The story surrounding the family of Late Mr. Kingsley Osuchukwu, a native of Nneato community in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State, is a pathetic one.
Barely four years after Osuchukwu’s untimely death, his wife, Joy Oluchi, a native of Umunze community in Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra State, was electrocuted by uncoated electric cables that supply electricity to the streetlights, allegedly left carelessly by officials of the Ebonyi State Ministry of Power, after working at the site earlier in the day.
The incident happened about 8:30pm in front of Udoka Hall along Water Works Road in Abakaliki. The spot was just a few steps away from her residence, No 27 Ukwansi Street, Abakaliki. Tears of family members, neighbors and friends flowed like a river when news of her sudden demise was broken.
Back from the sanctuary
Sunday Sun learned from co-tenants of the deceased that she had returned from her church, Cathedral of the Holy Trinity Methodist Church, Abakaliki, where she had participated in its Bible Study programme.
On arrival, Oluchi was said to have dropped her bible at her residence and headed to the tap in the neighborhood to fetch some water for her family. Without any premonition of the impending danger, she picked up a 25-litre gallon and headed to the tap. She went with her four-year-old only son, Victory. It was on her way back home that the tragic incident happened.
Rough path to death
Along the busy Water Works Road, there is a footpath which the residents of the area often use, perhaps, to avoid the dangers obviously inherent on the major road. Incidentally, the state government routed the cables for the streetlights through the same footpath.
Some of the light poles have electrical problems. The residents of the area told Sunday Sun that they had been pleading with the officials of the state’s Ministry of Power to fix the problems and prevent tragic occurrences in the area. But all pleas and prodding, according to them, where not heeded.
So, that fateful day, when Oluchi was returning from the borehole, she mistakenly stepped on the naked cable and was electrocuted to death instantly.
Some shop owners who were at the venue of the incident told Sunday Sun that the officials of the state’s Ministry of Power had worked on that particular streetlight cable earlier in the day and abandoned the insulated cables.
They alleged that they had pleaded with them to cover it before leaving but they gave a flimsy excuse that they would come back later and left.
“That same day, about 8:30pm this woman passed through that area not knowing that there were uninsulated cables there and she was electrocuted instantly,” one of the shop-owners, who requested for anonymity, said.
Confused by the incident, her little son after tapping her lifeless body without any response, then screamed in a high decibel voice that attracted passersby to the scene. A man who was said to have had attempted to pull her away received an electric shock and was violently thrown off while the child was not harmed.
When Sunday Sun visited the family residence behind Udoka Hall, some of her Anambra kinsmen living in Abakaliki and other mourners had besieged the house.
Speaking to Sunday Sun, Chairman of Umunze Town Union, Ebonyi State chapter, Mr Uchenna Joseph Obi, blamed the officials of the state’s Ministry of Power for the woman’s death.
“The residents of that area told us that officials of the Ministry of Power in charge of the streetlights came in the afternoon of that same day and worked on the streetlights. They abandoned those uninsulated cables and left.
“If you go there (referring to the day Sunday Sun visited) now, you will still see those ‘naked’ wires there. They just left them on the footpath where people pass often. We are very angry. This is carelessness on the path of the government officials.
“We have contacted the state governor, Chief David Umahi. We sent him a text message. We first contacted his deputy, Dr Kelechi Igwe and afterwards, sent a text message to the governor himself.
“We want government to come to the aid of the family. This is because the children are now orphans. Their father died about four years ago. So, you can imagine the difficulty their mother’s untimely death can pose to them. She has three children, two girls and a boy.
“She was with her last child who is about four years when the incident happened. So it was the little child that raised the alarm before people gathered. The first person that touched her was shocked by the electric current. So, before they could use dry stick to push her away, she had died. She was confirmed dead at the hospital,” Obi narrated.
Sister-in-law of the deceased, Miss Okoro Chidimman Godgift, while corroborating others insisted that the government officials should be held responsible for the fate of Oluchi.
Meanwhile, the three orphans: Miracle (10), Amarachukwu (8) and Victory Osuchukwu (4) could not speak with our reporter as they were not emotionally stable when Sunday Sun visited.
Death traps in the capital
The state government, in its drive to add aesthetic value to the state capital, mounted streetlights and disco lights in many streets in Abakaliki. However, many of these ground disco lights have developed faults such that there are uninsulated cables everywhere. It was one of such cables that killed the deceased.
As if to confirm the claims made by Obi, Sunday Sun reporter visited other parts of Abakaliki, the state capital, and saw that at the popular Udensi Street, the sort of electrical fault identified by the people is rampant and pose danger to the residents and users of the road. A girl of about 15 years, a food vendor, who pleaded for anonymity recounted to how she missed death by the whiskers.
“I was just washing plates near the streetlight pole and it sparked. Another day, it was drawing me close to itself like a magnet. And the ground was wet. It was God that saved me,” she said.
But in a statement signed by the Public Relations Officer of the state’s Ministry of Power and Energy, Egwu Nwabueze, and made available to Sunday Sun, the ministry dismissed the allegation that its officials abandoned the uncoated cables that killed Mrs. Oluchi Osuchukwu.
The statement read in part: “It would be observed that the State Ministry of Power and Energy, contrary to the insinuations did not work on the cable along the area within the period in question as there was no reason to do so. Instead, the likes of these idle minds tried pulling out our cable which we buried a day after the incident.
It quoted the Commissioner in charge of the ministry, Chief Emma Uguru as saying that, “the state government could not be held responsible for the incident which is one of a kind in the state.”
Egwu further said: “State Government through the Ministry, however, commiserates with the family of the victim of the alleged electrocution.”
Dismissing the allegations made against the government on various social media platforms in respect of the tragic incident as the handiwork of “propagandists” who insinuated that Governor Umahi’s administration engaged the services of cheap engineers to execute the electrification project, the Egwu quoted the commissioner as saying: “Electrocution is one of the disasters or accidents often witnessed the world over. Electricity companies such as the defunct ECN, NEPA, PHCN, and now EEDC had at various times recorded such incidents which were not attributed to the government.”
Until her demise, Oluchi was a staffer at the headquarters of Ezza South Local Government Area located in Onueke community