Heatwave: Hot As Hell In Nigeria – By Kazeem Akintunde

THERE was an unusual kind of protest in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, few days ago. The protest was unusual because the protesters were young women in their prime who were fed up with what was happening in their marital life. The women, mainly from Mile 2 and Mile 3 areas of the densely populated Diobu settlement barricaded the office of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC), near the popular Isaac Boro Park, lamenting that their husbands no longer have sex with them at night and they put the blame at the door steps of the PHED, that has not been consistent in supplying electricity to the area. Added to their woes has been the brain-resetting heatwave that has enveloped major parts of the country in the last few days.

Carrying placards with inscriptions such as ‘We lack romance with our husbands’, ‘Our husbands no longer touch us at night’, ‘PHED help us to sleep well with our husbands’, and many more, the women were inconsolable until they were placated by top management staff of the electricity distribution company who gave assurance that their grievances would be addressed and that power would be restored to the affected areas.

I do not blame the women for speaking out when the only avenue that makes them happy and fulfilled is about to be yanked off from them. It is not certain that most of the protesters can afford to eat three square meals in a day again going by the price of most essentials in the market. The economy has made most families, including the protesters not to be able to adequately carter for their children. There has not been any tangible benefit from the government as they still have to look over their shoulders to ensure that they are not kidnapped in broad day light as it has become the norm in Nigeria.

Intimacy with their loved ones, which should be their right in the night is no longer on the menu due to the heat, and PHED’s insensitivity won’t be tolerated by the women. I hope that the situation in Rivers has improved and PHED now provides electricity to most homes so that couples can continue to enjoy each other.

In the last few weeks, electricity supply by most of the Electricity distribution Companies, DISCOs, has been shambolic. Again, the heat in the country in the last couple of days can successfully cook an egg if left in the sun for just 30 minutes. It is so intense that there is no relief either in the day time or at night. Fans have become useless as they also generate heat after working for few minutes.

Except for few Nigerians that have air-conditioning (if you are lucky to have power supply) sleeping at night has become unbearable for most families. Many Nigerians have been left wondering whether the gate of hell was mistakenly left open and some heat from hell sent in the direction of the country.

But the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), rather than to give hope to Nigerians, only compounded their woes with a prediction that the present heatwave being experienced would remain with us for a while. Air Temperatures, the agency said, has hit 41°C over the North and 39°C in the South with projections indicating that temperatures will remain high in the coming days. Last month has been dubbed the hottest month so far in world history. Those factors responsible for the spike in temperatures is known to many of us and they are mainly man-made.

A heat wave is a period of exceptionally hot weather, usually lasting for several days or even weeks, with temperatures much higher than usual for a particular time and place. During a heat wave, the temperature stays consistently high, often making it uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for people and animals. Prolonged exposure to such scorching conditions can lead to heat-related illnesses such as cramps, exhaustion, and even heat stroke, which can be fatal. In Maiduguri, Borno State, back in 2002, a devastating heat wave claimed over 60 lives, yet these events often fly under the radar compared to other disasters. We pay little or no attention to it.

While its effects on human could be devastating, heatwave could also cause significant damage in the food chain as higher temperatures can severely affect agricultural yields. Studies have shown that each 1oC increase in global temperature could see reductions in global yields of wheat by up to 6 per cent, rice by 3.2 per cent, and maize by 3.2 per cent. Other research have also shown reductions in crop growth.

Also, livestock such as goats and cows feed on grass to grow, and their products such as beef and milk are affected when these animals don’t feed well. Irregular climatic conditions destroy the grassland these animals graze on. Also, flooding fuels pests that attack these farm animals and further depreciate their overall commercial value. In a country where majority of its populace are presently battling food insecurity, Nigerians should brace up for more challenging time ahead if the heatwave persist for too long.

However, we are the architect of our own misfortune as the rise in temperature is partly due to our growing urban population, climate change and the destruction of the ozone layer. Again, urban areas with extensive pavement and buildings absorb and retain more heat than rural areas. This phenomenon, known as the urban heat island effect, can exacerbate heat waves in cities, making them hotter than surrounding areas.

With half of Nigerians now living in cities, and Lagos alone increasing population on a daily basis, with around 20 million residents, urbanization has taken over natural vegetation, which helps keep temperatures in check. Concrete-walled buildings, tarred roads, and heat-emitting vehicles further exacerbate the situation.

Again, human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, all contribute to the current heatwave in the country.

These gases trap heat, leading to a rise in global temperatures and increasing the frequency and intensity of heat waves.
While our poor attitude to our environment is dealing a heavy blow on us, electricity distribution companies that could have provided succour are also adding to the woes of Nigerians as electricity supply has been rather poor in the last six months.

Hardly do residents get up to six hour of electricity supply daily in most homes now. Yet, this is a sector that has gulped over $30 billion in 20 years with little or nothing to show for it. The sector has long been privatised but government continues to pump huge resources into the sector with nothing to show for it.

It is on record that former President Olusegun Obasanjo spent $16 billion on the power sector between 1999 and 2007, yet electricity generation has never exceeded 7000 megawatts for a population of over 200 million people. What is generated can also not be transmitted to most homes as the National Grid does not have the capacity to transmit beyond 5000 megawatts to homes. The grid has become a national embarrassment as it usually collapses without notice. This year alone, the grid has collapsed on four different occasions.

Although the present administration has unbundled the sector which would allow states and the private sector to generate, transfer and sell electricity to people directly, not much has been done in that regard.

Yet, Minister of Power Adebayo Adelabu, last week announced that the Federal Government could no longer cope with the burden of subsidising the power sector and that Nigerians should get ready to pay more for electricity. Indirectly, we are now expected to pay more for darkness. But Nigerians will definitely survive the present hardship in the land.

And to survive the present heatwave, Nigerians have been advised to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day, typically from late morning to early evening. If possible, use air conditioning to keep your home cool. If you don’t have air conditioning, consider spending time in air-conditioned public places like malls or libraries. People should also drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol, as they can dehydrate you.

We have also been told to wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabrics like cotton. Light-coloured clothing can also help reflect sunlight and keep us cooler. We can also close our blinds or curtains during the day to block out direct sunlight, use fans to circulate air and create a breeze indoors. Also, we should take cool showers or baths to lower body temperature. We can also use wet towels or ice packs to cool down.

Again, we should avoid strenuous outdoor activities, especially during the hottest part of the day. But if you need to be outside, take frequent breaks in the shade and drink plenty of water. We should check on elderly relatives, neighbours, and anyone else who may be vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. We should make sure that they have access to a cool environment and are staying hydrated.

Now, Nigerians have started praying for rain so that the heat would abate. But before the rains come, we should all follow the tips from regulatory agencies so that we survive the present heat wave in the land.

See you next week.

Akintunde is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Glittersonline newspaper. His syndicated column, Monday Discourse, appears on News Point Nigeria newspaper on Mondays.

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