TUNDE OGUNTOLA in this piece writes on the havoc caused by open manholes in the FCT often described as a potential death trap
It was a great evening of fun and frolic for me as I anticipate meeting my client. My client resides in Mabushi so I decided to take a walk to his residence when I alighted from the taxi. Sadly, I fell into an open manhole while walking on the expressway at Mabushi. I was hurt badly with a deep cut in my ankle.
“I could not meet up with my appointment and I was also admitted in the hospital for treatment. I could not go to work for over a month. As a bricklayer who survives on a daily pay job, it was very difficult for me, feeding my family was also difficult for me while I was down with the injury. As you can see the wound is yet to heal completely,” said Sani Abdullahi, a bricklayer who resides in Mabushi village, Abuja.
The tale of Abdullahi who suffered a severe injury while walking on the Mabushi bridge is similar to that of other residents who are forced to endure the pain caused by falling into uncovered manholes in the FCT. He stressed the need for Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), to tackle the menace.
Abdullahi while speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend decried the skyrocketing increase of open manholes causing incessant slips and falls of passers-by who walk on the surface of manhole without knowing that due to vandalization by popular dealers of condemned and scrap iron who had resorted to stealing manhole covers to sell as scrap to the blacksmith and other middlemen.
To halt the havoc caused by stolen manholes, Abdullahi called for an immediate condition assessment of all manholes within the territory and replacement.
He said manhole closings are expected to be protected by a grating manhole cover, a flat plug designed to prevent accidental or unauthorised access to the manhole, but sadly it continues to cause havoc to the residence.
He continued: “Our safety is being jeopardized because of the open manholes. Besides insecurity, our number one concern is this menace.
“Our safety has been eroded by uncovered manholes and drains of virtual death traps in the streets of Abuja and they pose greater peril when submerged under floodwaters. In fact, you have to look carefully while jogging or walking on the street.
“Our children are not safe, our children are not only at risk but vulnerable because sometimes, before help could come, it may be too late and the kids might be swept away under tunnels. This is sad. The FCTA must do something urgent to end this menace.”
Prior to now, the House of Representatives mandated the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), to as a matter of urgency ensure that all manholes are properly fixed, checks however show that the situation remains deplorable.
In October, 2017, at Shehu Shagari Way, Maitama District, Abuja, a certain Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) fell into an uncovered manhole. The manhole had no inscription around it to caution road users, especially pedestrians to avert falling into it, however, the menace continues unabated many years after.
LEADERSHIP Weekend findings revealed that uncovered manholes can be found virtually everywhere in and around the capital city, most often than not oozing out a terrible odour that leaves residents and passers-by gasping for breath.
As observed, most manholes are probably about four meters deep which makes accidents at manholes very deadly. Manholes opt to be sealed to avert ugly occurrences. However, the rising brigandage amidst the stealing of manhole covers remains alarming.
Checks reveal that the metal covers of manholes are said to be quite expensive and replacing the iron castings used to cover these large manholes has left the authorities confused.
Findings also show that the manholes cover are sold to middlemen and blacksmiths hence the attraction it poses for the criminals to cart it away for sale. Sadly the open chasms of death are posing a serious danger for many inhabitants of the capital city.
Stealing manholes cover though might not appear to be very serious crimes compared to armed robbery and kidnapping they are still crimes, because those that do these minor criminal activities eventually graduate to become big-time criminals, yet it has sent many who engage in this act of vandalization to prison.
Corroborating Abdullahi’s claim, an Uber driver, Gambo James decried the recordable and non-recordable incidents associated with uncovered manholes hazard with many victims and families having horrific tales to tell.
James noted that it is the duty of FCDA to replace stolen covers of manholes within the city to ameliorate the suffering of residents.
He stressed the need for FCDA to provide barricades, caution tapes and other safety nets in and around all the exposed manholes and to desilt all underground blocked drains.
According to him, “One thing is sure, the authorities are aware of the potential death traps across Abuja but have been unable to fix the problem leading to rampant tragedies. Even the cover of the manhole on the road leading to the Court of Appeal along Bullet in FCT has been carted away for a long time.
“The NSCDC needs to step up their game in protecting the nation’s assets. Perhaps, no ally of the government or top politician has ever fallen victim to these manholes which are death traps waiting for innocent people to devour. That is why it is left open.
“If not, they would have been covered with the speed of light, because of the dangers. I narrowly escaped death while driving along Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Expressway when I tried to swerve my car to dodge an open manhole.”
He added that FCDA should as a matter of urgency tackle open manholes menace in the FCT.
Another Abuja resident, Tobi Makinde, also narrated how his tyre was deflated as he ran into a manhole while driving home from work.
Makinde noted that he was robbed of all his belongings while he tried to fix his spare tyre.
According to him, “I had the most terrible experience of my entire life that fateful night when he had an accident while trying to manoeuvre a manhole.
“I noticed these open manholes while driving and I tried to keep a mental picture of it. Sadly my tire burst, deflated, and while trying to fix my spare tyre I was robbed by some men driving a 406 Peugeot who claimed they wanted to assist me. They robbed me of my phone, all the cash with me, and told me to smile and wave at them or else they would shoot me.”
All hands on deck to halt vandalization in FCT – NSCDC
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Command, has said that all hands are currently on deck in tackling the current security challenges confronting the nation including theft of manhole cover.
This is even as the command charged officers and men of the corps to be more proactive in ensuring that vandals don’t find succour in FCT.
The FCT PRO, NSCDC, Assistant Commandant, Akinbinu David, while speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend noted that the rate of stealing manholes had reduced drastically compared to four or five years ago due to regular patrol.
“Most of the cover of the manholes were stolen long before now. We don’t give vandals space to operate in FCT,” he said.
He continued: “If you visit our office you will see some of the vandals that were recently arrested while others are in Kuje prison.
“We are calling on Nigerians to also help us with credible information. We ensure we patrol the FCT to avert these cases. The FCT NSCDC commandant also joins us on this exercise.”
He added that the FCT NSCDC command also deployed plainclothes security officers to help checkmate crimes.
“If you notice anyone walking aimlessly on your street ask them questions and give a tip of suspicious movement to security agencies,” he said.
In response to the deep concern caused by the open manhole, the minister of the FCT, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello alongside the leadership of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) have inaugurated a Task Force to audit the vandalised/stolen manhole and gully pot covers in the Federal Capital City.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that the replacement of the stolen/vandalised manhole and gully pot covers is expected to commence before the coming of the rainy season in order to restore the beauty of the roads and also check against the flooding of these roads whenever it rains.