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Darkness, chaotic traffic pervade Abuja over malfunctioning streetlights

Lately, vehicle owners and other road users in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), have been battling with pool illumination at night as a result of…

Lately, vehicle owners and other road users in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), have been battling with pool illumination at night as a result of faulty streetlights, Daily Trust Saturday reports.

Driving round the Abuja metropolis at night was the delight of motorists from the late 1990s to the end of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration when the street-lighting systems in the city were very functional. Apart from beautifying the city, streetlights help to check criminal activities.

Daily Trust Saturday reports that despite the huge budgets that have been committed into providing the facility and ensuring its maintenance, the once brilliantly lit city is gradually creeping into darkness as many of the streetlights have either collapsed or vandalised.

Our reporter, who recently drove round some major roads in the city centre at night, observed that the streetlights installed on many highways and streets were not functional.

This is noticeable in virtually all the streets: airport road, Nnamdi Azikiwe Road, Obafemi Awolowo Road and Gwarinpa road. In other parts of the city, the situation appears to be worse.

On assumption of duty as the Minister of the FCT, Nyesom Wike had warned those in charge of street and traffic lights to sit up or be ready to leave.

He said his administration would not be presiding on a dark city, and gave relevant departments a few weeks to restore some of the faulty lights.

Before the minister came on board, many parts of the city were almost in total darkness as many of the streetlights were not working. This resulted in various types of criminality, such as attacks on passersby and motorists at night by robbers and kidnappers.

Similarly, the absence of traffic lights at many junctions, especially the busy ones, had resulted in many accidents.

After the minister’s warning, the lights were also fixed in September 2023.

However, our reporter gathered that the deteriorating condition of the streetlights lately is partly as a result of the activities of vandals, who have continued to destroy the facilities, particularly the solar-powered ones in some parts of the city.

The situation has also been attributed to laxity on the part of the contractors who manage the facility.

Wike orders clampdown on vandals

In January, Wike had directed security agencies to clamp down on vandals of streetlights in the territory. 

The secretary, Command and Control Centre, Department of Security, FCT Administration (FCTA), Dr Peter Olumuji, disclosed this in Abuja. He said the FCTA Department of Security Service had received reports of   vandalism of the streetlights, mostly in the middle of the night. 

He said the reports indicated that the miscreants target the solar-powered streetlights, their batteries, solar panels and the lightning mechanisms, including the poles.

He disclosed that the FCT minister had directed the police commissioner, FCT command to clamp down on the criminals sabotaging the ongoing efforts to light up the city.

“The minister had directed the security agencies to ensure that all the miscreants that go about vandalising streetlights were apprehended and prosecuted. The streetlights were installed for the benefit of all residents and to enable people move freely within the city at night.

“However, you cannot vandalise streetlights and still complain that the government is not doing anything,” he said.

Residents speak

Some residents who spoke with Daily Trust Saturday said the streetlights helped in reducing the activities of criminals anywhere they were installed.

A resident of Sauka, airport road, Olime Stephen, told our reporter that because of lack of streetlights, he was recently robbed in the evening. Stephen said he was attacked by the roadside before the Immigration headquarters by four men as he walked alone.

“Last Sunday, around 6:30pm, as I was walking home, a man grabbed my neck from behind. As I was struggling with him, three others came and pounced on me, pushing me to the ground. They dispossessed me of my belongings and vanished into the nearby bush,” he narrated.

He said installation and maintenance of streetlights would, to a large extent, prevent criminals from operating at night.

“Streetlights instill fear in criminals who take advantage of the dark hours and places to operate. All the streetlights installed along the airport road were functional some months ago. But now, when heading to Sauka from the airport axis, the road is usually dark.

“Miscreants have been taking advantage of the situation to attack people on a daily basis. This will reduce drastically when streetlights are properly maintained.’’

Lamenting the situation, another resident, Bello Wahab, who lives at Lugbe, a suburb of the city, said: “I know that the current minister, Nyesom Wike, is working, but one has no choice but to wonder if there is a department in charge of maintaining these streetlights.

“Driving around the city at night is no longer interesting. One hardly moves a kilometer without coming across a streetlight that is either vandalised or faulty. The ones around the airport road are very bad because it portrays the FCT in a bad light, especially to foreigners. This should be looked into.”

An engineer, Yusuf Ahmed, who lives in Kubwa, blamed the authorities for the situation. He said: “The truth is that the maintenance department of the FCDA is not doing its job. From 1997 to the end of Obasanjo’s tenure when Abuja streetlights used to function very well, if you came to the city at night you would think it was afternoon. But nowadays, the reverse is the case; you would just see some sections of the city having light while others don’t have. Most of the time, we experience blackouts, specifically the airport road axis where I usually pass.”

FCTA threatens streetlights contractors

Meanwhile, the FCTA has said it will not renew any contractual relationship with defaulting companies.

The coordinator, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), Chief Felix Obuah, said this on Tuesday while briefing newsmen on the issues that affect Abuja’s streetlights and the continued darkness in almost all the districts.

Obuah lambasted streetlights contractors over their failure to keep to the terms of the contract, vowing that the Federal Capital Territory Administration would not renew any contractual relationship with any defaulting company.

He said the FCTA considered some companies, gave them contracts for the maintenance and security of the streetlights, but they abandoned the terms of the contract.

Obuah said, “I am not impressed with the way you have handled the maintenance and security aspects of these contracts. I am aware that this contract is for maintenance and security of streetlights. But I have personally moved around your areas of operation and I can say that the city is dark, that is to say that the request for your payment has been processed and done, yet your work is not being done perfectly as agreed. Why must we continue to patronise and pay you when the job is not being done? This is unacceptable.

“Why must we complain about security and vandalism? It is your duty to guard the facilities. If the bulbs are dead, it is your duty to replace them.

“From what we are seeing now, I don’t think any of you are living up to that agreement you entered with the AMMC. That is why I have called you to let us know what the problems are. If there are areas we feel we can come in, we will. But if we continue like this, I can tell you that we don’t care. 

“We will blacklist the contractor, and if you have even applied, we will make sure that you don’t get it. Then we will get a contractor who can do the job because we can see that this I-don’t-care attitude some contractors have taken is not safe.

“I am not interested in pulling anybody; I am more interested in the job to be done. I want to assure those of you who are ready to partner with us that we will make sure that we don’t stop supporting and working as a team.”

 

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