federal level, prefer to react pitifully after the fact.

President Muhammadu Buhari condoled with the state and the victims in a message yesterday.  Governor Ben Ayade promised to foot the medical bills of the victims and said there would be an inquiry. But he doesn’t need an inquiry to tell him that part of his job is to provide adequate emergency response in his state as the Nigerian constitution states “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.  The people of Cross River State should also not need the governor’s benevolence with hospital bills Debecause the constitution also states that “the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that .. there are adequate medical and health facilities for all persons”.






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